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How to deal with estate agents when buying a house

Jonathan Leggett
Written by  Jonathan Leggett
Kim Staples
Reviewed by  Kim Staples
5 min read
Updated: 01 May 2024

Dealing with estate agents can be vexing, especially when you're a first-time buyer. Read on and we'll outline what you should expect from an agent and what key questions you need to ask.

What is an estate agent?

In a nutshell, estate agents are property-market professionals whose expertise lies in buying and selling properties.

Their principal duties are to provide advice and guidance to buyers and sellers, facilitate potential sales and answer customers’ queries.

They also provide market insights, pricing guidance, and schedule property viewings for potential buyers.

What’s the role of estate agents when buying a house?

  • Act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers: Estate agents are go-betweens, aiming to facilitate communication and help both parties reach a mutual agreement efficiently

  • Provide market insights and guidance on pricing: They offer insights into local property trends and help set realistic price expectations

  • Arrange and manage viewings: Estate agents schedule property viewings and ensure potential buyers can explore homes at convenient times

  • Negotiate offers and terms on behalf of clients: They'll submit offers, provide context to the seller and try to bridge any gap

  • Assist with the legal paperwork: They simplify complex legal documents that are required for property transactions

What is the process of using an estate agent when buying a home?

  • Register with several estate agents. You’ll need to outline the areas you’re looking at, provide a rough budget you're working with and the sort of properties you’d consider. The more agents you’ve got looking out for you, the more chance you’ve got of finding a property to suit you

  • They’ll recommend properties to you. Agents will match you to homes that meet your requirements, monitor the housing stock that’s available and alert you when new places come to market

  • You start viewing properties: After arranging viewings the seller, your estate agent will walk you around sellers’ properties (except in rare instances where the seller has opted to do this themselves) and answer questions. As property professionals, they’ll also be able to answer questions about the local area, as well as schools and transport links

  • Submit your offer: Found your dream home? You can then submit your offer through the estate agent, who’ll contact the owner on your behalf. They’ll also outline to the seller your reasons/rationale for the price you’ve offered

  • Negotiate through the estate agent: While you’re negotiating with the seller over price and terms, your estate agent will act as the go-between and explain any stumbling blocks or concerns

  • Agent will remove the property from sale. Assuming your offer is accepted, it’s the estate agent’s responsibility to remove the property from the market and ensure it’s no longer advertised for viewings.

  • Confirming offer: The agent will send you a memorandum of sale letter to confirm your offer. This will also go to the seller and both parties solicitors. The latter can then start the work involved in the house-purchase process

After this point, it’s incumbent on the estate agent to help ensure the offer moves forward. That means working to unblock any blockages that occur, attempting to ensure that exchange of contracts happens as scheduled and that the date for completion is met.

What questions could I ask an estate agent?

As a buyer, the questions you may want to ask an estate agent include:

  • Why is the owner selling?: This is a key line of query, since the agent may disclose information that suggests the seller could accept a lower offer. For instance, they may be seeking a quick sale

  • How long has the property been on sale?: If the owner is struggling to drum up much interest and it’s been on sale for longer than three months, you may want to chance your arm with a lower offer

  • What is the minimum price the seller will accept?: The estate agent may not tell you outright, but should at least give you some indication

  • Why does the agent think the property isn’t moving?: If a property has been on the market for a while, it may be that some previous would-be buyers discovered problems, or that issues were flagged by a house survey

  • How long have the current owners held the property?: If the owner is looking to sell the property after only owning it for a short time, that my be a red flag

  • What offers have the sellers had?: This will help you gauge how much to offer. The agent may not tell you the actual offer price, but could give you some idea

  • What is the area like?: It’s a good idea to ask about crime rates, the quality of schools and transport links

  • Is it leasehold or freehold?: Freehold is usually perceived as preferable and describes most houses on sale. However, most flats are leasehold

  • What’s included in the sale? Got your eye on that smeg cooker in the seller's kitchen? Be sure to find out what fixtures and fittings are included and what the seller is taking with them

You may also want to ask about noisy neighbours, any plans for future developments in the area, as well as council tax and utility bills.

Do you pay estate agents fees as a buyer?

Estate agents aren’t typically paid fees by the buyer in property transactions.

They’re paid by the seller, who could pay between 0.75% an 3.5% of the selling price to the estate agent they used, or a flat fee.

What are the advantages of using an estate agent?

  • You’re tapping into their knowledge of the market and local area

  • They do the hard work of finding properties to view and arranging viewings with the seller

  • A good agent will have a network of contacts that they can lean on to find a property to suit you

  • A good agent will also use their contact book to and knowledge to help speed up the buying process, removing stress and friction from the process

What common tricks do estate agents use?

In their eagerness to seal a sale or sell you extra services for additional commission, some estate agents might try certain strategies. Here’s what you need to be aware of..

  • Inventing bogus offers: An agent may try to force your hand by inventing fake offers from other would-be buyers

  • Arranging viewings close together: This technique could lead buyers to believe there’s more interest in the property than in reality

  • Pressuring you to use their mortgage broker. By all means get a quote from their recommended broker. But don’t feel obliged to go with them. And remember their broker may not have access to some deals that other brokers could secure

Other useful guides

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