Selling property with or without an agent

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Do I have to use an agent to sell my property?

Most sales are conducted through an estate agent or agent’s representative, but you can choose to sell your property without their assistance. For more information about what is involved in selling your own property, view the Selling property without an agent section below.

What sellers can expect from an agent

Agents are obliged to act responsibly and ethically when dealing with buyers and sellers. Strict laws govern their licensing, authorisation and conduct. For more information, view our Professional conduct and obligations – estate agents page.

Anyone in the business of buying, selling or leasing property on behalf of another person must either:

  • hold an estate agent’s licence
  • be employed and authorised by a licensed estate agent as an agent’s representative.

An agent’s representative must have written authority to act on behalf of their employer. The licensed estate agent is responsible for their employee’s professional conduct.

Always deal with a licensed estate agent or an authorised agent’s representative. You can check whether a person is a licensed estate agent or an agent’s representative by searching our Public register of licensed estate agents.

If you list your property with an agent, you are engaging the agent to help sell your property. The agent will charge you a fee for this service, usually in the form of a commission.

The agent is bound by professional conduct regulations to:

  • always act in your best interests
  • follow your lawful instructions
  • engage in good estate agency practice.

Estate agents must:

  • advise you that all commissions and other outgoings are negotiable
  • at an auction, disclose any vendor bids
  • let you know of all verbal and written offers from prospective buyers, unless you instruct otherwise in writing
  • state an estimated selling price in the sales authority that is reasonable, and takes into account the three most comparable properties. For more information, view the Comparable properties section on our Understanding underquoting page.

You can expect the agent to:

  • advise on a method of sale
  • provide a marketing plan, advertise and market the property
  • advertise an up-to-date price for the property reflecting rejected offers. It is not compulsory for a price to be advertised
  • organise and attend open house and other inspections
  • attract prospective buyers
  • organise and conduct an auction (if you choose this method of sale)
  • arrange the signing of the contract
  • collect and hold the full deposit.

Estate agents must not:

  • mislead or deceive any party
  • make or accept dummy bids
  • at an auction, accept any late bids after the fall of the hammer
  • keep any rebates or discounts they receive for advertising or other services they buy on your behalf. They must immediately pass these on to you
  • charge you more for advertising or other outgoings than you authorised in writing or than they paid for the service.

For more information, view our Professional conduct and obligations – estate agents page.

Choosing an estate agent

Start by:

  • checking the internet and local papers to find agencies. Look at the services they offer and their recent sales
  • speaking to friends about their experiences
  • reading promotional material from a range of agencies including local agents - they are more likely to be familiar with the local market
  • talking to several agents and arranging to meet them.

When you meet with agents, discuss:

  • their knowledge of the market in the area
  • comparable local sales
  • their marketing plan for your property
  • their estimated selling price
  • their commission, or how much they will charge you
  • the cost of advertising and other outgoings.

Tips:

  • Ask the agent to provide quotes for their services in writing.
  • Do not choose an agent just because they give you the highest estimated selling price.
  • Get several agents to appraise your property and give you an estimated selling price. Ask them to justify their price by showing you their comparable sales in the area.
  • Take into account the agent’s overall marketing plan when making your decision.
  • Do not sign anything, including a sales authority, unless you are prepared to engage the services of that agent. You do not have a cooling-off period (time to change your mind) after signing a sales authority.

Sales authority

When you choose the agent, you will be asked to sign a ‘sales authority’ appointing that agent. This is a legally binding contract, which sets out all details of your agreement with the agent.

The sales authority will include:

  • whether the property is to be sold by private sale or auction and, if by auction, the auction date
  • the negotiated commission and marketing expenses with GST set out separately
  • when the commission is payable. This will depend upon the type of authority signed, whether it is an ‘exclusive’ or ‘general’ authority
  • the agent’s estimated selling price
  • the authority period or amount of time the agency has to sell the property.

The authority must also include two statements:

  • a rebate statement, stating whether or not the agent is likely to receive any rebates from the advertising expenses
  • a complaints statement, which explains that you can lodge a complaint with Consumer Affairs Victoria if there is a dispute over commission or outgoings.

If the agency is to share commission from the sale with anyone else, either:

  • the sales authority will include a commission-sharing statement, or
  • you may be given a separate statement before signing the authority, informing you of any commission-sharing arrangements in place.

If you want to make any changes after the authority has been signed, they must be made in writing on all copies of the sales authority and initialled by both you and the agent.

Authority types

Exclusive authority

This is the most common type of sales authority. It means you appoint one agency to market and sell your property.

The agency is entitled to commission when the property is sold, and can claim commission even if you sell your property without their help.

You should not sign more than one exclusive authority, as you may have to pay more than one commission in certain circumstances.

General authority

This is less common. You list with more than one agency but only pay commission to the agency that sells your property.

What can be negotiated?

You can negotiate many aspects of the sales authority with the agent.

The method of sale

There are two main ways of selling a property: by auction or private sale. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. An agent will be able to recommend the best method of sale for your particular circumstances. For more information, view our Property sales method and price page.

The authority period

This is the period of the time that the agent is authorised to act on your behalf.

Once you sign the authority, you will not be able to cancel it during this period unless the agent agrees. There is no cooling-off period with a sales authority.

If no period is stated on an exclusive authority, the default period for sale by auction is 30 days after the date of the auction. For a private sale, the default period is 60 days after the sales authority was signed.

If the authority period expires and the property has not been sold, you should notify the agent in writing if their services are no longer required.

The commission

The commission or agent’s fee is negotiable. You may wish to negotiate a ‘no sale, no fee’ contract, meaning you will not have to pay any commission or outgoings unless the agent sells the property. Check that there are no hidden charges.

