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Estate Agent Fees: How they work

Estate agents fees

UK estate agent fees and commissions typically make up the largest portion of a home seller’s transaction costs today.

The most common way to sell a property is to enlist the services of one or more estate agents. These experts specialise in marketing properties, negotiating sales and connecting buyers with sellers.

However, this expertise comes at a cost.

While cost does not always accurately reflect performance, the amount charged can vary substantially ranging from less than 1% to more than 3.5% of a property’s sale price.

Choosing the right agent is important as a skilled estate agent can often secure a quick sale at a better-than-expected price. This could more than justifying their fee. And a weak estate agent could fail to sell your property.

In this guide, we look at how much estate agents fees are typically as they do vary widely. We also run through what estate agents really do to earn their fees. We then advise you on how to pick the best agent for your property based on our experience. Finally, we touch on some commonly asked questions about estate agent fees and commissions.

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1. What do estate agents do?

In simple terms, an estate agent is a professional who helps people sell their homes. Their job is to find a buyer for a property and to ensure the owner gets the best possible price for it.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

To do this, an estate agency provides a range of services, including arriving at a full and fair property valuation, marketing, and online and print listings. They also act as intermediaries between the buyer and seller. This includes organising and conducting viewings and negotiating on the home seller’s behalf.

As experts in the property market, estate agents can provide important advice to home sellers, informing them about local market trends and advising them on how to market their property most effectively. In some cases, estate agents may also be employed by property buyers to find a property that meets their specific requirements.

2. How UK laws govern estate agent fees

The regulation of estate agents in the UK is complicated.

The profession is policed by two primary pieces of legislation, as well as a variety of regulatory bodies including the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, and the Property Ombudsman.

Regulations have been put in place to ensure estate agents act in the best interests of their clients while attempting to protect buyers from predatory marketing practices.

2a. The Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Estate Agents Regulations 1991

The Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Estate Agents (Provision of Information) Regulations 1991 are the two primary pieces of legislation that regulate estate agents in the UK.

They specify the activities that are considered estate agency work, which include introducing a client to buyers and sellers for property transactions. This includes:

  • Advertising or marketing a client’s property for sale.
  • Searching for a property that meets a client’s specific requirements.
  • Collecting information about a property or properties for the purposes of buying or selling and
  • Negotiating property transactions on behalf of clients.

Any individual who carries out these activities is legally considered an estate agent and is subject to the requirements of the 1979 Act and 1991 Regulations.

These place a lot of requirements on estate agents, ensuring they:

  • Make all estate agents fees and charges, inclusive of VAT, clear to a client prior to agreeing to act for them, including estimates of potential additional costs.
  • Obligate estate agents to let their clients know if they will receive a referral payment if the client uses a property service the estate agent recommended, perhaps to arrange a mortgage, insurance, conveyancing, or removals.
  • Provide a written contract to their clients explaining the terms of their contract, and if they come up explain and define the phrases “sole selling rights”, “sole agency”, and “ready, willing, and able purchaser”.
  • Reveal if they or an associate have a personal interest in the transaction.
  • Ensure everyone is treated fairly during negotiations, that buyers are presented with all offers, no one is discriminated against, and that clients are informed if the agency is also providing services to the buyers.
  • Regulate how agents handle their clients’ money, particularly while being held as a deposit, ensuring they keep accurate accounts and records of the funds.
  • Have a complaints procedure in place for handling disputes with clients.
  • Do not make misleading statements or falsely describe a property.

If an estate agent contravenes the 1979 Estate Agents Act or the 1991 Regulations the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) or local authorities’ departments of trading standards can issue warnings, and prohibition orders. These can lead to banning individuals, partnerships, and companies from carrying out further estate agency work.

3. How do estate agents’ contracts work?

When you engage an estate agent, they are legally required to provide you with a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of their employment. This contract is legally binding and typically includes details about the estate agency and your property. It will also confirm the services the estate agency will provide. This includes the conditions of those services, and information about the estate agent fees when selling a house and any commissions from referrals.

