Selling your home often involves signing up with an estate agent – make sure you know what this involves.

When marketing your property through an estate agent, you’ll be asked to sign a contract with them, and this usually includes a tie-in period. 

This typically spans around 12 weeks, with a 14-day notice period. However, the tie-in period can vary dramatically between agents – from four weeks to 20, in some cases.

Beware that if you aren’t happy with the service, or how the agent is performing, and want to switch to another agent, this could see you stumping up massive fees under the contract terms.

Check and negotiate the contract

It’s vital to check the contract and understand what you’re being asked to sign. Ask how long the tie-in period is, and check the small print carefully, as some can last longer than the typical 16 weeks.

If you’re not happy with the tie-in period, don’t be afraid to ask for it to be changed. And if you can’t change the tie-in period, make sure you have the flexibility to terminate the contract without penalty if you’re unhappy with the agent. After all, the agent is likely to want your business, particularly if you’ve got a property that should be relatively easy to sell.

Remember, also, that sales fall through all the time – be clear that you won’t be forking out for commission in this case, no matter what the tie-in period or other conditions of your agency contract states.

Understand contract terms

Here’s the key contract terms to look out for. Beware that some aren’t always in your best interests, as a seller.

Sole selling rights means that the agent is the only one allowed to sell your home during the tie-in period and will be paid commission even if you find a buyer yourself.

Like sole selling rights, a sole agency contract is when the agent ties you in for a period of time as the only one with the right to sell your property. But if you find your own buyer, you won’t have to pay the agent.

Ready, willing and able purchaser means you will have to pay the agent for finding a buyer, even if you don’t sell your home.

There’s also a multiple agency agreement, which allows you to market the property with several agents and only pay commission to the one that sells your home. The drawback is that agents will typically charge higher fees under such a contract.

Finally, an open-ended agreement allows your agent to claim commission if you sell your home to a buyer they introduced – regardless of how much time has passed since.

Change agents

If you want to change agents, you’d be wise to give notice, and wait for the contract to run out before placing the property with another agent. You’ll typically be able to service two weeks’ notice before the end of the tie-in period, so you can leave as soon as this expires and switch to another agent if you want.

Compare agents using Zoopla’s AgentFinder tool. 

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