Getting the best from your Sole agency agreement.

For many a year, both the National Association of Estate Agents and the Property Ombudsman have been warning our industry against using onerous estate agents’ sole agency contracts. Yet, sellers still seem to be unaware that they have a choice over the length of a sole agency.

Many is the time a prospective seller asks us to look at their property to sell, where they have been on the market with not much action for 3 months or more.  We get them to check their sole agency agreement (as a seller who goes with a second agent during the term of a sole agency can be liable for a fee from both agents), only to discover they have another 3 months to run and cannot change.  How little confidence does that agent have in their property valuation and selling skills that they need to tie the owner into such an onerous agreement?

Clearly, when an agent takes a property on to sell, they are expending time and money and a lot of preparation to promote the property in the right way and maximise its saleability.  As such, an agent would expect a certain sole agency period.  Typically, we ask for 8-12 weeks.  In that time, if priced within the ballpark for the kind of property, we should have quite a few people viewing and get an acceptable offer.  In that time, we have time to fully promote the property across all media and gauge response to ensure we are doing the right thing. 

If issues come up after viewings, we can discuss with the seller and find solutions; be it de-cluttering, pet smells, minor redecorations, taking dogs out during viewings and so on. All these can be addressed in a short time. 

During our 8 week period, the seller is assessing our ability to respond to the market, feeding back buyer’s comments and discussing between us any issues which may get in the way of achieving that sale.  It clearly does not take 20-26 weeks to find out if your chosen agent is the right one.

The worst scenario we hear is that with some agents, if they get a sale in week 3 and it falls through in week 10, the Sole Agency is determined to revert to the date the sale started. How can that be?

The first few weeks of a sole agency are a bit of a ‘honeymoon’ period, where the agent beavers away and generally the owner is happy, sale or no sale.  If the sale does not occur after that time, you can be in for a long haul and, if you have no choice, that ‘honeymoon’ can turn very sour.  You need to be able to make a choice at that stage.  So, before you sign up, check you are happy with the period you are locking yourself in for and negotiate...don’t be bullied into signing: Don’t sign and go elsewhere.


Paul Bonett F.N.A.E.A.  M.A.R.L.A.