Can I change estate agents?


There is nothing worse than putting your house or flat up for sale and feeling as though you have made the wrong decision on your estate agent.

It’s an awkward conversation, that no one particularly wants to have.

Maybe the estate agency has not had any viewings? Maybe the communication is just not there? Or they have had a buyer for months, but it has fallen through. Or do you just fancy a change of marketing?

The question begs, do you stick with your current agent, or do you make a change?

I am going to give you a very impartial view from the inside. As an agent myself, I detest when a seller wants to use somebody else, most agents like myself can take it personally because it is basically saying that ‘we don’t think you are good enough’ or ‘something has gone wrong in our relationship.’ I am very competitive too and always want the best for my agency.

A lot of times, it is just one of those things. The agent and client took a risk to get into a business relationship together and it just didn’t work out. Sometimes, there is no one to blame, it is just the way the cookie crumbles!

Especially, as an agent, you don’t make any money from the upfront services such as the valuation, the mark up, the viewings, and the sales progression. This is all free upfront, we risk this part to receive our commission at the end. It is the nature of the beast and the time involved is the risk for the agent.

There is another side of that coin for the seller too. You may have taken days off work, moved your childcare plans and spent money on legal fees. Most of the time (not always), there is no one to blame.

I am going to give you a few hints and tips on how you can look to change agents.

The 14 Day Cooling off Period

This seems to be an insider secret in the estate agency world that every agent knows. If you are not happy with your agent, you can exercise your legal right for a 14-day cooling off period if your relationship has gotten off on the wrong foot.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations indicate that sellers have a right to a 14-day cooling off period for contracts signed at a location away from the agent’s business premises – usually, the selling property.

Agents must give sellers 14 days in which they can change their minds, without penalty, about instructing them. The seller must be given clear notice, in writing, which states their right to cancel within the 14-day period.

Importantly for those agents who give the vendor the option to sign away the right for agents to begin work immediately, consumers will nevertheless have the right to cancel a service which has begun within the cooling-off period.

So, for example, a vendor who has, in writing opted out of the cooling-off period might change their mind a week later and is entitled to withdraw from the contract.

The only exception is if you asked for services to be provided during the cooling-off period, in which case the business will keep what’s necessary to cover the cost of services provided up until you cancel.

If you didn’t give the business any money but they provided services during the cooling-off period at your request, you’ll probably be expected to pay them for these services or products unless your contract with them states otherwise.

This is the law.

Cancelling a service you’ve arranged – Citizens Advice

Notice Periods

Most agents will give you a period and hold you into a contract. In my opinion, they have a right to. Bear in mind there are costs involved in marketing a property and costs/services that a business will lose should you terminate the agreement early and therefore, breach your agreement.

See my blog on What value you are getting from your agent.

However, if you are not happy with your estate agent. First things first, check your contract. Different agents have different wording, so this is something that is important to check. Remember, legally you have a 14-day calling off period (as stated above), so if there are any clauses that you do not agree with in the contract, you have a get out.

Some contracts will have a termination fee attached to them, especially if you end your contract early or breach contract. Most agents will get you to sign a sole agency agreement and lock you in for between 4-20 weeks depending on the market and how quickly they believe the property will sell.

Some agents have the timeframe in the contract as a standard and others do not. This is usually something that you can negotiate on. Agents of course are looking for volume.

Please note, most agents will have the 14 days written notice period stated within their contract. You can exercise your notice on day 1 but you will not be able to terminate your agreement until the end of the contract date (unless you exercise your calling off period).

For example, if your contract is a sole agency 10-week contract, and you give notice on week 10, then your agent can legally tie you in for 12 weeks because your 14 days started on week 10. So, my advice is that if you want to change agents, do it on Week 8 or earlier.

You can always say to your agent after week 10, I want to be flexible and have a rolling fortnightly contract where you leave it rolling with them and you can give notice any time. If the agent is going to lose your business anyway, they would rather keep you this way.

Hidden Fees

Always check for hidden fees. There may be extra marketing costs, solicitor’s costs, or withdrawal fees. Makes sure that you are looking through your contract before signing so that you know what you are signing.

The old saying goes: ‘If it is too good to be true, it usually is!’

Will I have to pay double the commission?

Please remember that when you sign a contract with an estate agent, you are signing a legal agreement. It is not a joke; the estate agency has a business to run and incurs some quite heavy costs. Again, click the link so that you can see exactly what these costs are.