3a. What is the difference between a Sole Agency and a Multi-Agency contract?

When you sign a contract with an estate agent, it’s important to understand the type of contract you are signing. There are two main types of contracts: ‘sole agency’ and ‘multi-agency’ contracts.

Sole Agency contracts

A sole agency contract gives the estate agent exclusive rights to market your property. This means that if another estate agent finds a buyer for your property during the contract period, you will still be required to pay the original estate agents fees.

Sole seller contracts

A sole seller contract is similar to a sole agency contract, but stricter still. With a sole seller contract, you’ll still be required to pay the estate agent even if you find a buyer yourself, without any involvement from the estate agent.

Multi-Agency contracts

On the other hand, with a multi-agency contract, you can hire multiple estate agents to market your property simultaneously. This means that you’re not limited to working with just one estate agent, and you have a better chance of finding a buyer. Under a multi-agency contract, the estate agents can either use a “winner takes all” approach, where the agent who finds the buyer gets paid, or a “split payment” approach, where each estate agent receives a cut of the overall estate agents fees.

However, estate agents often charge higher fees for multi-agency contracts, with commission rates of 3% or more. Despite the higher fees, the competition between estate agents can lead to a higher sale price for your property, which can more than make up for the additional costs.

3b. What is the difference between Fixed Fee and commission based No-Sale No-Fee contracts?

Estate agencies typically charge their customers using either fixed-fee or no-sale no-fee commission-based contracts.

A fixed fee contract means that the client pays a pre-agreed amount of money to the agency, regardless of the final sale price of the property. In contrast, a commission-based contract means that the agency receives a percentage of the final sale price as their fee.

Most (but not all) commission-based contracts are conducted on a no-sale no-fee basis. This means if an agency does not find a suitable buyer, they will not get paid.

Generally, high street agencies tend to offer commission-based rates on a no-sale no-fee basis, while online agencies usually charge a fixed fee regardless of the outcome. However, this is changing, and many online agencies are now also offering no-sale no-fee options.

3c. Contract lengths 

Most estate agents will require you to sign a contract with a sole agency tie-in period. This usually lasts between 4 and 16 weeks. During this time, the agent has exclusive rights to market your property, and you will have to pay the estate agents fees if it sells. After the tie-in period ends, you are free to employ other agents.

Some agents may also require a notice period before you can cancel the agreement. This is typically known as a cancellation period. Be sure to read and understand the terms and conditions of any contract before signing.

3d. What are cooling-off periods?

Some agents offer something called a cooling-off period. This is a set period of time in which, as the homeowner, you can pull out of the agreement without having to pay estate agency fees or commission.

Estate agents have been legally obligated to offer a cooling-off period of 14 days since 2014, although they will often try to get you to sign this away. Read any additional contracts and double check they are not asking you to give up this right when signing the contract and organising things like floorplans or photography.

If an estate agent fails to inform you about the cooling-off period, it can be advantageous for you. This is because the cooling off period only begins after the estate agent has informed you about it. If the estate agent didn’t make an effort to notify you, you will have have the right to cancel.

3e. Withdrawal fees

Some, but not all, estate agents charge withdrawal fees, which can be costly. These are generally only in place when using a fixed-fee estate agent on a no-win no-fee basis.

Nonetheless, you should always check your contract for withdrawal fees, and negotiate for them to be removed from the contract.

If an estate agent proves unable to sell your property, you do not want to have to pay to get away from them.

3f. Hidden estate agent fees  

Some estate agents will charge for things which should be included in their main fees as extras in the contracts’ small text.

Estate agents fees for selling a house can include things like marketing, or photographs, which should be included in the standard price as you cannot effectively market without these.

Read the contract carefully and ask for fees like this to be removed if you do not like them. Alternatively, go with a different estate agent offering more services as part of their agency fees.

3g. Open-ended agreements with continuing liability

Sometimes, an estate agent will have a clause in their contract making this an open-ended agreement.

This means they are legally entitled to their commission if they introduced you to the client, no matter how long ago this introduction took place.

Let’s see how this works;

Say you put your house on the market with Agent A with an open-ended agreement. They priced it too high, and negotiated poorly, so your property went unsold.

You then relist your house with Agent B, for less. The original buyer sees the price has dropped and takes an interest. Agent B manages to secure the sale.

In this situation, you would likely have to pay both agents because Agent A has an open-ended agreement with you.

4. How much do estate agents charge?

Estate agent selling fees and commissions can vary dramatically. These can be from as little as a one-off payment of £99 to more than 3.5% of your property’s sale price.

To an extent, you do get what you pay for with estate agents. The cheapest agencies are likely to do little more with your property than list it on Rightmove and Zoopla and hope for a flood of calls to come in.

The website even admits this. They require sellers to handle their own photos, floorplans, negotiations and viewings when using their cheapest service. Unless you are confident about the value of your house, and it is located in an extremely popular market, you should be very sceptical about this kind of estate agent.

You should not be paying the highest rates either, unless you have a very good reason for doing so. This is because most agencies will be relatively happy to reduce their fees when you attempt negotiations, especially if you have a more valuable property, have already shopped around, and know what their rivals are willing to offer.

4a. What are the average high street estate agency selling fees?

With that in mind, knowing the average amount paid for an estate agents services can be helpful.

By being able to genuinely tell if the price offered is a bit too high, you will be able to negotiate much more effectively than if you are going in blind.

Research conducted by the property website has found the average commission charged by high street agents in a wide variety of different situations.

Sole agency (average 1.42% commission): When selling a house on a typical no-sale no-fee sole agency contract, estate agents fees to sell a house average 1.18% commission or 1.42% including VAT.

Multi-agency (average 3% commission): If you are selling your house through multiple estate agents, they recognise that their chances of profit are slightly lower, and will therefore charge a larger commission if they succeed.

4b. What do estate agent fees cover?

A whole list of things should be included in the basic fee of a good estate agent.

When looking through your contract, you should look to ensure they provide the following services. If they do not, try and get them included through negotiation.

  • A professional property valuation.
  • A detailed written description of your property.
  • A full set of decent photographs.
  • Accurate floorplans.
  • Listing for your property across all the major property sites including Rightmove & Zoopla.
  • Arranging and carrying out viewings.
  • A For sale board (if desired).
  • Professional assistance negotiating your eventual selling price.

4c. Additional fees & services

There are a number of other services estate agents sometimes offer for an additional cost.

These include the following:

  • Enhanced marketing packages (approx. £250 up): These go by a variety of marketing names, including things like VIP, deluxe or platinum services. They typically consist of drone shot video and photography, as well as VR headset viewings, but can also include other things like additional advertising copy written and published in local or national press.
  • Featured and Premium Listings on Rightmove and Zoopla (approx. £125 each): Featured listings are boosted to the top of the page on Rightmove and Zoopla, while Premium listings are highlighted.

Featured listings may boost the number of people interested in your property but are unlikely to generate much in the way of useful interest. Premium listings on the other hand really are seen by insiders as useless and are basically not a worthwhile investment. It is Rightmove & Zoopla who stand to benefit the most!

  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) (roughly between £50-£110, depending on your property and its location): EPCs are required by law in order to sell a property. Lots of estate agents have links with domestic energy assessors and will refer their customers to them. You can find your own energy assessor at a slightly cheaper rate independently. However, this is not always worthwhile as estate agents do not make much from these referrals.

As EPCs are valid for ten years, you should double-check that your property does not already have one. 

4d. Why cost isn’t everything?

When working out to market your property via, the estate agents fees should not really be the first thing on your mind.

Extremely cheap online agents are prone to posting your property on Rightmove or Zoopla and waiting in vain for a phone call.

A more highly skilled agent will generate much more interest, cut down the stress you feel, reduce the time it takes for you to sell, and critically, increase the amount your property eventually sells for.

Unfortunately for those who want to skimp on their estate agent, the best agents typically tend to work for agencies which charge higher fees (approx. 1.5 – 2%). Those working at cheaper agencies tend to be both less skilled.

