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 an estate agent is paid by the seller.
One 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 certain aspects of the purchase, but they will always act in the seller’s best interests. Many buyers now feel that retaining an experienced buying agent will re-address the balance of advice. Given a property is the single biggest purchase most people make it makes sense to get impartial advice. In most situations this is a free service for the buyer. The buying agent will be able to cover their fee by negotiating the best price for the buyer.
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 common place. In certain areas of London over 50% of transactions involve a buyers representative of some form.
ARE A BUYING AGENT AND PROPERTY FINDER THE SAME?
Essentially yes. There are several terms for a buying agent, but they all perform the same basic 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 ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING A PROPERTY SEARCH AGENT?
There are numerous benefits to using a buying agent or property finder. Here are a few of the popular ones;
2) Access off market property
3) Impartial advice
4) Buy from overseas
5) Save time
6) Pay the best price
7) Avoid costly mistakes
WHAT DOES A BUYING AGENT DO?
The services from agent to agent can vary significantly. This 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 good buying agent;
1) Take a detailed brief from the buyer
2) Advise the buyer on other areas or options they may have overlooked
3) Ensure 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
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
1) Attend all viewings to answer any questions
2) Plan purchase strategy and advise on negotiations
3) Make their client 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 etc
7) Let and manage the property if it is an investment
8) Build and manage portfolios for property investors
HOW TO CHOOSE A PROPERTY SEARCH AGENT?
It goes without saying that a buying agent should have considerable property experience. Most of the best London buying agents started as estate agents. They usually had over 10 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 estates agent’s eyes and know what they are talking about.
Negotiating is an essential part of the job. It very unlikely anyone with less than 10 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 a 10 year period they would have executed around 500 deals. The average buyer used to move home once every 8 years. Now it is an average of once every 23 years so they will have little experience of buying and selling.
Finding and buying the best property takes time and resources. Any good buying agent will only represent 3 – 5 clients 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 5 clients per agent and 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 fully explore all the options.
The most important factor in choosing a buying agent is that you have to like and get on with them. Some property searches can take several months and even years for very specific requirements. The best results always come from working together and not against each other. You need to feel they understand you and your requirements. You could be spending a lot of time with them. Buying a home is personal and should be an enjoyable experience.
It is also important that they come across as personable and professional. The estate agents have to like them too or they will probably not return their calls. There are many buying agents in the industry that have a reputation for not being easy to deal with. The agents will simply use them as a last resort so their buyers are rarely first in the queue.
Local market knowledge is essential for a buying agent. They should have encyclopaedic knowledge of the area. This can only come from decades of experience. They will know the best areas, roads and even the best houses or buildings. Knowing which buildings allow renting or pets, which buildings have large works due, which buildings allow internal remodelling? An experienced property finder will also have contacts in the area and or know people who deal in the area. They will have channels to source off market property and even know potential vendors directly.
Finally, they need to be discreet. Having a reputation for acting in the strictest confidence is essential. This will ensure other agents know they can be trusted will sensitive information regarding potential properties for sale. In addition, it will give their client confidence that they will not be part of the headlines or the negotiation. Several national and London newspapers have a page dedicated to high profile property buyers. A good buying agent will have the knowledge and legal team to structure a purchase for total discretion.
QUICK GUIDE TO CHOOSING A BUYING AGENT
1) Ask friends or colleagues for references. 60% of all our business is from referrals and repeat business.
2) Reputation is important but do not let it be the deciding factor. What is right for others may not be right for you. Play your own game and follow your instincts. If you cannot meet in person at least speak with them over the phone. You need to know you will get on with them.
3) Don’t choose a buying agent solely on their fee. If a buying agent has over 20 years’ experience then their service level and experience will all 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 them 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 a track record of buying what you are looking for? Do they have case studies or a reference you can speak to?