House Doctor: 'Why won't estate agents market our property in a multi-agency deal?'

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The Independent Online

Question: We've had no luck selling our property with a single estate agent and want to switch to a "multi-agency" deal as we're very keen to sell by mid-September. However, three out of the six agents my wife and I have approached won't take us, saying, "it's a sole agency arrangement or nothing". We don't understand it and are frustrated we can't move on. Surely it's up to us to decide how we want to sell, not them?

Bryan Harrison, Leeds

Answer: So-called "multi-agency" deals allow home sellers such as you to hire a handful of estate agents, who then compete to find a buyer. In return for you hiring lots of agents to work on your behalf, you agree to pay a higher commission – usually between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent instead of 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent with a sole estate agent.

This is a juicy financial incentive and one that many estate agents willingly sign up for.

But, says Gavin Brazg of the property advice website, there are plenty who don't like the risk of putting in work only to lose out to a rival.

"Some agents refuse to incur the cost of marketing your property on the chance that a different estate agent will unearth the buyer and take all the commission," he says.

You might consider photos of your property appearing in a window display and online to be a small outlay for a potentially large reward. But, estate agents say other costs are incurred such as drawing up floor plans and sparing staff for viewings.

Brazg says a multi-agency approach may put potential buyers off. "Having your house on with many agents can smack of desperation and can cause buyers to become suspicious of – or dismiss – your property."

Agents tend to prioritise the sale of homes on which they are sole agent over those they are "sharing" with other agencies.

You do at least have options, though. One is to simply renew your hunt for agents who will sign up to a multi-agency deal, though they may not be in the right location, or attract ready customers.

Alternatively, you could consider a "joint" sole-agency deal where you hire two estate agents to market your home and, regardless of who sells it, both share in the commission.

On the downside, you'll pay a higher commission (probably about 3 per cent) and run the risk of lackadaisical agents, each relying on the other to sell your home.

Thirdly, consider repricing your house, says James Brooks at estate agent Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward. "Price is normally the reason a property is not selling – and the refusal of agents so far could be down to their feeling the property is not worth what you're asking," he says.