More often than not, using a more expensive and more suitable agent can substantially increase the sum you walk away with, despite their increased fee. This is an important point when calculating the cost of selling your home.

5. Why should you negotiate estate agent fees?

It is important to negotiate with your estate agent on their house selling fees, but not for the reasons you might expect. An agent simply reducing their fees at the first sign of resistance is actually a bad sign. It may mean the agent is inexperienced, desperate for business, or a poor negotiator.

This is important. Remember, you are hiring them to negotiate on your behalf—being a poor negotiator is not a strong selling point for an estate agent.

Instead of cutting their fee, a good estate agent may suggest some kind of incentive structure (more on this later). Perhaps they say they will reduce their fee if they do not manage to sell the property for more than a certain amount within a certain timeframe or suggest a bonus scheme for profits above an expected sales figure.

You should also use this opportunity to remove conditions you do not like from the contract. This can include things such as hidden costs, withdrawal fees, open-ended elements, and payment structures (take particular note of when you pay).

It is crucial to ensure that you get your entire contract in writing and check it thoroughly before agreeing to anything. For example, an open-ended contract with continuing liability can cost you even if the agent does very little to sell the house. Therefore, it is essential to carefully review the terms and conditions and clarify any ambiguities before signing.

6. Estate agent fees calculator

Calculating your estate agent’s fees is actually relatively simple.

If the agency is charging a percentage commission, you can work out their fee by simply multiplying the amount you hope your house will sell for by the commission.

Alternatively, fixed fee offers are just that, fixed numbers, and are very easy to understand.

If you need assistance working out how much a certain agent’s fee is the HomeOwners Alliance have created a handy calculator which you can use to do just that.

7. When do estate agents’ fees become payable?

Estate agents use a variety of payment schedules.

While most agents invoice your solicitor following the exchange of contracts and require payment upon the legal completion of a sale, this is far from universal.

Some agents may design their contracts to require payment at exchange, which means the seller needs to find funds to pay them from outside of the sale proceeds. Estate agents may also include clauses in their contracts that make their fee payable after a binding contract is entered into, rather than following completion.

If the contract falls through, the agent will still want to claim their fee, which can be a real problem if you are at fault.

Another tactic estate agents use is to make their fee payable as soon as they find a ‘ready, willing, and able purchaser’. This means you have to pay your agent as soon as they find a buyer who is wanting to, and is in a position to, proceed with the purchase.

It is always a good idea to negotiate with the agent before you hire them so that your contract only requires you to pay them on completion of sale. When this is the case, your agent will be motivated to get your sale fully across the line, rather than only to the point where they get paid.

8. How do estate agents make their money?

While the obvious source of income for an estate agent is earning commissions for selling property, they often have another income stream – referral fees.

Lots of different parties pay estate agents to refer their customers on to them. Some key examples include:

  • Conveyancers.
  • Financial services (mortgages, and buildings and contents insurance).
  • Utility companies.
  • Removal companies.
  • Architects.
  • Chartered and boundary surveyors.
  • Tradesmen, including builders, joiners, decorators, electricians, and plumbers.

How seriously you take your estate agent’s referred recommendations depends on how much you are already paying them. Good agents are incentivised to recommend good companies in order to ensure they maintain their good reputation. While less well-regarded and cheaper agents have more motivation to recommend services which simply offer a higher referral fee.

It is always worth shopping around and checking price comparisons and reviews on any services your estate agents recommend.

No matter what the agent says, you do not have to accept any of their third-party recommendations. ‘In-house’ mortgage advisors can be particularly pushy. These are sometimes directly employed by the estate agent with very real targets to bring new clients of any agreed purchase on board.

If you feel like an estate agent has put undue pressure on you while attempting to convince you to use one of their recommended third-party services, you can complain to the office manager, and if they fail to satisfy, the regulator.

9. Incentivising your agent

As your estate agent will be the one taking the lead on the marketing of your property there can be a lot of benefits to ensuring they are properly motivated.

