Buying through an estate agent

If you're currently in the process of looking for property to buy, then our guide to buying through an estate agent could help, with plenty of useful advice on how to get the most out of the agent you’re dealing with.

Most people in England and Wales use an estate agent to help them buy their home. A good estate agent should always be able to save you time, money and hassle.

Although they are working on behalf of the vendor (or seller), your own relationship with the estate agent is really important too. 

For one thing, you want to be front of mind when a suitable property comes up. Obviously, you don’t want to miss out on your dream home! And so if the estate agent knows you, and knows just what you’re looking for, that can be a great help.

And secondly, when it comes to purchasing your dream home, the estate agent is the bridge between you and the vendors at every stage, and the main point for liaison. So, it’s really important to have a good relationship in place.

Here are a few ways you can do just that.

Meet in person

A face to face meeting is much better than a phone call. And certainly more memorable. So why not pop into their offices and have a chat about your requirements? As well as letting your estate agent put a face to a name, it shows you’re serious about your intention to buy. This will work in your favour should the right property come up.

Be prepared

Be clear in your own mind about what type of home you're looking for, the area you're looking in and your budget. It’s also good to think now about how flexible you're willing to be. If you are clear about your own requirements, and realistic about how much you want to spend and what properties you can go for, you'll be much easier for estate agents to work with, and so you're more likely to find the home you're looking for.

And doing your homework is vital. Before you walk through the door, you should already know what similar properties in the area have sold for, and how long they took to sell. You can easily find all of this information online.

Ideally, before you start properly house hunting, you should be all set to proceed with a purchase. In other words, have your mortgage agreed in principle with a Decision in Principle certificate at the ready, and your conveyancer and, if appropriate, your surveyor already lined up.

M&S Bank can provide you with a mortgage Decision in Principle before you start house hunting. Which means that estate agents know you could move quickly.

Ask the right questions

Now’s the time to ask all the right questions and find out as much as possible about the properties you are interested in. It could make the difference between getting the home you’re after and uncovering nasty and expensive surprises – so don’t be shy, and ask away!

Here are our top 10 questions to get you started.

  1. How long has the property been on the market?
  2. If it has been up for sale for a long time, why does the estate agent think it isn’t selling?
  3. How long have the owners lived there, and why are they moving?
  4. When do the sellers have to move out, and is there a chain of other buyers/sellers to factor in?
  5. Has the property repeatedly been on the market over the years? If so, why is that?
  6. Have there been any offers so far, and is there a minimum price the seller will accept?
  7. Is the property listed or in a conservation area?
  8. How much is the Council Tax, and how much are utility bills in the area?
  9. How old is the property – have there been any problems lately, with e.g. the roof or the boiler?
  10. What will be included in the sale, such as light fittings and fixtures, garden shed, curtains and blinds and so on?

It is also a good idea to not only ask about, but also get acquainted with, the local neighbourhood. Your estate agent may be able to tell you about local schools, transport links and facilities, but it’s also very worthwhile spending some time to find out as much as you can in advance. Sites like Zoopla, Rightmove and OnTheMarket contain lots of relevant information.

Keep in touch

It’s good to stay in regular contact with estate agents, so you’ll be the one they think of when the right property comes along. Don’t wait for them to call you – make sure you’re proactive and be persistent. It could help enormously in getting your dream home!

It is often the case that if you’re in regular contact and develop a relationship, then estate agents will tell you how quickly properties are selling and how close to guide price they are typically achieving.

Some other things to consider

You can register with any number of different estate agents. Take a look at the type of properties they offer to find out which are the ones best suited to you. And of course ask your colleagues, friends and family for their recommendations.

Be polite and easy to deal with. Yes, it sounds obvious, but if you are business-like and show them you’re serious and prepared, then the estate agent will be more likely to keep you in mind when that perfect property comes along!

Once your offer has been accepted, make sure the estate agent has taken the property off the market and is no longer advertising it for viewings. It’s worth keeping on top of them about this, in the nicest way possible!

Remember - the law is different if you’re making an offer for property in Scotland. Traditionally property in Scotland is marketed and sold by solicitor firms. You can find out more at GOV.UK

Good luck and happy house hunting!

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The material contained in this article is intended for information purposes only and not as advice.

You should obtain professional legal or other advice if you are unsure about the effect on you of any matter in this article.

Published 26 January 2018

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage