Sole or Joint Agent: What’s the Best?

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When the time has come to sell your house, one of many decisions you’ll be faced with along your journey through the estate agency world is whether to enter into a sole agent, joint agent or even a multiple agent agreement. A sole agent, what most perceive as the standard option, involves a seller working with just one estate agent throughout the entire house-selling process. Joint agency, on the other hand, sees two agents working side-by-side to sell the same property. Finally, multiple agency agreements are distinct from their joint agency counterparts by the amount of agencies in operation: three or more, depending on how many the seller employs the services of.

As with any real estate decision, it can be difficult to decipher what the real differences are between the various options, much less which one best suits your needs. It is worth bearing in mind that no matter what your choice is, legally binding agreements will be entered in between yourself and the estate agent, you can read more here. As we explore the three agreement types, you’ll gain an appreciation for why each one suits sellers with different property types and circumstances; hopefully, you’ll be one or two steps closer to finding the perfect estate agency agreement for your own property too.

Sole Agency

By requiring the services of only one estate agent, sole agency almost always works out cheaper than enlisting two or more professionals. Plus, without the competition that comes with other estate agents potentially snatching up the sale, agents working under a sole agency agreement are likely to agree to a lower rate of commission (closer to the 1.5% UK industry standard as opposed to potentially 3% in a joint agreement).

In addition to the universally appealing fact of lower fees, sole agency, over joint or multiple agency, is particularly beneficial for sellers with less experience in the housing market for providing a comparatively relaxed, focused estate agent experience. Juggling multiple sets of agreements, prospective buyers, listings, house viewing dates and more can be chaotic – not to mention stressful – and new sellers will quickly find themselves overwhelmed. By sticking to one agent, a seller won’t be splitting their attention in two or more different directions.

Sellers with niche properties may also struggle with the limited reach inherent in working with just one agent. Different estate agents tend to have different connections, platforms for promotion and areas of expertise; a particularly hard-to-sell property may benefit from the combined efforts of multiple professionals. It’s worth considering this factor before you commit fully to sole agency.

Sole or Joint Agent What's the Best property

Joint Agency

Joint agency agreements are typically drawn up between the seller and the two enlisted estate agents, with the commission either being split between the two or going to the agent that makes the ultimate sale. Either way, this generally means that the rate of commission will be higher than with a sole agent and your overall fees will therefore be higher too. While the idea behind the commission being a ‘prize’ is to foster a sense of competition between the agents and incentivise them to both work as hard as possible, it often backfires and results in agents trying to secure their commission by setting up and encouraging sellers to accept undervalued offers. It’s worth remembering that estate agents can work for their own interests over yours; by entering into a joint agency agreement you could be pitting two agents against yourself and against each other.

So far, it may seem like sole agency is indisputably the superior choice, but there are some compelling reasons to take on a pair of estate agents over just one. As mentioned earlier, sellers with niche or hard-to-sell houses may require the combined efforts and expertise of both a specialist and general estate agent to sell at the highest price, or even sell at all. With this in mind, it’s crucial to remember that joint agents should be chosen based on their ability to offer a style of service that the other cannot. Enlisting two similar estate agents would be a waste of money; in fact, it could end up working against you.

With multiple estate agents, it’s almost a guarantee that your property will sell quicker than when limited to one. More exposure, more connections and a wider reach mean that, for sellers in a rush to get their property sold, joint agents can be a smart option. However, with the growing popularity in the UK of no-fee residential property buyers like LDN Properties, sellers looking to sell their houses quickly and hassle-free are turning away from estate agents entirely in larger and larger numbers.

Multiple Agency

Multiple agency agreements are similar to joint agency agreements, except that they involve three or more agents, not two, and the agreements never see the commission being shared at all. These should generally only be entered into by people in the most urgent hurry to sell their property as having three or more agents working to sell one property will be a hectic experience for you as a seller. All of the drawbacks found with joint agents are also present, and potentially more extreme, in multiple agency agreements due to the greater amount of competition between agents.

The increased exposure that comes with having three or more agents working on your behalf will often get your property sold quickly, however, because many agents these days use the same property listing websites, it could also lead to your house being overexposed. Potential buyers may notice your house listed in several different places among multiple websites and question if it’s harbouring any hidden flaws that are making it hard to sell. Be warned: bombarding buyers with your property like this can appear desperate, and it can scare some of them away.

What’s the Best?

For most peoples’ needs, sole agency agreements are the best option for a seller looking to enlist the help of a high street estate agent. Cheaper, less chaotic and without the conflicts of interest that arise with the competition of multiple agents. There are reasons to opt for a joint or multiple agency agreement – speed in particular – but for most people, a sole agent is often a wiser choice.

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