Buying agents were popularised by television programmes such as Location Location Location.  And, whilst they still predominately operate at the top end of the property market, there is now a buying agent to suit almost all purse strings.

How do buying agents work?

Buying agents were set up remove the legwork of hunting for a property. Typically, they meet with prospective buyers to ascertain their wants, needs and limiting factors. Some will ask for a written brief too.

The buying agent will then create a shortlist of properties. It’s then up to you: you can reject them all or you can view as many as you like.


How much do they cost?

Traditionally, buying agents would charge an up-front fee—usually several thousand pounds. In addition, should you purchase one of the properties they have sourced, you would pay them a percentage of the purchase price, in the region of 2 per cent. 

However, times are changing. The top-end agents still charge an up-front fee, but recently agents have emerged who only charge upon completion. Within this group is a subset who charge flat-rate fees.

There are also agents who only charge a percentage of the amount they save the buyer—15 per cent seems to be the industry norm. So, if they negotiated a £40,000 discount, you would pay them £6,000.

Craig Donohue a director of Need Quick Sale operates at the lower end of the market. “For us, it’s about helping the seller, and having the right buyer for the right property.”


What’s their competitive advantage?

Buying agents are only as good as their industry relationships. The top-end agents will get much of their business via word of mouth.  It’s reckoned that 20 per cent of million pound plus properties are not sold on the open market—instead vendors approach buying agents directly.

Buying agents will also have contacts with estate agents, surveyor, and developers. They get to see the properties first, which means you do too. If you go onto a property portal, such as Zoopla, you will probably find less than half the properties available to buy. Buying agents will have access to over 90 per cent of the market.

They know the market so they can ensure you don’t overpay. In fact, by removing the competition you may find the save you far more money than they cost. The end result (in theory) is a better property for less money, and with far less hassle.


You’re the client

Estate agents, ultimately, work for sellers—that’s who pays their fees. Buying agents work for buyers. As such, they are far more likely to listen to your concerns and feedback. 

Estate agents often blanket email properties to people on their books, with no thought of their requirements. Buying agents separate the wheat from the chaff.


Bun fight

The property market is current pretty flat across most parts of the United Kingdom. But, as and when it hots up again, that’s when buying agents are worth their weight in gold.

It can be hugely frustrating to arrive at a property viewing to find it’s a “group viewing”. A friend went to one such viewing in 2015 to find he was one of 14 prospective buyers. With a buying agent this simply won’t happen.


What are the downsides?

If you pay an up-front fee you risk losing this. Also, there are far fewer buying agents servicing less affluent buyers. 

Those two niggles aside, what’s not to like? It feels like a no-risk option, one that I will be taking full advantage of in the future.


Read more from Ned Browne

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