The agent has fees to pay, should you decide whilst in contract to sign with another agency and breach your terms and conditions, then you have broken your legal agreement with the estate agency. They will have a right to charge you.

You may have your reasons for doing so, such as no communication, or being unhappy with them or they have done something wrong, whatever that may be.

My advice is: Pick up the phone and call your agent and be honest with them about what you want to do. This will make your life easier, plus you will know what your options are.

Sole agency agreements and sole selling rights agreements are different, this is where many estate agents and many clients get confused.

When you sign a sole agency agreement, you are bound to that agent for several weeks. If you have signed a Sole Selling Rights agreement, then you are bound to the agent regardless.

For example, if you do the dirty and list your property with another agent and that other agent sells your property, then you will have to pay the original agency their commission if you have entered a ‘sole selling rights’ agreement with them. However, if it is a sole agency agreement you may have to pay a marketing fee if you have breached your terms and conditions with the sole agent and decide to list with another agency without adherence to the terms and conditions of your contract.

As advised above, give the agency a call and be honest with them.

If they have not sold the house, there may be a reason. But most agents are human and will happily have a conversation and if it has not worked out, may even just let you out of your agreement. We have done this many times, however, if a seller has ‘done the dirty’ behind our backs, then we are going to feel differently.

In conclusion, if you list your property with another agency whilst in a sole agency agreement (where the agency has the sole selling rights in the agreement) and the new agency sells your home, then you are still bound to the original agencies agreement and may have to pay two fees.

Can I switch Agents

If you are out of contract and given the correct notice period, then of course you can switch estate agents. My advice is to get a ‘list of viewers’ from the first estate agent just in case there is a conflict of interest.

There are many debt companies out there that will look through the estate agents ‘withdrawn’ list of properties and the land registry to try to catch sellers out so that they must pay the original agency. The seller might not even know that the buyer had initially viewed or enquiries with the first agents. The buyer just wants to buy a house and the seller just wants to sell, there could be no malice in the transaction, but the risk for the seller is that they incur a double fee because they have overlooked this minor detail.

Please check and obtain a list of viewers to send over to your new estate agent, then there can be no arguments.

Please note that most agents have a clause to say that you must pay them within 12 months of the introduction of a buyer. E.g., if the viewer enquired or viewed the property on 1st January and only made an offer at the end of the same year, then you are bound to pay that estate agent for introducing you to the buyer of the property.

Multi Agency or Joint Sole Agency

Most agencies will also have a multi-agency clause in the contract or even a joint sole agency clause which means you can have multiple agents selling your house. Again, if you are in a sole agency agreement that is expiring, this can be a negotiation point with the first agent, rather than coming away from the agency, you could list it as a multi agency or joint sole. Beware that listing your property with too many agencies can make your listing seem desperate and create the wrong impression to the marketplace.

I have found a private buyer

This will not always wash because the agent has spent money on the marketing aspect of the property and the agency can still charge you whilst in the contract if you have found a private buyer. The only way to allow this is in the initial clause in the contract. Should you have a 3rd party interest irrespective of the agency, then my advice is to disclose this before signing the agreement. You can always put a clause in the agreement stating that there is a private interest in the property and should they buy the home, then there are no costs to pay to the agent. Most agents will be happy to do this via a simple email, so it is in writing.

If you do not do this, and then find a private buyer, the argument the agency has is that the private buyer was found via the agents marketing that the agency pays for, therefore, is entitled to the introduction fee.

Can I get out of my contract?

In some extreme circumstances, you can. If the agency in question has been immoral, misleading, and simply displayed bad business practices, then you can always put in a complaint and escalate it to the Property Ombudsman who the governing body for the industry.

The Property Ombudsman scheme: free, fair & impartial redress (

However, I would always advise speaking to the agency first, raising a complaint internally to see what can be done and if you can just let bygones be bygones.

We have had it in our company that the expectations of the client cannot be met and sometimes that relationship just won’t work on both sides. In my opinion, it is best to call it a day and move on, life is too short to worry about it.

Another approach would be to give the agency notice and see out your contract with your property, not on the market. Then you can wait until you are fully out of a contract to relist the property with a new agent. The beauty of this is that your property will be relisted as a brand-new property with fresh marketing and a new agency. The portals will not see that your property was previously listed, and you can potentially catch fresh buyers looking.

I hope this blog has helped you and if you have any questions or are looking to change agency, then my advice is to do your research, pick up the phone and be honest.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with me at [email protected]or call the office.

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