Advertising and other outgoings

The amount spent on marketing and advertising is negotiable.

Other terms and conditions

Make sure you understand and agree with all the terms and conditions before signing. These conditions are negotiable. Any changes (deletions, amendments or additions) must be made on the authority and initialled by both you and the agent.

All verbal agreements should be confirmed in writing on the authority and signed by both you and the agent. If you have specific instructions for the agency, attach them to the authority.

Agent’s estimated selling price

This is the price the agent reasonably estimates your property will attract, based on the sale prices of three comparable properties.

The estimated selling price:

  • is not a valuation or a guaranteed selling price
  • does not have to be the same as your reserve or asking price
  • must be recorded in the sales authority as either a single price or a price range of up to 10 per cent.

Price misrepresentation

It is illegal for an agent to:

  • deliberately give you a high estimated selling price to get your business
  • mislead you about the estimated selling price of your property
  • underquote the price of your property, by advertising or advising a prospective buyer of a price that is less than your reserve or asking price, or if you have not provided a price, their estimated selling price. For more information, view our Understanding property prices page.

Commissions and commission sharing

Commissions

Most agents receive a commission after the property is sold. An agent cannot claim a commission from your property sale unless you give them permission to do so in the sales authority.

An agent must advise you that the commission is negotiable, before you sign the sales authority.

The commission:

  • is not a set amount. You can negotiate the amount with the agent
  • can be paid as either a fixed fee or a percentage of the sale price, or as a combination of both
  • must, be recorded on the sales authority. If you agree to a percentage, the commission must also be shown in dollar terms on the sales authority. The dollar amount is calculated on an approximate sale price to give you an indication of the amount of commission you will owe.

If the agent is using a commission scale, make sure you understand how much you may have to pay. For example:

The agent’s commission is 3.3 per cent (including GST) for a sale price less than $500,000 and 3.85 per cent (including GST) if the sale price is more than $500,000. The property sells for $585,000.

You might interpret this as $500,000 having a 3.3 per cent commission and $85,000 having 3.85 per cent commission. However, the agent may interpret this as the entire sale price of $585,000 having a 3.85 per cent commission.

Check the dollar amount stated in the sales authority and, if you are still unsure about how the commission is to be calculated, ask your agent to provide examples of what the commission would be based on various possible sale prices.

At settlement, your agent will deduct their commission from the deposit, pay you the balance and give you an account for the sale. If you dispute the amount of commission your agent has charged because it is excessive, you can:

  • lodge a complaint with us using our Estate agent complaint form. You must make the complaint within 28 days of receiving the agent's account
  • apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a decision on the dispute.

Commission sharing

An agent must advise you in writing if they will be sharing the commission with anyone outside their own agency, such as a legal practitioner, conveyancer or another agent.

They must provide a written list of the people who will share the commission, before you sign the sales authority.

If a commission-sharing arrangement is entered into after the sales authority has been signed, the agent must:

  • update the sales authority with the relevant details
  • ask you to approve the arrangement, and sign and date the amendments.

Marketing and advertising

There will be costs associated with marketing and advertising a property, on top of the agent’s commission.

Ask for a comprehensive, written marketing plan. This:

  • will be based on the agent’s experience, the nature of the property and your preferences
  • should include advertising methods and costs, and the price or range the property will be advertised at.

You will still have to pay for marketing and advertising costs agreed to in the authority, even if the property does not sell. You can avoid these expenses by negotiating a ‘no sale, no fee’ arrangement in the sales authority, but make sure there are no hidden charges.

Ask the agent to give you a written schedule outlining advertising and other outgoings so you are clear about what you are paying for. All expenses are negotiable and must be recorded in the sales authority.

Rebates

Agents can be offered significant discounts or rebates from service providers, for example, from newspapers for buying bulk advertising.

The agent must pass on to you any rebate or discount they receive, such as for advertising. It is illegal for agents to keep any rebates, even if you agree.

If the agent gets any benefits from the sale other than money, such as gifts, then the monetary value of the gift must be passed on to you. If the exact price is not known, then the agent must estimate the value.

The amount of any rebates or benefits must be stated in the sales authority.

Unfair contract terms

The sales authority is a legally binding consumer contract.

There are laws to prevent unfair terms in consumer contracts. For more information, view our Unfair contract terms page.

Agents must make sure their sales authorities comply with the law.

If you believe there is an unfair term in a sales authority, contact us on 1300 55 81 81. Calling us costs the same as a local call. Additional charges may apply if you are calling from overseas, on a mobile or payphone.

Selling property without an agent

Selling your property without an agent involves:

  • deciding the sale price or range. Consider engaging a qualified valuer to assess your property
  • advertising the property
  • negotiating the price
  • obtaining a deposit
  • providing the contract of sale with the Section 32 statement attached and arranging for it to be signed
  • handling settlement.

You will need to engage a conveyancer or legal practitioner to prepare a Section 32 statement (vendor's statement) and contract of sale.

For more about the Section 32 statement, view our Conveyancing and contracts for sellers page.

Due diligence checklist

All sellers, or estate agents acting on their behalf, must make a 'due diligence checklist' available to prospective buyers at open for inspections. The checklist aims to help buyers identify any issues that may affect the property and impose restrictions or obligations on them, if they buy it. For more information, view our Due diligence checklist for home buyers page.

High-risk property investments

Certain methods of buying and selling property, such as property spruikers, vendor terms sales and rent-to-buy schemes, are considered high-risk. For more information, view our High-risk property investments page.

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