When you select a buying agent, check if they really are a ‘buying’ agent!
It sounds nit-picking but you need to understand the difference between search and buying in the agent’s description. I’m not just being pedantic. It’s not just semantics. The clue is in the terms: a search agent does precisely that, searches for properties whereas a buying agent, you guessed it, ‘buys’ the property too.
But buying a property isn’t like buying a car or a washing machine. As anyone who’s gone through the process can testify. Buying a house, it is said, is one of the three most stressful things in life alongside death and divorce. And why is that?
If your agent does the search and leaves the rest to you or your solicitor then you are losing out on the most valuable part of the service and risk not securing your property or risk paying over the odds for it. And it will certainly increase your heart rate!
Search is a vitally important aspect of what we do, but when you’ve been doing it for as long as I have, it’s the easy bit. Even when most of the properties we buy aren’t actually advertised, but bought off-market, it’s still somewhat less challenging than what comes next: securing the property for the client.
When I first started offering a buying service, nearly 30 years ago, we were one of perhaps 3. Now there are at least 300 self-styled ‘search agents’ in Chelsea alone! But many have missed the point, focusing on search thinking this is where the value lies, that clients want to outsource the leg work. Of course they do, but searching is in fact a minor part of the service. The added value comes in the professional side of what we do. This is what people are really paying for and which delivers the most value.
Conveyancing solicitors tend to carry out a rather basic due diligence, done remotely and in a formulaic way. Do they visit the property? Look at flight path maps? Check for noisy neighbours?
On one occasion, we found a perfect property for a client in a seemingly idyllic country location but on closer inspection we noticed the adjoining property ran a sporadic clay shoot which was not apparent from the viewings (it being occasional). The selling agent knew nothing of it – his vendor client hadn’t told him – and the solicitor certainly wasn’t going to discover it. I knocked on doors of people in the area and picked up a story of massive disturbance and endless complaints to the planning authority and lawyers letters.
My clients wanted to buy the house but in my view it was a minefield and should not be touched. However, I came up with a cunning plan. The guide was £1.7m and I advised my clients to get the neighbour to enter into a legal agreement which meant he would never shoot clays again. We paid the neighbour £100k for the agreement and bought the house for £1.2m.
Now that is what I call added value – only possible if you have been in the business for many years and have a raft of professional knowledge.
By Jonathan Harington