Buyer’s Agent in London |
I founded Mercury Homesearch – a buyer’s agent in London – in 2001 because I was fed up with estate agents.
I had acquired my first property in 1996 and the interest rate on my mortgage was 12%.
To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about the agents then, because I was so happy to be buying a home at the age of 25. However, when I sold the house in 2000 for 139% more than I bought it for, I needed a new home and this is when I realised that the advice and service I was receiving from the agents was less than impressive.
Nevertheless, I found a property that was undervalued, renovated it and sold it for a decent profit. I then repeated the process, although I didn’t make quite as much profit as I should have but it was 2001 and 9/11 had just happened, so I admit that I panicked slightly.
But the whole experience of dealing with the agents had got me thinking:
- Why were they sending me details of properties that were clearly unsuitable?
- Why were so many agents not even calling me back?
- Why was I calling them about properties that seemed perfect only to be told that they hadn’t called me because they had a buyer “lined up”?
- Why did they find it so hard to turn up to viewings on time?
- Why was I taking advice from someone who was legally obliged to achieve the highest price possible for the seller?
I could go on but, in short, I realised that the advice I was getting as a buyer was poor and the service was even worse. Hence, I founded Mercury Homesearch with two simple goals in mind: to help you find the best property your money can buy and to acquire it for the lowest price possible.
At the time, I was also told by friends and family that I was mad to go into property because both London and New York were doomed and prices were going to crash, but that is a story for another day.
I think there were about eight buyer’s agents in London (including me) back in 2001. Unfortunately, that number ballooned to over 500 at one stage. I say “unfortunately” not because it affected the success of my business but because many of the entrants were not of the highest quality and this reflects badly on the London property market.
Here are the Top 4 Problems when Choosing a Buyer’s Agent in London:
“My main concern about choosing an expert to help me find a home in London was finding someone who would have my best interests at heart rather than just focussing on the transaction.
I undertook a lot of research but they were all ex-estate agents who just wanted to ensure a sale was done to get their commission. However, Mercury Homesearch seemed to have a completely different ethos with the focus very much on protecting their members’ best interests, so we asked them to represent us.
Fortunately they more than lived up to their reputation.” Mr P Murphy (Notting Hill)
1. Are they trustworthy?
The reason why the number of buyer’s agents in London exploded was because London property prices started going much higher which attracted a lot more interest from both domestic and international buyers.
This in turn attracted many people to the industry for two main reasons – you could make a lot of money but the barrier to entry was (and still is) low. Anyone could set up a firm and some decidedly untrustworthy people did.
Just as one example, I received a call from a solicitor asking for my opinion on a penthouse that was being acquired for £20m. In itself, this wouldn’t have been an issue except the property was in Fulham where you could have bought a couple of streets for £20m at the time. It appeared that the buyer’s agent had either made a hideous mistake or was in cahoots with the agent.
2. Are they focussed on best advice or the transaction?
One noticeable trend has been the number of estate agents who have left the sales side to set up as a buyer’s agent in London. In such instances, you need to consider whether they have fully understood the change in role, i.e. to protect your best interests or are they more interested in the transaction?
To be totally clear, I founded the company because I wanted to make money. However, I have invented the worst business model ever because I spend the majority of my time advising clients not to buy property.
I know this sounds odd, but there are so few good properties that will outperform the market that you have to be selective. Beware a buyer’s agent who is constantly sending you lots of properties. It is a sure sign that the transaction is more important than finding you the best opportunity.
3. How knowledgeable are they?
At least estate agents have some knowledge of the property market. Unfortunately, the low barrier to entry meant that lots of wholly unqualified people have set up businesses.
So, while they may be able to find you a property will it be the best one your money can buy and will it be good value? Just as a guide, I have personally inspected over 23,000 properties, studied the details of over 150,000 more and negotiated hundreds of millions of pounds worth of transactions for my clients.
I study and practice negotiation techniques every day to hone my skills – and have been doing so for over 20 years. This is why I am able to achieve prices that my clients didn’t think possible. How much time and money do you think most buyer’s agents in London commit to learning?
4. Do Buyer’s Agents in London specialise in buying or do they sell as well?
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of buyer’s agents in London who also sell properties. Would it be unfair to suggest that this shows that they are more interested in the transaction rather than the best advice?
The excuse they often give is that their clients don’t want to deal with estate agents which I completely understand. So, some firms do “managed sales” where they sell the properties themselves and occasionally ask an estate agent to help too.
Now, while I set up the firm because I didn’t like agents from a buyer’s perspective, the good estate agents are very good at achieving high prices for their clients. And the big agencies have an international reach that no buyer’s agent can match. So, is it really best advice for a buyer’s agent to sell a property?
My clients do ask me to sell property for them, but I never do. However, what I do is advise them on which are the best agents to use and then monitor and manage the agents so that my client doesn’t have to deal with the agents directly. In this way, my clients get the best of both worlds and there is no conflict of interest.
If you are planning to ask a buyer’s agent in London to help you find your ideal home or investment, you need to choose carefully. Here are a few litmus tests to help you find the right advisor for you:
- Do you like them?
- Are they listening to you and have a good understanding of your requirements?
- How much experience do they really have?
- Do they specialise in acquiring property or do they sell property too?
- Can they provide at least two examples of clients who have acquired multiple properties through them and who would be willing to speak to you?
- Are they recommended by reputable private banks or private client law firms?
If they can pass all six litmus tests, then you can be confident that you have found a good buyer’s agent.
If you would like to know more about what a buyer’s agent does or if you would like to know more about acquiring property in London and the seven most expensive mistakes you must avoid, simply click here, call 02034578855 (+442034578855 from outside the UK) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.