A house purchase by a buying agent in Kensington

BUYING AGENT

WHAT IS A BUYING AGENT?

A buying agent is a property adviser that acts solely on behalf of the buyer in a property transaction.

They are paid by the buyer, whereas the seller pays the estate agent.

One of the biggest misconceptions of UK property is that the estate agent represents both seller and buyer. They may broker the deal and advise the buyer on specific aspects of the purchase, but they will always act in the seller’s best interests. Many buyers feel that retaining an experienced buying agent will re-address the inbalance of advice. Given a property is the single biggest purchase most people make, it makes sense to get impartial advice. 

Unlike many other countries, it is not standard practice in the UK to have buyer representation. However, in recent years with more international buyers in the UK market, it has become more commonplace. In some areas of London, over 50% of transactions involve a buyers representative of some form.

IS A BUYING AGENT THE SAME AS A PROPERTY FINDER?

Essentially yes. There are several terms for a buying agent, but they all perform the same essential function. The services they provide may differ from company to company, and their fees can vary from hugely.

Other terms for a buying agent include;

  • 1) Property finder
  • 2) Property search agent
  • 3) Buyers agent
  • 4) Buyers representative

WHAT DOES A BUYING AGENT DO?

The services from agent to agent can vary significantly. The services will depend on how much input the buyer requires and the services offered.
Here is a quick guide to what you can expect from a reputable buying agent;

PREPARATION

1) Take a detailed brief from the buyer
2) Advise the buyer on other areas or options they may have overlooked
3) Ensure that the buyer has everything in place before starting the search
4) Assist and advise on the sale of their property if required
5) Advise on the purchase structure and introduce service providers

SEARCH

1) Search all options available through agents
2) Source off-market property through their contacts
3) Preview and inspect all suitable property
4) Conduct due diligence and price reports on the shortlist
5) Arrange a viewing tour for the buyer

ACQUISITION

1) Attend all viewings to answer any questions
2) Plan purchase strategy and advise on negotiations
3) Position their client as the preferred buyer
4) Handle all negotiations keeping the buyer informed of all communication
5) Manage the conveyancing process for the buyer
6) Introduce planning consultants, architects, contractors, interior designers, for example.
7) Let and manage the property if it is an investment
8) Build and manage portfolios for property investors

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING A BUYING AGENT?

There are numerous benefits to using a buying agent or property finder. Here are a few examples;

1) Confidentiality
2) Access off-market property
3) Impartial advice
4) Buy from overseas or out of area
5) Save time
6) Pay the best price
7) Avoid costly mistakes

HOW TO CHOOSE A BUYING AGENT?

PROPERTY EXPERIENCE

A buying agent must have considerable property experience. Most of the highly regarded London buying agents started as estate agents. They usually have over ten years’ experience of selling property before moving to the buy-side. Understanding how the process works from the estate agents’ side is essential. They need to know how agencies work, and the conversations agents have with vendors. The buying agent needs to understand what motivates a vendor and how to qualify their priorities. They will also need to be credible in the estate agent’s eyes and know the industry inside out.

Negotiating is an essential part of the job. It is doubtful that anyone with less than ten years’ experience will have the skill set required. Estate agents need to hit targets which is usually a minimum of one sale/let per week. Taking this as a minimum, over ten years, they would have completed around 500 transactions. The average buyer used to move home once every eight years. It is now an average of once every 23 years (Zoopla), so the average buyer will have little buying and selling experience.

THE COMPANY

Finding and buying the best property takes time and resources. Most good buying agents will only represent 3 – 5 clients per person at any one time. Any less than this and they are probably struggling to find work which is not a good sign. Any more than five clients per agent and the quality of service will suffer. In some areas of London, there are as many as 50 estates agents in one postcode. It is unlikely that a “one-man-band” will have the resources to explore all the options thoroughly.

THE RIGHT FIT

The most important factor in choosing a buying agent is that you like and get on with them. Some property searches can take several months and even years for specific requirements. The best results always come from working together and not against each other. You should be confident they understand you and your needs. You could be spending considerable time with them. Buying a home is personal and should be an enjoyable experience.

It is also essential they are personable and professional. The estate agents have to like them too, or they will probably not return their calls. There are buying agents in the industry that have a reputation for being difficult. The estate agents will only use them as a last resort, so their buyers are rarely first in the queue.

MARKET KNOWLEDGE

A buying agent should have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area. They will know the best locations, roads and even the best houses or buildings. They know which properties allow renting or pets, which have large works due or allow internal remodelling. An experienced buyers agent will also have contacts in the area and know whom to call. They will also have channels to source off-market property and even know potential vendors directly.

DISCRETION

Finally, they need to be discreet. Having a reputation for acting in strict confidence is essential. This discretion will ensure other agents can trust them with sensitive information regarding potential properties for sale. It will also give their client confidence that their identity will not be part of the headlines or the negotiation. Several national and London newspapers have a page dedicated to high profile property buyers. Estate agents regularly promoted their recent sales in these papers. A reputable buying agent will have the knowledge and legal team to structure a purchase for total discretion.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR?

1) Ask friends or colleagues for references. 60% of all The Buying Agents business is from referrals and repeat business.

2) Reputation is essential but do not let it be the deciding factor. What is right for others may not be best for you. Play your own game and follow your instincts. If you cannot meet in person at least speak with them over the phone or Zoom. You need to know you will get on with them.

3) Do not choose a buying agent solely on their fee. If a buying agent has over 20 years’ property experience, their service levels will be similar. Once you get above a certain level, the service does not improve the more you pay. Alternatively, do not be attracted by lower fees; this can be a sign of desperation. Compare like for like and the resources of the company.

4) Ask them how they work, what the process is, and how would they approach your search?

5) Search for the buying agent online. Are they discreet? Do they post photos of their clients’ houses online? Do they attract unnecessary attention? Are they a security risk?

6) Do they have experience of buying what you would like to purchase? Do they have case studies or a reference with whom you can speak?

Please contact The Buying Agents if you would like to discuss any of our services.

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