Buying Agents…what are they all about?

“I don’t feature in the Rich List so why on earth would I use a Buying Agent?”

I’m not expecting to be helicoptered around to see glamorous £3million estates across the Home Counties, so what on earth is the point of considering a Buying Agent.....?

And anyway what is the need when I have the Internet and can see everything coming to the market myself...?

Perhaps it’s time we thought again.  In this changing market, when buyers and vendors are at stalemate, can you ever buy your dream home without a drama?  Is it possible that Buying Agents might actually hold the key?

If you come to this never having heard the term “Buying Agent”, a basic explanation is this; the Estate Agent acts for the person selling the house (the vendor), and the Buying Agent acts for the buyers.

We should all remember the Estate Agent’s job is to squeeze the purchaser as hard as they can on behalf of their client. The Buying Agent is doing just the same on the buyer’s behalf, trying to squeeze the vendor but in the opposite direction!

Gone are the days when buying agents are just for the time poor and super rich.  With the market as it is now - with fewer properties coming to market and stalemate being reached between vendors and purchasers - the Buying Agents have a growing role.
So what is it they do....?

Searching
At a time when we can all trawl the Internet one might question the merit of their search ability, but they have very strong relationships with the Estate Agents and they often get the heads up that something is coming to the Market before it hits your inbox.  Added to which they should have local knowledge and an ear to the ground, and so hear about things even before the Estate Agents.  When you believe there is nothing on the market that suits you it may well be there are deals going on that never reach the open market.  With the thousands of properties you can find on the Internet they can save you time by weeding out the properties that aren’t worth viewing, but also in reverse they can encourage you to look at something you may have dismissed out of hand, seeing the potential where you see only the negatives.  At a time like now when there is limited supply and optimistic vendor pricing, having someone on the spot who hears about the good houses first can really make a difference to how long it takes you to find your dream home.  Crucially, the Buying Agents need to be local and know the area in which you are looking, thereby preventing the expensive mistake of buying in the ‘wrong village’, or in the wrong part of town for your needs.

Negotiation
It’s really when it comes to negotiation that you can feel the immense benefit of a Buying Agent. We already know about vendors pricing positively and it can be hard to convince them to accept a lower offer when some houses are selling well with competition among the bidders.  Having a Buying Agent act for you can add real weight to your offer.  Not only are they generally respected by Estate Agents, your use of them places you in the category of a ‘serious’ purchaser.  In addition, they also have access to comparables of which you may be unaware.  It’s no use quoting out of date comparables or unsold properties in the belief this will help your cause. The research that Buying Agents do on your behalf ensures that you have a much greater chance of understanding the true commercial value of your potential property, which allows for a much greater level of confidence during the negotiation process.

Alongside these two key roles you’ll find a decent Buying Agent brings many other talents to the table. Hand-holding shouldn’t be discounted; having professionals look over a property and give you their views can be a real asset when you are looking at making an eye-watering investment in an unfamiliar area.  Added to which their local knowledge should be second to none: ask them about schools, the best GP, where to get a decent massage.  These are all questions they can answer (maybe not the one about the massage), once again making the transition to a new location that much easier.

So as I read this, I’m sold.  Why wouldn’t I use a Buying Agent?  Anyone who can ease the path and ensure we don’t get left high and dry on a gazumping frenzy is worth investigation in my book...but what’s the flip side?

There is always a BUT....

Essentially there are a couple of BUTs...the main one relating to cost.  Whilst no longer just for the champagne swilling super rich, Buying Agents do come at a price, anything from 1% to a hefty 2.5% of the purchase price of the new property.  So that means paying between £5,000 and £12,500 on a property worth £500,000, so it is a factor you cannot ignore.  Buying Agents can certainly offer some reassurance that you’ll get most if not all of their fee back in the money saved by their skilful negotiation, but you’ve still got to approach this with eyes open.  Some of them have a fee structure that involves a percentage of the saving off the asking price, but you need to be very clear at the outset that you fully understand what fees are payable when the time comes.

The second negative is trust – most certainly an issue that can be overcome, but one that should be given some consideration before you sign on the dotted line.  Critical is the relationship between you and your Buying Agent.  It’s no good if they don’t get what you want.  You need to do some research; every agent has their area of expertise and finding one to suit your needs is vital.  And then - trust them!  You have to tell them the top figure you would pay, not a pretend figure that you keep changing. You need to trust them to negotiate on your behalf. If you end up not buying the house, you need to feel confident they gave it their best shot for you.  You don’t want to regret it.

If it’s something you’re considering, talk to people, get their feedback.  There are some brilliant Buying Agents out there, but you need to get referrals in much the same way you would when using any other professional.   The really good Buying Agents understand they have to add value, or people just won't bother using them. Their job is to work for you, and to work really really hard to research both before and after you find a house.

Personally, I’m sold – as long as the price is right.

For more information on buying agents visit this article 

With thanks to

James Greenwood  at Stacks

Lisa Green at County Homesearch

Esmond Elliot at Knight Frank

Helen Turner at Helen Turner On The Move

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12 Comments

  1. Very thorough and unbiased article

    Reply
  2. Funnily enough have not been asked to recommend a decent massage!
    Have had to find someone to sew name labels into 3 childrens school uniforms including sports kits and each pair of socks.
    Track down white goods items claimed to have been delivered by a well known dept store. Arranged for quotes and then instillation of metal rail on bannisters of grand 3 storey staircase, to stop children sliding down, as a fall would be fatal!
    Make appointments with bank managers for clients to set up Uk accounts.
    Apart from the usual solicitors, decorators, garden designers, babysitters etc
    As you point out we dont just find the property and negotiate. We also keep an eye on the conveyancing process, which is absolutely crucial, keeping a tight rein, massaging egos and sometimes a few carefully chosen words, so that all runs smoothly!

