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August 11, 2023
Jeremy McGivern
Posted in: Luxury real estate London

What is The Difference Between an Estate Agent and a Buying Agent in London?

Buying Agent in London |

The role of estate agents in the UK is often misunderstood.

This is probably why estate agents feature regularly in the list of the top ten most disliked professions.

Because, historically, both buyers and sellers have been reliant on estate agents to buy and sell properties in the UK, so both sides often think that the agent is helping them. Sadly, this is not the case, hence the stress and frustrations involved with buying a property in London.

The Role of the Estate Agents & Buying Agents in London

As a buyer, it is essential that you remember this at all times:

The estate agent is legally obliged to achieve the highest price/best terms possible for his/her client… who is the seller.

The estate agents refer to you, the buyer, as an “applicant”, which gives you an idea of the level of service and advice you will receive.

Their job is not to find you your ideal home or investment property nor is it to help you acquire it for the lowest price possible. Their job is to sell any one of their client’s properties to any applicant they can for the highest price possible.

So, if you have ever dealt with estate agents in London before and wondered why you are being sent the details of properties that don’t even match the property criteria you gave them, now you know the answer.

And this isn’t a diatribe against the estate agents. While, admittedly, some are truly awful (find me a profession where there aren’t poor performers), the good agents are very good at achieving high prices for their clients. This is one of the reasons why I don’t sell properties for my clients (Instead, I advise my clients which are the best agents to use and then manage the agents, so that my clients can focus on what is important to them).

In short, you must remember, that the estate agents only have a “thin legal duty” to buyers which basically means that they are not supposed to lie to you.

Buying Agents in London

When I first started to buy property for myself over 25 years ago, I thought it was rather odd that I was supposed to be taking advice and trusting information from someone who was legally obliged not to act in my best interests.

It seemed rather like taking advice from a second-hand car salesman or agreeing to buy a company but only relying on the owner’s word rather than conducting any due diligence. Does that sound like an intelligent way to buy property?

I didn’t think so either which is why I founded Mercury Homesearch in 2001 to be buying agents in London. Basically, I flipped the UK model for buying property on its head and have invented the worst business model ever:

I spend the majority of my time advising my clients not to buy property.

And the reason for this is very simple. Although there is a belief that buying property in areas like Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Mayfair, Chelsea, Notting Hill, etc. is a bullet-proof investment, in reality this is complete rubbish.

The simple fact is that the majority of properties are average if not decidedly poor. It doesn’t matter in which area you are looking or what your budget is, there are “best in breed” properties and then there are the rest. You must focus on the former.

Would it be unfair to say that you have two main goals as a buyer?

  1. To find the best property your money can buy
  2. To acquire it for the lowest price possible

I expect that you will also want to avoid all the wasted time, stress and bureaucracy that the typical buyer suffers. If none of these points worry you, then you don’t need a buying agent in London.

However, if you do want to find the best property possible, you also need to remember that estate agents in London can only show you properties on which they are directly instructed, i.e. the market is extremely fragmented with over 230 estate agents’ offices in prime central London alone.

Admittedly, some properties are shared amongst the agents but these tend to be flawed in some way or other – they are on poor streets, are badly configured, in poor buildings, have complicated leases or are simply overpriced. In other words, they are usually the type of property that you want to avoid.

So, to find the best opportunities and be in the right place at the right time, you need to speak to all the estate agents in your target area and source off-market properties too – which becomes more and more important the higher your budget.

Meanwhile, good, independent buying agents in London should have access to every property including off-market opportunities (unfortunately relying on the websites is not the answer as I have demonstrated in other articles).


Buying Agent in London

A word of caution on buying agents in London

As you can see, a buying agent should protect your best interests. Unfortunately, the nature of the business has attracted some less than capable people (that is the polite version) – the issue is that there is no barrier to entry to becoming a buying agent in London.

This combined with the fees that can be earned means that several estate agents have become buying agents because they think it is easier. Likewise, people who are wholly unqualified have started giving advice. I have heard some horror stories from solicitors where buyers have put their trust in a “buying agent” who is more interested in the transaction than giving best advice.

So, while I strongly advise you to use a buying agent in London – especially if you don’t know the prime London property market well, need advice on finding the best properties, valuations and negotiation tactics – it is also essential that you do your due diligence and find one who has a strong track record, can arrange for you to speak to past clients who have acquired multiple properties and who has a proven system for finding you the best property your money can buy and a system to negotiate the lowest price/best terms possible.

Contact Mercury Homesearch:

If you would like to discover more about the strategies and tactics you need, you can request a complimentary copy of my book, The Insider’s Guide To Acquiring £1m to £100m Property in London, by clicking here, emailing dee@mercuryhomesearch.com or calling 02034578855 (+442034578855 from outside the UK).

Alternatively, if you don’t have time to read a book and would prefer to discuss your plans to acquire a property in London, you can request a Strategy call with me by clicking here, emailing dee@mercuryhomesearch.com or calling 02034578855 (+442034578855 from outside the UK).

Whatever you decide, please ensure that you are not fooled into buying an average or poor property at a high price.

About the author, Jeremy McGivern

My name is Jeremy McGivern. I am the founder of Mercury Homesearch, the internationally renowned property search consultancy, and author of The Insider’s Guide To Acquiring Luxury Property in Prime Central London. I have been acquiring property in prime central London for clients for over 13 years.

Having physically viewed over 22,000 properties in prime central London, studied the details of over 153,400 apartments, houses and investment opportunities and spoken to 232+ estate agents every week for over a decade.

My advice is in high demand and has featured everywhere from Bloomberg Television, The Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph to Forbes India and Bahrain Confidential.

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