Should I enlist the help of a buying agent?

Q: I am starting my property search – should I consider a buying agent?

A: Using a buying agent used to be something associated with the very top end of the London property market, but times have definitely changed. Every week when I write this column, we get emails or calls from readers saying they love the advice and asking if we can help them, even though they might not have a multi-million pound budget.

Using a buying expert to represent you is a growing trend and we cater to first time buyers and upwards. Personally, this is one thing I love about the job, whether it’s working with a budget constrained buyer, helping an investor build a portfolio of buy to let properties, working with parents buying for children, or advising wealthy buyers on their London base or a large family residence; London property is so diverse, and so are its buyers.

A good buying agent should be able to give you a competitive advantage in terms of getting you ahead of the queue and, where possible, informing you about properties before they come onto the open market. In the past ten years, 60% of the properties I’ve shown clients have been off market, and, in the past two years, four out of five sealed bids we entered were where we were up against other buyers with buying agents. Buyers who weren’t using a buying agent didn’t even know the sealed bids were going ahead.

Finding the right property is also only half the job; advising on price per square foot values, negotiation tactics, and so on plays a huge part. It’s not always appropriate to aggressively pursue the lowest price as it might alienate the seller or lose the property altogether. We’re here to know values and steer clients through the negotiation minefield. A well-known buying agent will always be able to glean more information about a property and the sale situation; this all plays a key role in how negotiations are handled.

The final, but just as important, part is holding the purchase together. I’ve acted as peacemaker, good cop, bad cop, mediator, and so on, to hold purchases together; often we end up liaising with the seller directly to preserve transparency and good faith. I’ve acted on so many transactions where knowing the buying process inside out was essential for being able to navigate through what our buyer viewed as insurmountable hurdles, or having the diplomacy to deal with difficult sellers, estate agents, solicitors, or plead with slow surveyors.

Buying a property is never a plain sailing task due to the number of people, emotions, and sums of money involved. So if you do want some professional help – regardless of your budget size – then don’t rule out enlisting an expert.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.