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A day in the life of a buyer's agent

publication date: Oct 6, 2009
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Buyers agentIt’s 5.30 pm on a Friday and you’re an estate agent. You’ve just started contemplating where to go for that Friday drink after work and then the phone rings. The person on the other end of the phone is a buying agent and, true to form, they want to preview a property that evening because they have a last minute client coming in the next day. Which means not only are you going to have to give up your Friday evening drink with your pals, but worse still, you can also kiss goodbye to having that well earned lie in on Saturday. Nightmare!

I am certain that some buying agents hold the opinion that that they have some God given right to summon estate agents at a drop of a hat, a click of a finger, or at 5.30pm on a Friday and expect the estate agent to ask them how high they would like them to jump. And should the estate agent dare to not oblige then they are met with fury from the overzealous buying agent wanting to view.

Let’s face it, at some point throughout their careers most buying agents have been estate agents, very often being on the receiving end of this unwarranted approach to property acquisition and we ought to understand the frustrations estate agents can have when dealing with us. It truly never ceases to amaze me how some buying agents then have the audacity to be rude to estate agents.

In a market that is short on stock and where there is stiff competition to get access to the best properties both on and off the market surely a little charm can go a long way? Is it any wonder that estate agents don’t always appear to like dealing with buying agents?

In our defence a buying agent’s client is usually quite demanding. High net worth or high profile individuals use a buying agent because they are either too busy or just too important to do it themselves. Very often they live overseas and need a pair of eyes and ears in London representing them or just need complete anonymity and confidentiality. They often call us last minute too and expecting us to magic that elusive property at a drop of a hat, a click of a finger or at 5.30 pm on a Friday out of thin air, but we can’t blame them – after all that’s what they’re paying us for.

Buyers agentThere is nothing more frustrating than going that extra mile for an applicant that then does no business with you. So why should an agent help us? Well it’s simple. Our clients are serious. They’ve signed our terms of business, paid us an up-front fee to get things started and they know what they want. When they see something they like, they go for it. Moreover, when the deal is done they pay us a success fee. How much more qualified can an applicant be?

As an industry, I firmly believe that all buying agents, however big or small, should have a professional contract in place with their client and should be charging an amount upfront in order to ‘weed out’ the time wasters from those who are serious about buying a property. They should only ever take fees from their client (the buyer) and never ever take fees from the selling agents. This will ensure that buying agents are taken seriously. Unfortunately, not every buying agent has the same modus operandi, but, as with most things it’s the few that ruin things for the many.

We also ensure all of our clients have their finances in place and are able to move quickly once a property has been found. We don’t want to waste our time either at the end of the day! However, despite this, there are still some estate agents that don’t like dealing with buying agents as a rule. One firm we know has taken the decision to split the commission on deals done with relocation agents across the office, rather than the commission going to an individual – make our lives harder why don’t you!

It must be stated, that as a whole, most estate agents are a delight to work with. From taking calls whilst on holiday through to viewing with us on weekends, we have done some great business with some of London’s top estate agents.

A great example of this is a recent acquisition we made in Tower Bridge for a client of ours (pictured). The client was looking for a penthouse apartment with river views anywhere from Borough Market through to Lambeth Bridge – quite a large patch to cover. We were able to secure an amazing four storey penthouse in London with a fantastic roof terrace with stunning views from Canary Wharf through to the other side of London. We could not have done this without the extremely helpful agent. Thanks to the relationship we had with this agent he called us as soon as his client had given him the instruction. Subsequently we secured the property for our client before anyone else had the opportunity to see it. Everyone was delighted: client, seller, agent and ourselves.

Having successfully acquired over £150m of property in London, Black Brick is now well known amongst the London estate agents and we’re constantly building our relationships. The old myth that working with a buying agent is a waste of time is evaporating, at least when it comes to working with Black Brick!

What is a buyers’ agent and how do they work?

Buyers’ Agents are professionals who specialise in searching, negotiating and purchasing property on behalf of buyers. This is the exact opposite of the role of the estate agent, who is instructed and paid by the property seller. This distinction is not as clear as you may think with many members of the public believing that the estate agent selling a house to them is working for them, as well as for the seller.

Buyers’ agents and property finders are used in many other countries as a matter of course; but in the UK this is a service that is still considered to operate only at the top end of the market. Times are changing though and the service is now structured to be affordable, mainly because the professional buyer has the right connections to find the right home and has the skills and knowledge to negotiate the best price, often saving the client more than the cost of the service.

The Association of Property Finders and Buyers’ Agents (APFBA) is the industry body for UK and international property finders and buyers’ agents. Chief Executive Tim Hammond says that APFBA’s mission is to “use the collective strength of its members to raise the profile of the industry, promoting the services available to homebuyers and showing how they can benefit from them.”

APFBA has established guidelines for the professional conduct of property finders and buyers’ agents and its members agree to represent buyers whilst adhering to a professional Code of Practice. Tim says, “APFBA gives buyers’ agents the credibility of being part of a professional body and the opportunity to promote qualifications through its membership. By choosing an APFBA member, buyers can be confident they are dealing with an experienced and professional property finder.”

The young association, formed just two years ago, is growing steadily and currently has over 60 members across the UK. Their website offers help and advice to buyers, as well as a free agent locator service. APFBA is also launching initiatives to broaden the scope of the services, including a very interesting service called Buyers Edge, structured for the overburdened first time buyer.

Tim explains. “The typical first time buyer will not have been through the homebuying process before, may have little idea of how it all works, where the pitfalls lie and how to negotiate a good deal. The service tailored to the first time buyer includes a property search to select a shortlist of properties that should meet their needs. The buyers view on their own and if they find a property that suits them the Buyers Edge agent will negotiate the purchase on their behalf.”

Unlike the mainstream property finder service, FTBs are not charged a registration fee and if the service is unsuccessful they are not charged anything at all. If there is a successful outcome the buyer pays the agent a minimum fee of one per cent plus 10 per cent of the saving made by the agent. So, on a property for sale at £250,000, if the agent secures a deal at £240,000, the buyer will pay the agent 1 per cent = £2400 plus 10 per cent of the figure saved = £1000, a total fee of £3400. The buyer will still have secured the property at a saving of £6500 and benefited from having a professional advisory service.

Each purchase arranged under this scheme comes with free conveyancing and free Home Protection Insurance cover for up to £1500 against a range of hazards including gazumping and ‘fall throughs’ that are not the buyer’s fault. As Tim Hammond says, it’s a ‘no brainer’ if you lack confidence in negotiations.