How to pick an agent who will maximise your property’s value

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Selling a property is something most people do infrequently, and those looking to sell may be surprised at how competitive the industry has become, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

Sales volumes are improving. CoreLogic figures show that for four weeks ending August 13, the number of new listings added to the Australian housing market was 3.3 per cent above the previous five-year average.

There are some crucial questions those selling their property should ask an agent.Credit: Justin McManus

That means real estate agents are not quite as willing to negotiate on their sales commissions as when volumes were low, but a vendor who is prepared to negotiate could be surprised by how much they are prepared to lower their commissions.

Commissions are not regulated and so vendors are free to negotiate with agents, even though an agent may have a “standard” rate.

OpenAgent, an online marketplace for matching vendors with selling agents, says the average commission for Sydney eastern suburbs is 1.68 per cent of the sale price, and 1.61 per cent for Sydney’s inner west.

For Melbourne’s inner city it is 1.9 per cent, and 1.8 per cent for the Bayside area. The figures are based on listings and sales on the OpenAgent platform between the start of 2019 to April 2022, but have not changed significantly.

The difference between a good and a bad selling agent could easily be as much as $100,000.

Properties that are more difficult to sell tend to attract higher percentage commissions. You are free to try and negotiate a tiered commission structure rather than a flat commission, where the percentage increases once a certain sale price is achieved.

Johanna Seton, the co-CEO of OpenAgent, says while it is natural to want to spend as little as possible on the costs involved in selling your home, choosing an agent solely on commission could be a false economy as the cheapest agents are not always the best.

That does not mean you should be hiring the most expensive agent, but you should definitely be doing your research to ensure you hire an accomplished agent with the skill set, local knowledge and experience to deliver the best price for your property, she says.

“Focus first on the quality and experience of the real estate agents you’re considering working with, and then negotiate the specifics of commissions and fees after,” Seton says.

Janet Spencer, Buyer Solutions’ founder and director, says it is important to interview at least two, and preferably three, real estate firms as it is one of the largest transactions you will likely make in your life.

“It’s important to understand who is going to work your sale and what experience do the team members have,” Spencer, who is also a vendor advocate, says.

“Is the agent going to be around for the campaign?”, “Who will be at the open house – will it be the agent or someone else?” and “Who will be conducting the auction?” are some of the questions that should be asked when interviewing an agent, Spencer says.

Good communication is essential. The agent should give you a weekly report on where the campaign is at, how many have inspected the property, and how many contracts have been given out, she says.

Sam Lally​, a buyer’s agent with Buyer’s Advocate Australia who also is a vendor advocate, reckons the difference between a good and a bad selling agent could easily be as much as $100,000.

While honesty, professionalism and good communication skills are a must, he would also look for an agent who has a good share of the local listings. That is because they will have many interested buyers on their books.

“If they are selling a lot in area they will be in contact with the under-bidders at auctions and other interested buyers,” Lally says.

“The agent knows they are cashed-up and ready to go.”

Buyer’s agent Michelle May says you should try and ascertain if the agent has the drive and hunger to get the best possible result for you.

You want an agent who can tell you what they think your property is realistically worth, backed up by recent sales of similar properties in the same area, May says.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

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