"Is an estate agent 'tie-in' period normal when selling a house?"

15 March 2018


I’m selling my house and have appointed an agent but not yet signed the contract. The contract proposes a tie in period of 16 weeks. Is this standard for estate agents? It seems a little long. Is there anything else I should be looking out for? PW, Loughborough



Paula Higgins, chief executive, Homeowners Alliance says: You’re right to be concerned about the length of time the estate agent is trying to tie you in for. Four months is a long time to commit to an agent, which I assume hasn't suggested it will take anywhere near that long to find a buyer?

It's important you aren't tied in for too long in case, for some reason, you aren't happy with how the agent performs and want to switch your business to another agent. We believe anything above 12 weeks is too long so do negotiate.

It’s also important to check the notice period, which is the amount of time you need to give notice in writing of your desire to terminate the contract. It’s usually around 14 days’ maximum but when you're able to give notice differs between agents. You'll still be contractually obliged to stay with the agent for the tie in period but some will allow you to serve notice two weeks before the end of the tie in period - so you can leave as soon as it expires, while others will require that you wait until the tie-in period is over before giving written notice of termination.

Don't be afraid to ask for these items to be changed in the contract; if an agent wants your business then they should comply.

As with any contract, it’s essential you read all of the documents carefully. There are several clauses which are often included by agents that are not really in the best interest of the seller.

For example, check that the commission rate in the contract is in line with what you have agreed with the agent and make sure it clearly states an anticipated figure with the VAT included so the final amount you owe the estate agent doesn't come as a shock.

Avoid agreeing to sole selling rights as this means the estate agent gets a commission even if you were to find the buyer yourself. Open-ended sole agency contracts can mean that an agent can still claim cash from you even if an offer is made months after an agent stopped marketing your property.

Do not sign a contract with a ready, willing and able purchaser clause. This means that if the agent finds you a buyer but, for whatever reason, you are suddenly unable to go through with the sale you’ll still have to pay them.

Check for any additional charges or withdrawal fees and make sure the agreement is payable upon completion only. Sales fall through all the time - be clear that the commission won’t be paid until the sale is done.

Question any additional marketing charges or incentive fees - they should be covered by the commission.

Make sure you haven’t been signed up to any in-house service, (such as conveyancing), that you haven’t agreed to - particularly if there are any handwritten amends made to the contract (handwritten notes should be a red flag). Get a quote for additional services by all means, but you'll want to shop around for the best deal.

And be aware of future liability clauses. Some agents will include a clause in their contract that stipulates if you move on from them to another agent and a buyer who they ‘introduced’ to you buys the property via the second agent, both agents will be owed commission. You don’t want to pay twice! If you have already signed a contract and think this may happen to you, get in touch with us at Homeowners Alliance.

Paula Higgins is chief executive of property help portal, the HomeOwners Alliance and is one of the organisation’s co-founders. 


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

i sold my house and moved on the 27th July 2018. we went on the market with fine and country on the 10th of July 2017. the contract was a sole selling rights contract for a period of 20 weeks. we had several viewings but no offers. in February 2018 i received a flyer from another estate agent which was under half of the fee that was agreed with the first estate agent. after contacting the first agent and discussing this with them, i called belton and duffey and made an appointment for their manager of the branch to come and look at my property. he informed me that he had sold my home previously and really was a pleasant man. he told me to contact the first agent and inform them that we wished to market the property on a multi agent basis, this i did by way of a telephone call and the first agent said they would rather proceed on a winner takes all basis. i failed to realize that i should of given written notice. fine and country had ample opportunity to request written changes of sale but never did. i have to say they werenever transparent in any way. after selling my property with belton and duffey and concluding the sale fine and country have sent me an invoice for £13500.00 these estate agents (fine and country) were absolutely rude, and very underhand. my wife's parents at the time we signed this agreement were both dying of cancer, and in fact her passed away on the 25th July 2017 only 15 days after signing this agreement. please could someone provide me with some advice.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

ready willing and able clauses are standard in London - if you insist on not having one, you will not be able to find an agent.

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