There is a huge difference between what a London Property Search Consultant and a London estate agent does. In London, the majority of people rely on estate agents to buy and sell their property rather than make use of property consultants. If you are a buyer, this leaves you at a massive disadvantage because estate agents are legally obliged to achieve the highest price possible for their clients, the sellers.
You, the buyer, are not their client. In estate agent jargon, you are an “applicant” which shows you how you are regarded by the agents. Conversely, a London property search Consultant should only act for buyers (unfortunately many now also sell properties which I regard as a massive conflict of interest which I will get to later).
Indeed, estate agents are a permanent fixture in the lists of the 10 least liked professions in the UK.
The reason is that most buyers forget the true role of an estate agent:
Their job is not to find you your ideal home or investment property. No, their focus is to sell any one of their clients’ properties to any buyer for the highest price possible to any buyer whose details they have.
So, they work in direct conflict with you, the buyer, whose two main goals should be:
- To find the best property your money can buy
- To acquire the property for the lowest price/best terms possible.
So, does it really make sense to rely on estate agents for advice when acquiring a property in prime central London?
I should point out that this is not a condemnation of London estate agents, because the best ones are very good at what they do and achieve excellent prices for their clients, the sellers. This is why I never sell properties for my clients – I will advise them on which are the best agents to use for their particular property and I will manage the agents on behalf of my clients. But my company never sells properties because I know that the good agents will achieve the best price.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t help you as a buyer!
However, as with any profession, there are good, bad and downright incompetent companies and people. This creates opportunities because some agents undervalue properties. Some are bad negotiators and others just want their commission so are more interested in ensuring that a transaction happens rather than giving their clients the best advice.
How can you use this to your advantage?
Most buyers find the process of buying a property in London incredibly frustrating. They don’t understand why they receive details of properties that don’t match their requirements (remember the agent isn’t trying to find you the best property for you).
Another problem in London is that a Multiple Listing System (MLS) like there is in the New York, for example, doesn’t exist, i.e. each agent only has access to a small percentage of the properties available and, on the whole, can can only sell the properties on which they are directly instructed.
Occasionally, they do share properties with other agents, but these tend to be the ones that are difficult to sell, i.e. they are overvalued or are severely compromised in some way, so probably not the type of property you should be buying.
The proliferation of property portals was supposed to improve the situation, but it has actually made it more competitive, i.e. if you rely on the websites, all you are doing is replicating what every other buyer is doing:
If everyone else is trawling websites and setting up “property alerts” all you are doing is joining a long queue of buyers for the same properties. Does that give you an advantage?
If you want to find the best property your money can buy and acquire it for the lowest price possible then you need to have first refusal on the best opportunities. Does joining a queue – even if it is a virtual one – sound like the best way to achieve this?
Another issue that buyers forget is that there isn’t a website in the UK that lists all the properties. That is a problem and when you get to the top of the market in prime central London, because the estate agents openly admit that many of their properties never even reach the open market.
The likes of Savills and Knight Frank say that 25% of the properties they sell are off-market while the highest figure I have seen quoted is 75%. I am not sure that is accurate but on average between 25% and 33% of the properties I acquire for my clients are off-market.
So, if you are planning to acquire a property for over £1m would it be a bad idea to use a different method to find property? And this is especially true the higher the value of the property that you wish to buy. This is why we speak to over 200 estate agents per week and we also have a list of over 500 off-market contacts.
Why should you work with a London Property Search consultant?
London Property Search Consultants are also known as property finders, property search agents or buying agents.
As I have mentioned, my company only represents buyers. Indeed, I founded Mercury Homesearch in 2001 because I became fed up as a buyer with the service I was receiving from the London estate agents. I couldn’t understand why I was taking advice from someone who was trying to achieve the highest price possible.
So, a good property search consultant should approach the property market from the opposite angle to the estate agents. My role as a property consultant is to protect your best interests.
8 reasons you might want to consider working with a London property search consultant:
- You will only receive the details of properties that match your criteria so that your time is not wasted
- The properties will have been inspected by your property search consultants before they are recommended
- You will have access to off-market properties that the typical buyer will never even know exist
- You will receive independent advice on the quality of the property
- You will be given an objective view on what represents good and be given accurate comparators to help you make an informed decision
- Your London property search agent should be an experienced and expert property negotiator to achieve the lowest price/most favourable terms possible
- Your London search agent should put together the professional team you need to ensure that the transaction progresses smoothly – this will include surveyors, tax advisers, etc.
- Your London property search consultant should handle all the unnecessary bureaucracy to save you time and stress, so that you can focus on what is important to you.
I won’t go into each of these in too much detail, but it is worth saying a little more about point 4 and accurate data.
While the London estate agents represent the sellers, they are not allowed to lie to you. In my experience, most estate agents in prime central London are honest. However, this does not mean that they cannot use statistics to make properties seem better value than they are.
For example, you may be interested in a property that is valued at £1500 per square foot and the agent may tell you that it is good value because another property in the same street has just sold for £1700 per square foot.
But that property could be better for a number of reasons: it may have higher ceilings, be in a better building, have a longer lease, be in better condition, have a better view, etc. or it may just be that the buyer paid far too much!
In short, you need far more data and a much better understanding of valuations for the type of property you wish to buy. One of the biggest mistakes I see buyers relying on pound per square foot valuations, but as I have hopefully demonstrated here, they are a very blunt instrument as there are several factors that will affect price and the ones I have listed are just the tip of the iceberg.
So, please ensure that you do your research and have access to all the relevant information about other properties that have sold in the area (also please remember that asking prices are irrelevant – only sold properties should be used as comparators). Click here to find out more information on how to accurately value a property.
While I believe that most buyers would find better properties and acquire them for lower prices if they used London property search consultants, you do need to be selective.
Just like any profession, there are property search consultants who are not very good. Indeed, there has been a huge increase in the number of London property search consultants over the last decade or so and, unfortunately, many do not offer the level of expertise and fiduciary care one would expect.
Many are estate agents who have switched sides but forgotten that looking after the buyer is less important than the transaction, i.e. their focus is their commission. Others are people who are simply attracted by the high fees and the fact that there is a low barrier to entry, i.e. regulation is pretty feeble. And then there are the firms who both buy and sell property. But how can you play both sides of the coin and offer the best advice?
So, when choosing a London property search consultant, it is essential that you read testimonials, speak to past clients and gather proof about their ability to find the best opportunities and negotiate favourable prices, i.e. make sure that they have a proven track record.
The best people also offer guarantees.
We have a process that gives our clients (who are some of the world’s most successful businesspeople and used to negotiating in their own fields of expertise) the highest probability of acquiring the best property their money can buy at the lowest price possible. If you would like to know more about it, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange a call.
Whatever you do, please don’t follow the crowd because that guarantees you will only acquire an average or poor property. Is that what you want?