Buying Agents Explained
Buying agents can find you the house of your dreams, even if it’s not on the market, and negotiate the best possible price. They’re particularly helpful in today’s “sellers market”. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a buying agent?
Buying agents are like estate agents but they act solely in the interests of the buyer. A buying agent’s job is to find their client the property that best fits what they are looking for. They will then negotiate the best price and terms.
This is of course different to an estate agent who is selling a property. Estate agents enter a contract with the seller and act in their best interests to get the most amount of money from a sale. The property seller, not the buyer, is their client. So having a professional buying agent with experience and expertise of buying property helps to level the playing field.
Why use a buying agent?
Whether you’re struggling to find the perfect home, have limited time to conduct your own search or are relocating to a new area, there are many reasons to use a buying agent. These include:
– Getting access to ‘off-market’ properties
A good buying agent will have excellent contacts which mean they’ll find out about properties being sold ‘off-market’ – these are properties you won’t see advertised in estate agents’ windows or online. And even if the property is going on the market, a good buying agent will find out days or even weeks in advance. Having advance notice about a property going on the market may give you the edge as a buyer.
– Buying agents can save you time
We’ve always said that buying a home is a full time job. Securing the best property takes time and dedication – and a buying agent will do this for you. A detailed brief from you will help your buying agent to filter through properties so you don’t have to. They’ll then preview the best properties and produce a shortlist of only the most suitable properties for you to view.
– Negotiating on the purchase price
Your buying agent will give you an informed opinion on the property’s value. Using this and following discussions with the estate agent to establish the motivations behind the sale, your buying agent will advise you on the best negotiating strategy. Buying agents often secure a discount on properties. But it’s not all about price; the seller will choose based on the size of the offer and the situation of the buyer. So it’s important to get your finances in place and show you’re able to exchange quickly.
What does a buying agent do?
To find you the best property, a buying agent’s role is wide-ranging. It can include:
Taking time to understand what you are looking for and why. They may also help you find what you’re looking for in a different area or with a different type of property than you had originally planned.
Finding you the best properties for your needs: This will involve searching the market and using contacts to find properties that may be available, even if they’re not on the market
Bringing local knowledge and advising on areas and properties. Buying agents will also use their local knowledge to help you understand what the property really offers. This can be particularly useful if you’re buying a property in an area you don’t know much about. For example, if the road you’re buying on is very busy at certain times of day. And unlike selling agents, buying agents will highlight any negatives with a property. If buying agents think it isn’t suitable for you, they will say.
Conducting research on the property and the seller: This will help put you in the strongest negotiating position possible. This usually includes assessing the value of the property and the seller’s situation to help establish what offer they may be willing to accept.
Negotiating for you to achieve the best price and terms on your behalf. This may save you money compared to if you negotiated yourself. They’ll also oversee the purchase process.
Do I need a buyers agent?
It’s clear most people would benefit from the expertise of a good buying agent. But sadly they don’t come for free so it won’t be a light decision. However, the answer to the question “do i need a buyers agent” is likely be yes if you are:
Time poor and need someone’s help to do the legwork
Investors or buying a holiday home. A buying agent can be particularly useful if you don’t have detailed knowledge of the area where you’re hoping to buy your second home.
Living overseas and wanting to buy property in the UK
Parents looking for a property for their children.
Retired buyers who are unfamiliar with the process and would benefit from a helping hand.
A nervous buyer who want someone on their side
Buying in a sellers market. Buying agents can be particularly useful in a competitive market. So if you are house hunting in a particularly sought after area and/or in a sellers market – where the seller has all the advantage because demand for houses like the type you want are outstripping supply – then a buying agent can be particularly advantageous.
Buying agent fees
Buying agent fees are structured in different ways. These are:
A percentage of the purchase price: This varies, but it’s typically from 1%-3% of the purchase price. This is generally the most common approach to fees.
A fixed amount
A percentage of the saving achieved between the asking price and the agreed purchase price.
Some agents ask for a registration or retaining fee, typically between £450 and £2500. And they may charge this every 6 months. However, this amount may be deducted from the fee you pay when you buy a property.
Opting to pay a percentage of the saving the buying agent achieves on the asking price may be appealing. But buying agent Henry Pryor advises against this, saying, ‘It may look like our interests are aligned but the gap between asking and sold price can be huge. Imagine how easy it would be for me to put you off something you ought to buy just because there wasn’t much of a gap?’
Also, it’s important to check if the buying agent will benefit from a commission if you purchase a property they recommend. Ideally, you will want their only payments to come from you. That way you’ll know they are acting in your best interests.
And bear in mind that while a buying agent may save you money if they negotiate hard on your behalf, you will pay a fee for their services. And if you’re selling as well you’ll be faced with your estate agent’s fees as well.
There are, of course, a number of other costs involved in buying a home. Find out more about the costs of buying a house and consider homebuyers protection insurance.
Are buying agents worth the money?
Buying agents can be worth their weight in gold. They could find you properties you would never know about otherwise, may negotiate a much better price than you would have been able to have got yourself, and save you time and stress.
However, it won’t be the right option for everyone. It will depend on your circumstances and budget. And while a buying agent may be able to negotiate a better deal than you could have done on your own, you need to view that against their fees.
How do you find a buying agent?
In the past, buying agents operated through word of mouth but that has changed. Jonathan Harington, director of independent buying agency Haringtons explains: ‘The majority of our business to date has been through word of mouth: clients talking to associates, friends and family recommending us as a consequence. The pandemic has changed this, and we are seeing more online referrals than ever.’
Buying agents in the UK
So where do you begin if you’re looking for a buying agent? One good place to start is Prime Resi, which has compiled a list of Britain’s top buying agencies. However, bear in mind its top 10 specialise mainly in London and southern England.
Property Vision: Has offices in London, Ascot and Hungerford.
The Buying Solution: This is Knight Frank’s independent acquisition arm and covers London, the Home and Southern Counties, the Cotswolds and West country as well as farm and estate deals across the UK.
Prime Purchase: The independent buying arm of Savills focuses on London, and English counties from Devon to Essex. While a specialist team manages farm and estate searches.
Black Brick: Based in Mayfair, it specialises in London and the South East.
Robert Bailey Property: Specialises in property in London
RFR Property: It also specialises in London property
Aykroyd & Co: Based in Mayfair, it focuses in central London properties
GLP Fine properties: For property in London, the Home Counties and the South of France
Henry Pryor: London, South of England
Turnbull Property Focuses on Central London property.
While Henry Pryor, who also features on the list above, keeps his own list of buying agents he recommends. These include:
Louise Streets of Kent Home Finders – a property finder service in West Kent and East Sussex
Jonathan Hopper of Garringtons – using a network of regional offices with locally based property search consultants, it covers most of the UK
James Greenwood of Stacks – it has a number of offices in Southern England and the Midlands
Jamieson Property Search, which helps find homes in Norfolk and Suffolk
Barbara Armstrong of Edinburgh Property Finders, which specialises in property in and around Edinburgh
Where else can I find buying agents in the UK?
As the 1000 or so buying agents need to be registered with an Ombudsman scheme, another good place to start is by searching for buying agents at The Property Ombudsman.
Alternatively, ask high street agents in the area you’re hoping to buy who they work with. You’ll want to find someone with local knowledge and who knows the area inside out. And find one that has expertise in what you’re looking for. Don’t use an agent who specialises in city centre flats to find you a cottage, and vice versa.