What does a good buying agent look like?

It wasn’t long ago that using a buying agent was considered rather avant-garde. Hiring a professional to do something that most people believed they could do perfectly adequately for themselves seemed a luxury reserved for the cash-rich-time-poor, or for those relocating from overseas.

While buying agents have become increasingly mainstream, they’ve never been so much in demand as over the last year. Established buying agents find themselves reluctantly having to turn away clients whose requirements clash with existing clients; and new buying agents are cropping up all over in the country, especially in high-profile hotspots such as Devon, Cornwall and the Cotswolds.

If you’re in the market for a buying agent to help you secure a property, how can you choose? What does a good buying agent look like? What’s the difference between a buying agent that earns every penny of their fee, and one that is an expensive mistake?

James Greenwood of Stacks Property Search, a buying agent that has been in business for over thirty years, and has a network of twenty offices throughout England, says, “The ‘search’, ‘buying’ and ‘relocation’ product offered varies dramatically from one company to another. Many small ‘kitchen table’ organizations simply offer a finding service, while other more established companies offer much more.

“While the ‘search’ element of the service is important, much of the value comes before the search starts, and after a suitable property has been found. As a starter, buyers should seek out an agent that’s experienced, an excellent negotiator, well informed, well known in the industry locally, and is a member of the ARP (Association of Relocation Professionals). They should have associated qualifications and they should know the area they cover inside out. They should be registered with the various regulatory bodies, and they should do all the background and money laundering checks.

“These are the minimum requirements. But to further narrow down your choice, you’ll need to look a bit closer.

Questions that will quickly reveal whether you’re dealing with a skilled professional, or somebody who is interested in property and is jumping onto a band wagon.

Ask when they started in the business
What they did before, how many successful purchases they have under their belt.

Longevity is critical
In order to read the market correctly they need to have seen several cycles of boom, bust, bear and bull.

Ask about professional skills
There’s a high degree of technical expertise required in terms of being able to qualify property; they should be trained to look from a distance and spot potential pitfalls, planning and environment issues, not to mention technical aspects of the property itself, structural issues, Listing, curtilage, shared drives, and factors surrounding water and power supply, for example, regulations surrounding septic tanks.

Ask about their continued professional development 
How they keep abreast of new legislation.

You’re paying someone to know the place and the people
Ask them who owns what, the local landowners, the farmers, the estates, who’s buying what and why, how the local land is used, what the landowners attitudes are to dog walkers, riders, and locals, what is the local culture.

What contacts can they share with you?
Surveyors? Solicitors? Builders, plumbers, architects, tradespeople, architects, specialists on all manner of issues. These people will smooth your path during the purchase and after, a good buying agent will replace years of building up your contacts.

Ask what the difference is between this village and that village
Two miles may separate one from the other, but the demographic can change dramatically and while one may suit you, the other may not. They should know this!

Ask them what they don’t know
If they’re part of a wider group, they should be able to share a capital stock of knowledge. They don’t need to know everything, but they need to know what they don’t know, and where to find the information.

Overseeing the professional conveyancing 
This is a huge part of a buying agent’s job; this can only come from long experience.

Are they legal?!
They should be signed up to a redress scheme so if something goes wrong you can seek redress; they should be ticketed in terms of money laundering, GDPR (data protection), ICO (data handling), and professional indemnity insurance. While it’s not required to be a member of a professional body, why would you choose somebody who isn’t?

You need a buying agent who will be brutally realistic 
Will they tell you how to create a sensible brief and will manage your expectations taking your budget into consideration. They should be the voice of reason.

A good buying agent should know about people, the psychology of buying, as well as the property market itself.

What about the fee? You get what your pay for!

Under 1% of purchase price and they’re probably not very serious. 2% is more realistic. If they negotiate down too easily on their fee, the chances are that’s how they’ll conduct the negotiations with the vendor and estate agent on your behalf, so run a mile!

James Greenwood says, “Over the course of the last year, 40% of the properties we have acquired for clients have not been publicly available. And nearly half of the properties we’ve acquired have been through the ‘best and final’ process’.

“The post-offer elements of a purchase are becoming more and more complicated. 45% of transactions don’t conclude once an offer has been accepted – we have a success rate of well over 95%. The idea of relying on the selling agent as the purveyor of professional information is wrong – they are there to represent the seller. Negotiation is about information. We assemble vast amounts of information about the property and the market that allows us to negotiate effectively, and gives the transaction the greatest likelihood of concluding.

“We have more and more negotiation only clients – those who have found a house but want us to establish what the price should be and navigate the conveyancing process, particularly the case with complicated country house purchases.

“Lockdown restrictions have of course meant that having feet on the ground is a greater asset than usual, but of equal benefit is what we bring in terms of acting competitively, quickly and decisively in such a market.

“The buying agency industry has segued from adolescence to adulthood. It’s taken forty years, but buying agents are no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ but for a growing number of buyers they are a vital professional in the buying process, whether that’s for access, speed, local knowledge or negotiation, or generally a combination of all four. If you choose to use one, make sure you ask the right questions and find the right one.”

Start your property search with Stacks today. Call us on +44 (0) 1594 842880 or complete the form below

Start your property search today

Call us on +44 (0) 1594 842880 or complete the form below

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