When properly incentivised, estate agents can achieve incredible things. They can recommend a house to hundreds of potentially interested buyers, place extensive pieces in all the right media outlets, hold open houses and run dozens of viewings.

It can also lead to them negotiating harder, fighting on your behalf for a better sale price for your property.

There are a number of different ways you can incentivise an estate agent beyond their basic fee.

9a. Using multi-agency contracts

Hiring multiple estate agents can be a very effective way to motivate an agent to market your property quickly and efficiently.

Doing this means a number of agents will be essentially either racing to sell your house quickest, or competing with each other to get the highest offer. This can lead to them making use of every advantage they can think of to outcompete the other agents, including enhanced marketing, newspaper coverage and more.

This must be conducted on a winner takes all basis, as having shared estate agents fees means there is no risk to the agent if they fail to achieve anything, so each will rely on the rest to sell the house.

A word of warning. Managing multiple estate agents is not for the faint hearted. It can be expensive, difficult and time-consuming, but using a multi-agency contract is very likely to substantially increase the number of buyers through your door. And ultimately this will improve both the sale price and speed of sale of your property dramatically.

9b. The sliding scale fee

You can set up a sliding scale fee to reward agents for achieving a target that is important to you.

Depending on your priorities, this approach can generate a faster sale or a premium price by promising them a larger fee if they achieve it.

Say your estate agent suggests putting your property on the market for £250,000. They offer a standard fee of 1.5% plus VAT.

If you were looking to increase the price of your property, you could propose a 1% fee, if they sell your house for £240,000 or less, a 1.5% fee if they sell it for between £245,000 – £260,000, and a 2% fee if they sell it for more than £265,000.

Alternatively, if you were trying to ensure speed of sale, you could offer them 2% if they sell the property for £250,000 or more within your required timeframe, 1.5% if they sell the property for £250,000 or more outside of your timeframe, and a 1% fee if they fail to achieve both the target price and the timeframe.

Note that these numbers are just examples but demonstrate roughly the jump you can make between price points for various failure and success outcomes.

If a more expensive estate agent is telling you they are the absolute best people to sell your property, using a sliding payment scale like this can get them to put their money where their mouth is. If they genuinely believe their own hype, they should accept the deal or counteroffer with a different performance-based system. If not, well, you should ask yourself, why hire an agent who does not trust in their own abilities.

9c. Personal bonus

Another incentive-based payment method you can use is offering a personal bonus on top of the standard estate agents fees or commission.

This bonus, usually somewhere around £1,000, will be given to the individual agent working on your sale, provided they manage to sell the house for at least a target amount.

Promising a personal bonus to your particular individual estate agent can motivate an agent to focus on your sale above all others on their books.

This method should not be used ‘under the table’, and all arrangements should be run by and approved by your estate agent’s boss.

9d. Profit share

The profit share incentive works by offering your estate agent a share of anything earned from the property sale beyond a target sum.

It can work well when combined with a sliding scale incentive system which penalises failure to achieve the target with a lower percentage fee.

The property selling experts at the Advisory have a particular favourite profit sharing scheme they like to use. This offers a 0.75% fee for anything more than 1% under the target price, a 1% fee if the agent achieves 99% of the target price or more and a 20% profit share on any earnings above the target price.

This system has the double advantages of getting the agent’s standard fees down and motivating them to achieve a high-priced sale.

9e. Promise of further properties

A final method you can use to incentivise an agent is the promise of the opportunity to sell further properties.

The number of people who can use this method is limited, as it only really makes sense if you are a property developer or have a large portfolio of rental properties you are intending to divest from.

Even if you do have many properties, it is unlikely that one estate agent would be suitable to market all of them, so this method is probably left to those property dons who really know what they are doing and are operating on a larger scale.

10. How to deal with hot and cold property markets

When deciding how to incentivise your estate agent, you should first check the temperature of your local housing market.

Hot markets are typified by low amounts of stock, high numbers of buyers and fast-selling homes. Cold markets normally feature large numbers of houses on offer, relatively few buyers, and slow-selling homes.

