I often hear home buyers refer to “my estate agent” and I always feel the need to remind them: in the UK an agent is acting for the seller and the seller alone, so do not assume they have your best interests at heart. Here’s how to maintain a good relationship that will work for you, too.
DON’T give them your real email address
Set up a disposable Gmail or Outlook address that you can use to log into property websites and give to agents and then burn at the end of the exercise.
This way you won’t get spammed with marketing emails, even once you’ve been living in your new home for decades.
DON’T bother speaking to their recommended mortgage broker
The most successful agents make almost as much money selling mortgages to buyers as they do selling houses for their clients.
They may say that you need to speak to their broker who can confirm that you are good for the money but you are not obliged to.
If you do use their broker then how do you know what information is being shared or if the deal they are offering is in your best interest or the seller’s?
DON’T use their recommended conveyancing service
When they’re not making money from mortgage leads and selling houses they are picking up introductory fees from solicitors.
You need to be able to trust your solicitor. If they have been recommended by the seller, how can you be sure they are acting in your best interests?
Find your own solicitor — just make sure they are a member of the Law Society and therefore regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
DON’T downplay your budget
You may have won the lottery last weekend but that doesn’t mean you will blow the lot on a two-bedroom flat in Clapham.
Agents want to know what to send you, want to be confident you’ve got the money to pay for a property and may have others they could show you if they know what your true budget is.
They may suggest that you should pay more for a property — but that is their job. It’s up to you to decide how much you are willing to spend.
If you’ve got more money than you offer, it does not mean you will spend it all.
DON’T accept what they say about other interest or offers they have received
Agents can’t lie but they may not tell you the whole truth about other interest if they are trying to get you to increase your bid.
It may be true that their client rejected an asking price offer but it may also be the case that this was from someone who could not proceed on their time frame.
You need to ask why an offer was rejected rather than assuming it was because the seller wanted more money.
DON’T worry what they think
Agents will often say, “If I had the money I’d buy this,” or, “I think it’s worth X,” but they aren’t buying it, you are. They are paid by the seller to get as much for the property as they can. What they think it is worth is therefore irrelevant to you.
There is lots of help out there: estimates on websites such as Zoopla and Land Registry data on other recent sales in the same street.
You could also ask other local agents who are usually quick enough to help point out if someone is flying a kite.
At the end of the day it is the buyer who decides what a property is worth. The seller has the luxury of deciding if it’s enough.