    Reply
  3. Really enjoyed reading this and we actually used a search company to find our house ten years ago. The difference is that using a search agent meant that you really do get the house you want, not necessarily at a lower price but deals that are sealed with a search agent are much more secure.

    Reply
  4. Great piece. Probably most important benefit of using a buying agent is that they will know the area well, and if you are moving from abroad or London (where most of my clients are from) then this local knowledge is invaluable. You don’t want to end up buying the most amazing house which turns out to be in the wrong part of town.

    (My most unusual request so far was to have a firedoor fitted whilst the vendor was abroad so that the building regs certificate could be issued and contracts could be exchanged.)

    Reply
  5. There are many good buying agents around, so as well as establishing that an agent has the necessary ability and local knowledge, it’s equally important to identify that this is a person you can work with and with whom you can build a rapport based on mutual trust. Finding and securing a client’s new home is a very personal service that often involves consulting on and finding the best solution for lifestyle, family, work and personality, not just the bricks and mortar.

    If you don’t have a personal referral it’s worth checking the list of private client property finders that are members of The Association of Relocation Professionals http://www.arp-relocation.com.

    There are different styles of buying agency to suit different clients, and most have their place. But if you are still unsure you can have confidence that the agency complies with a professional code of practice if they are also members of The Property Ombudsman Scheme http://www.tpos.co.uk.

    Finally, whilst fees are of course a factor remember that for most buyers likely to use a buying agent you will be paying HMRC the largest fee as SDLT, simply for the privilage of moving home!

    Reply
  6. Being a buying agent myself, I would stress how important it is to find your own buying agent that knows their patch like the back of their hand. A good buying agent should be able to utilise personal contacts within a particular radius, and yes, should be able to recommend a whole host of other services, likely based on their own personal experience. I have lived in South Buckinghamshire my whole life, and my father (and business partner) has strong connections here. Within the last month, we have been able to highlight to our clients two properties within our village, that are scheduled to come to market in the autumn. This is even before the agents have been given formal instructions, so we can guarantee we will be the first for a viewing.

    I would also suggest to our clients however that they be realistic. Whilst a greater proportion of properties likely change hands privately more than you realise, we unfortunately can’t magic the perfect property out of thin air! You are probably equally likely to get your hands on an exclusive off-market property than you are us negotiating on a good reduction on a ‘stale’ property with a motivated vendor that has simply been on the market far too long!

    Reply
  7. The article is well balanced and explains the service of the buying agents well.
    The only thing I would like to add is once the buyers have moved in the Relocation services do not stop there. Relocating to a new area is difficult and the relocation company help with setting up utilities, Doctors, Dentist, and help with referring to local groups and activities for the family. This all aids a quicker integration to a new area.

    Reply
  8. Great piece, well written. One thing i would add as a buying agent my self is that we as agents would usually managed to save in excess of our fee through negotiations, meaning our services become a net break-even for the client. Of course this is not always the way as market conditions change but it happens more often than not.

    Reply
  9. This article is one of the best and most balanced descriptions of our services that we have read – we couldn’t have put it better ourselves! Teresa and I have first hand experience of relocating back to Hampshire – an area we both grew up in. Having to juggle busy jobs plus young children, we found the whole process hard to do from a distance. We therefore have genuine experience and empathy with our clients who are trying to do the same.

    Reply
  10. As a buying agent one huge advantage is knowing the area and the people in that area so well. One of my clients had been looking for their perfect home here for 5 years without success until he contacted me. As a passing remark on the day we first met up he said “that is my absolute dream house but of course it is not for sale and I have even approached the owner to see if they would sell but they won’t”. Within 3 days I had secured the house for him and he and his family moved in within 5 weeks. By having superb contacts I have access to properties for my clients that never hit the open market. County Homesearch have offices throughout the UK so we all know our particular patch intimately and can use this knowledge to help our clients make the right decision on exactly where in the area to purchase.

    Reply
  11. Some but not all buying agents are ex-estate agents. This can give a real advantage to the buyer as we will often have personal connection with local estate agents resulting in notification of off-market opportunities, for example one-off viewings. Especially valuable in the current climate of not enough properties on the market as much of London.

    Reply
  12. It’s not even all about negotiation these days. With the market so fast moving, we find one of the biggest values we can add is time. Our clients aren’t the ‘super rich’ but they are very hard-working and time-poor so rely on us to be out there, scouring the market on their behalf. In Winchester especially (a particularly strong commuter area), properties are in short supply. Unless you can be available at the drop of the hat to view and make decisions (which let’s face it, not many full-time commuters can), you can easily lose out on your dream home – sometimes before you even know it is there! As a buying agent or property search agent, we limit our search area to Winchester and the surrounding villages, where we have extensive local knowledge. In doing this we can respond at a moment’s notice and take that time / stress factor away from our clients.

    Hand holding, as you mention is also very key. It can be a daunting process, especially if you are facing it on your own. Having a second pair of eyes, an impartial view, someone who really understands your objectives, is invaluable.

    Reply

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