10a. What to do in hot markets?

In a hot market, there are lots of motivated buyers and you will have the chance to sell your house for a great price.

Estate agents will not struggle to get people through the door, with a post on Rightmove and Zoopla being enough to attract potential buyers.

What you should focus on in a hot market is getting as many potential buyers as possible looking around your property and ensuring that a high price is pushed for.

This can be accomplished by hiring multiple agents and offering them a profit share agreement. This incentivises all of your estate agents to try and introduce the property to as many potential buyers as possible. In doing so they will then aim to get as high an offer as possible from them.

10b. What do to in cold markets?

Selling in a cold market, with fewer buyers than sellers, can be difficult.

Your main priority should be becoming and remaining your estate agent’s main priority.

You can do this by offering a higher fee if they achieve a sale close to your target price, using a sliding scale method.

The secret to success in a cold market comes from outmanoeuvring other sellers. You have to make sure your agent gets you first access to their limited supply of buyers.

11. How to pick the best estate agent

In theory, choosing the best agent for your property is quite simple – You should hire the company that is most used to selling properties just like yours. This means for the best price, regardless of their house selling fees.

In reality, finding out who this is can be a little difficult. Thankfully an online estate agency comparison tool called GetAgent is available to let you analyse the agents in your local area.

In order to compare your local estate agent options, you should enter your postcode on the GetAgent website, and scroll through the listed agents.

See who can find…

GetAgent shows a variety of important information, including how long an agent takes to sell on average, what proportion of their asking price they achieved on average.

If you click on the ‘more details’ box it will show you all the properties they have sold recently. This is the most important information you can find on the site because it shows you which agents actually have a successful history of selling property like yours.

It is worth stressing that the type of property they have sold recently matters a lot. For example, if an agent mostly sells 2 and 3-bed semi-detached properties, the buyers they have access to are unlikely to be interested in your 6-bedroom detached farmhouse or vice versa.

Note that while GetAgent is a great tool, its recommendations can be a little limited when dealing with more expensive or rural properties.

If this is the case for you, you may have more luck using the HomeOwners Alliance estate agent comparison tool. This more accurately accounts for the impact of property type when choosing which agents to compare.

12. Highstreet versus online estate agents

When it comes to choosing between a high street estate agent and an online estate agent, there are several factors to consider.

Firstly, high street agents offer a more targeted list of potential buyers and have hyper-local knowledge that allows them to advise their customers more accurately on pricing.

Second, high street agents normally offer a no-win no-fee contract, saving you money on the off chance they fail to find a suitable buyer.

Thirdly, high street agents typically offer accompanied viewings as standard. Accompanies viewings increase the number of people looking around your property dramatically and can really drive offers. Online agencies lack the ability to string together multiple viewings, and as a result often struggle to get as many viewers booked in.

As a result, high street agents often sell properties for more than online agents. This can be by as much as a 5% difference in the average sale price. And so when looking at estate agent fees for selling a house, you should think carefully before simply instructing the cheapest agent.

12a. But aren’t online agents cheaper?

Online estate agents may appear to be cheaper than their bricks-and-mortar equivalents, often charging customers a relatively small fixed single upfront payment. However, before thinking you can save money here, you should take a couple of things into account.

First, there is no guarantee of a successful sale when it comes to selling property. This is particularly important when selling via an online agent. As a result of paying the estate agents fees upfront, should you fail to find a buyer the money spent will remain a sunk cost with no refund possible. And you may then find you want to list with a high street agent effectively paying twice!

Second, the higher sale price achieved by a high street agent may outweigh any potential savings made by using a cheaper online agent.

Because of this, we would never recommend using an online estate agent unless you are completely confident in your chosen agents ability to generate buyers as well as the pricing of your property. If you are certain about these factors, an online estate agent can theoretically save you money but is rarely going to be worthwhile in reality.

While some online agents now offer no-sale no-fee contracts, these tend to be much more expensive than their fixed fee upfront equivalents and offer few if any benefits over a high street estate agent.

12b. Who are the main online agents? 

