Estate agents

Most people in Scotland sell their property through a solicitor or solicitors' property centre. If you decide to use an estate agent instead, this page explains how to find one, what they do and what you can do if you aren't happy with their service.

How do I find an estate agent?

You can find an estate agent in the Yellow Pages. You should also ask around your friends and family to see if they can recommend a good estate agent.

Before approaching an estate agent, check that they haven't been banned from carrying out estate agency work by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The OFT has a list of banned estate agents on their website.

Before you commit yourself to any one agent, get at least three quotes from different estate agents and ask them about the following things.

Is the estate agent a member of a professional body?

Find out whether they are a member of:

How much does the estate agent charge?

Ask the estate agent:

  • whether they charge a fee, a commission, or both

  • how much commission they charge (this can vary from 1.5 to 4 per cent of the selling price plus VAT)

  • if they charge a fee, what this includes. For example, does it cover: a valuation of your property before it goes on the market costs for advertising your property a 'for sale' board a charge for showing people around the property (although you may wish to do this yourself) VAT

  • a valuation of your property before it goes on the market

  • costs for advertising your property

  • a 'for sale' board

  • a charge for showing people around the property (although you may wish to do this yourself)

  • VAT

  • when you will need to pay (usually this won't be until the sale is completed).

Make sure the agent gives you a breakdown of all the costs and/or shows you how their commission is worked out before you sign the contract, so that their bill doesn't come as a shock.

What are their rights to sell the property?

You need to find out what kind of rights the agent retains over your property:

  • whether you will be able to market the property yourself as well (for example, you may wish to advertise your property using an online service or through a second selling agent), or

  • whether the estate agent has sole agent rights, which means that they are the only agency that has the right to sell your home. In this case you can find a buyer yourself, although you will probably still have to pay a charge for the work they have done for you. Or,

  • whether the agent has sole selling rights, which means that they alone have the right to sell the property, so even if you find your own buyer, you will still have to pay them commission.

What are my rights if I cancel the contract?

Ask them whether you will have to pay anything if you decide to end your contract, for example because:

  • you've found your own buyer

  • you've changed your mind about selling

  • you aren't happy with any of the offers received

  • you want to switch agents.

The terms may be different depending on why you want to cancel the contract.

What are my rights if the sale falls through?

Once the estate agent has found you a buyer and you have accepted their offer, it's possible that the sale may fall through before it's completed. Find out whether you will have to pay your estate agent any commission if this happens.

Will I get a contract?

The estate agent will ask you to sign a contract, which will:

  • list the services you will be receiving

  • explain the agent's selling rights

  • outline your rights if you wish to end the contract.

Read the contract carefully and ask the estate agent to explain anything that isn't clear.

Are estate agents independent?

The estate agent is working on your behalf, trying to get the best price possible for your property. Bear in mind, however, that they may also be acting on behalf of the buyer (for example, they may arrange a mortgage or a survey for them) and this may create a conflict of interest.

A solicitor is only able to work for you; they can't represent the buyer as well.

What if I'm not happy with my estate agent?

The contract you have with your estate agent should outline your rights if you're not happy with the service or wish to end the contract before your home is sold.

If you think your agent has not provided a good service, you should first raise the matter with them and try and come to a suitable arrangement. If you're not satisfied with their response, get advice from Citizens Advice or your solicitor about taking further action.

Citizens Advice has guidance on complaining about an estate agent.

What if I decide not to use the agent any more?

You may decide you no longer need the estate agent's services, because, for example,

  • you change your mind and decide not to sell your home

  • you're not happy with any of the offers

  • you find your own buyer

  • you decide to change estate agents.

In this case, you may still need to pay a charge, for example to cover the costs of any advertising the agent has done for you. Find out what this will be before you sign the contract.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 29 December 2014

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England