Estate agents

Estate agents sell property and land. They advise a property owner on the selling price, arrange advertising, negotiate with the buyer and make sure that the sale goes ahead.

What the law says if you’re selling

Before you use an estate agent to sell your property, they must tell you in writing how much they will charge you for their services.  If they can't tell you an exact amount, ask them to explain how they work out their charges and give you an estimate.

If you use an estate agent to sell your property, they must:

  • get the best sale price for you
  • tell you immediately about every offer they get until the sale is completed when you and the buyer exchange contracts
  • tell you if they have a personal interest in the property, for example, they, or someone connected to them, may want to buy it themselves and might not encourage others to bid for it
  • tell you about anyone interested in buying your property who is interested in using the estate agent’s linked services

What the law says if you’re buying

If you’re buying property through an estate agent, they must:

  • tell you if they or a connected person are selling the property (an agent must not seek or receive a deposit for a property in which they have a personal interest)
  • use accurate, reasonable and honest descriptions in advertisements about the property (for example, if they say a house has double glazing, it must have double glazing)
  • not say anything false or misleading which would mislead a reasonable person (for example it would be an offence to describe a house as being in a quiet area, if the street itself was quiet but there was a motorway a few yards from the house)

Tips before using an estate agent

Before you choose an estate agent:

  • research their fees and charges
  • choose an estate agent who is a member of a professional body or operates under a code of practice
  • choose an estate agent who specialises in the type of property you want to sell
  • read carefully any sales agreement the estate agent asks you to sign
  • do not give “sole selling rights” to an estate agent as this means you sign away your right to sell your own property and find a buyer

Many estate agents offer  mortgage and surveyor services. You don’t need to use an estate agent’s linked services to sell or buy a property.

You can download leaflets about buying and selling property from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) website.

Complaints about estate agents selling houses

Estate agents who sell houses or apartments must belong to a redress scheme. Anyone who uses an estate agent to market, buy or sell residential property and is dissatisfied with the service, can complain through the redress scheme.  

The schemes are free and have the authority to make members pay compensation. The Property Ombudsman and the Ombudsman Services: Property operate approved schemes.

Read more about the redress schemes on GOV.UK, the Ombudsman Services and The Property Ombudsman websites.


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