There are a few popular online estate agents, each of which vary in what they offer. These are:

Purplebricks: With estate agency fees for selling a house starting from £1199, purple bricks is one of the more expensive online agents. The benefits of using it are that they will send a trained local estate agent around to value your house, take pictures and make-up floorplans, plus you can access a 24/7 online contact centre. Reviews are fairly poor with lots of customers complaining about undervaluation or being abandoned part way through the process.

Yopa: Offering a variety of packages with a range of features, Yopa basic rate ranges from £999 to £1999, and they offer a no-sale no-fee option. While Yopa will charge for a lot of things as optional extras, and your bill might be more than you expect, their very positive customer reviews indicate the company is reliable and provides good customer service.

99home: Offering a DIY package from as little as £99 pounds, 99home is one of the cheapest options on this list, though it will require you to put your own advert together, buy your own for sale board and do your own negotiations. The company do offer more expensive policies, featuring things like photographs and floorplans, as well as negotiations and progression support, a no-win no-fee option, and accompanied viewings, but these are substantially more expensive.

Strike:  Strike is unique, in that they will sell your house for free, with a service including valuation, photos, floorplan and negotiations. They aim to make money through charging for ‘marketing boost packages’, hosted viewings and referrals.  Some customers report a slapdash service, but many have positive things to say about Strike.

Griffin: Offering DIY sales from £195 Griffin is cheap but offers a whole lot of optional extras. Expect to pay out if you don’t want to provide your own photos or floor plan. Griffin only offers online or ‘desktop’ valuations, which obviously are less likely to be accurate than their in-person equivalents.

12c. The other problem with online agents

Beyond simply not being good value, online agents have a couple of other problems.

Firstly, online agents often fail with sales progression. You can find stories online of offers received, and then never followed up on, or buyers who make offers on properties but then cannot proceed.

Second, they will be treated less seriously than high street agents when you are negotiating. If you are buying a property while selling with an online agent, this can substantially limit your bargaining power.

Finally, online estate agents do not provide the same level of personal service and support that high street agents can offer. High street agents can provide guidance and support throughout the entire selling process, from valuations and marketing to negotiations and completion. With online agents, much of the work and responsibility is left to the seller, which can be overwhelming for those without experience in the industry.

13. Estate agent tricks of the trade

Estate agents are notorious for using certain tricks of the trade to secure and keep business. These include over and under-optimistic valuations, phantom viewings, and phantom offers.

Over and under optimistic valuations

Over optimistic valuations can lead to disappointment for sellers when their property fails to sell for the estimated price. Estate agents may inflate the price to secure the listing, but in reality, the property is unlikely to achieve such a high price. It’s important for sellers to do their own research and be realistic about the value of their property.

Alternatively, by undervaluing a property and providing an under optimistic valuation, agents can sell quickly, and increase their business’s turnover. This results in the property selling for less than it’s true worth, which means the seller loses out.

Phantom viewings

Phantom viewings occur when agents falsely claim to have shown the property to potential buyers. This can be a tactic to make the seller believe that there is more interest in their property than there actually is. It’s important for sellers to request feedback and follow up on any viewings to ensure they are genuine. Agents have been known to use this tactic to retain a property on their books when a seller feels they are not working hard enough for them. Some agencies have been known to do anything they can to protect the estate agents fees.

Phantom offers

Used by estate agents, phantom offers create a sense of urgency and pressure on the seller to accept an offer. This may be a fake offer from a non-existent buyer or an offer that is not financially viable. It’s important for sellers to ask for proof of funds and ensure that any offers are genuine before accepting them.

14. How to make a complaint when things go wrong with your estate agent

There are many things that can go wrong when working with an estate agent. This could include them not showing up for viewings, providing poor quality photos, recommending buyers without funds, and pressuring sellers to use their referred services. If you experience any of these issues or other problems, you should make an internal complaint to your agent’s office manager.

The first step is to gather all the evidence, such as communications with your agent and to put your complaint in writing. Be sure to highlight the issue and how you believe it can be resolved. You should then send your complaint to the agency and make note of who is handling it.

