London based property expert Simon Barnes explains the importance of finding a good buying agent when investing in the prime London property market.
Finding the right property to invest in can take time and for many, can be stressful experience. In the UK most, but not all, properties are sold by estate agents. While many estate agents provide an excellent service, all have one major drawback when it comes to finding the right property to buy, which is that they represent the interests of the seller rather than the buyer.
In contrast, buying agents do not sell a product and are focused only on the interests of the buyer. In the prime London property market, the best properties are sold off-market and most are complete one-offs. It is normally the case that the best buyers are also those operating under the radar.
When you engage a buying agent they will ascertain your exact requirements (location, budget, types of property, etc) and then use their insider knowledge and explore every avenue, using their contacts, including conventional estate agents with whom they have developed strong relationships, in order to find their client the right property. Buying agents will assess a property’s market value and genuine investment potential and are uniquely placed to know about prime properties, either before they are advertised, or when they are not officially for sale because the seller decides against the publicity of the open market.
In the UK, estate agents often contact local buying agents first with details of new properties they have been instructed in advance of them going on the open market. A good buying agent will advise their clients on the pros and the cons of particular properties, even to the point of advising them not to buy. A good buying agent will know the locality inside out and be informed about an area’s good and bad points down to the tiniest detail; for example why one side of the road is better than others, why the rooms are better proportioned in houses at the end of a street, or that a new development will be constructed close by.
While some larger estate agents have dedicated buying agents, the majority are small niche companies or single agents operating independently and in a narrow geographical area. They will take on a limited number of clients at any one time so that they devote the necessary attention to each one on a case by case basis and provide a bespoke personal service.
Frequently asked questions about buying agents:
Are they expensive? I believe that if, as an investor, you value sound advice, then the benefit and peace of mind more than justifies the fee. Remember that an estate agent will sell you a property; a buying agent will advise whether it is the right property for you to buy.
How do I find the most suitable buying agent? Personal recommendation is undoubtedly the best way and not by looking on the Internet or choosing one based on how much they charge.
Are there any ways I can check one out? By talking to them, quizzing them about the area you’re looking to buy, and your own personal requirements. Take time to interview them by phone – don’t make a decision based on their website alone.
How will a buying agent go about finding a property for me? By ensuring that they fully understand your requirements, not just the size of property and budget, but also your reasons for purchase, and will marry this knowledge of the locality to find the right property to fulfil your individual needs.
How can buying agents assist in ensuring I am best placed to buy the property I want? By having a good relationship with the seller or selling agent, they can work as the middle man to ensure you can offer the owner what they want, when they want it and above all without over-paying!
What three things should I be looking for? Local knowledge, contacts, solid track record.
This article by Simon Barnes first appeared in THE EPOCH TIMES, June 2014