It’s important to keep in mind that estate agents are required to be members of a redress scheme, which is responsible for resolving disputes between agents and their customers. If your complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction by the agency, you can escalate it to the redress scheme for further review.

14a. The Property Ombudsman’s role

If the estate agent fails to resolve your problem within eight weeks, the next step is to take your complaint up with an official redress scheme.

All estate agents are registered with one of three different redress schemes. These are The Property Ombudsman, The Ombudsman Service and the Property Redress Scheme.

You should check which one your agent is registered with before progressing.

Note that each of the redress schemes will only handle complaints about agencies registered with them.

If a successful claim is made against an estate agent, it will typically be covered by their indemnity insurance.

In Summary

Estate agents fees can vary significantly, ranging from less than 1% to more than 3.5% of the sale price. They are one of the largest expenses you will encounter when selling your home. However, the amount you pay for your estate agent is less important than their ability to sell your property effectively.

When choosing an estate agent, it’s crucial to select one who has recently sold similar properties to yours. In most cases, this will be a local high street agent because they have the best access to buyers searching for similar properties.

If your property is struggling to sell or you are in a slow market, there are ways to motivate your estate agents to generate more interest without lowering your price tag. You can offer them incentives for success to make your property their top priority or set up multiple agents to compete with one another.

It’s important to note that online estate agents may seem attractive due to their low fees, but they usually lead to lower sale prices. They are often less effective than bricks-and-mortar agents.

Overall, your top priority should be to hire the best estate agency for the job. An agency with access to more buyers will help you achieve a higher sale price, putting more money in your pocket at the end of the transaction, regardless of the estate agents fees charged.

15. Frequently asked questions

Here we list the most common questions we are asked. Simply click on a question for the answer.

Estate agent fees vary depending on the type of agent used and the services you select.

A high street agent estate agent will charge on average 1.42% (inc. VAT) if they are acting as your sole agent. If they are acting on a multi-agency basis you can expect to pay an average of 3% (+ VAT) for the increased exposure.

You can find out a great deal more about the additonal services estate agents offer by reading our full post above.

How you get out of an estate agency contract depends entirely on its terms and conditions.

Generally, you always need to give written notice of your intention to terminate the estate agents contract.

Sometimes, especially when withdrawing from sole agency contracts, you will be liable to pay a withdrawal charge.

In the UK, when selling via an estate agent using a conventional sales process, all fees are paid entirely by the person selling the property.

However, when selling via an estate agent using the Modern Method of Auction (MMoA) the buyer will also pay agents fees.

This varies around the world, and in many countries, the buyer pays part or all of the estate agents fees.

Many junior estate agents work long hours, for relatively low pay. A typical salary would be in the region of £10,00 – £15,000 with the vast majority of any additional salary being made up from commissions upon success property sales.

A good estate agent will be earning a lot more than a less skilled member of the profession.


If you already have someone on hand who is willing to pay you for your house, you can simply each hire surveyors and conveyancers and get the deal underway.

Alternatively, you can sell your house through an auction company. While there are sometimes additional fees attached to property auctions, they can be an effective way to find buyers for some properties such as those of non-standard construction.

A third option is selling your house to a cash house buying company. While cash house buyers tend to offer less than you could get on the open market, they can often provide a faster sale.

Determining the exact number of estate agents in the UK can be a challenging task. Unlike other professions, there is no central registration authority for estate agents. Therefore, we have to rely on research figures to get an estimate of their number.

The industrial research company IBISWorld, states there are 22,098 estate agency businesses in the UK as of 2023. In addition, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that the industry employs 154,880 people, including owners.

These figures may not be entirely accurate, but they do provide a rough estimate of the scale of the estate agency industry in the UK.

Estate agents value houses by considering a range of factors such as the location, size, condition, age, and unique features of the property.

They also consider market trends, supply and demand in the area, and recent sale prices of similar properties in the area.

Once they have assessed all of these factors, they provide a valuation which is typically presented as a price range, rather than a fixed price.

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