FINDERS KEEPERS; House Hunt: Find Your Perfect Property with the Help of a Buying Agent, Such as TV's Phil Spencer

Daily Mail (London), November 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

FINDERS KEEPERS; House Hunt: Find Your Perfect Property with the Help of a Buying Agent, Such as TV's Phil Spencer


Byline: Graham Norwood

WE ALL love a bit of property window shopping, planning the move to ourideal home while perusing the listings at the local estate agent.

However, buying a new home can quickly transform a dream into a splittingheadache.

But if you can't face traipsing around dozens of properties, dealing with thered tape and managing the tricky negotiations, help is at hand. Estate agentsmay be there predominantly to support the vendors, but house hunters have auseful ally, too: buying agents.

And business is booming. Location, Location, Location presenter Phil Spencerwho runs his own buying agency, Garrington Home Finders (020 7376 6780,garrington.co.uk)may be the most famous example, but there are around 200 buying agencies inBritain, double the number that existed just five years ago.

They work like this. A buying agent, also known as a relocation agent, willinterview a would-be buyer, probably at home with their family, to find outexactly what sort of property is wanted, in which location and at what price.

The agent then uses local contactsmany are former estate agents so have strong links within the industryto find appropriate homes coming on to the market. The service offers buyers aninvaluable head start. .

'Around 50 per cent of the properties I've found for clients haven't reachedthe open market. I've found them through speaking with estate agents or privatesellers before brochures are printed or details are posted on the internet,'says Nicola Oddy of Stacks, one of the largest agencies with 17 offices inEngland and Wales.

The buying agent will then uncover the inside story on the property tonegotiate a better price. If a home has been on the market for many months, forexample, the seller may be willing to accept a lower offer; but if the propertyis being sold following a divorce and the separating couple each want to buy aseparate home out of the proceeds, they will probably be looking for as much aspossible. Agents usually secure a deal at under the asking price.

In return for this, the buyer pays a fee. This will vary from agent to agent,but [pounds sterling]500 to [pounds sterling]1,000 is usually payable up front, followed by commission ofbetween 0.5 and 1.5 per cent of the purchase price.

That means [pounds sterling]7,500 or more in fees on a property costing [pounds sterling]500,000but buying agents say they are worth it.

'You pay for four key things,' says Oddy. 'First, there's the agent's localknowledge. They can give you invaluable information on local prices, the area'sschools, estate agents and other services.

'Second, there's our independence.

Estate agents act for the vendor; we, are backing the buyer.

'Third, we get buyers access to properties before everyone else. And fourth, welook for their ideal home, saving buyers time and money on abortive visits.'Oddy's clients vary from buyers of multi-million-pound homes to those wantingsimple [pounds sterling]250,000 cottages.

Until now, however, British buying agents have largely been the preserve of thesuper-rich.

It's a very different story in the U.S. A survey of several thousand housesales conducted in 2003 by the National Association of Realtorsa trade group representing 940,000 estate agentsrevealed that a whopping 63 per cent of American buyers employed a buyingagent.

In fact, Chicago estate agent, Mark Weiss claims they are most useful for thosebuying the cheapest homes, not the dearest.

'If you've bought several homes in the past and you're comfortably off, you'reunlikely to make mistakes with a purchase. First-time buyers, however, who areless experienced, are much more likely to need a buying agent,' he says.

As estate agency fees are high in the U.S.sellers pay 6 per cent commission there compared to 2 per cent hereone property in every 20 is sold via a simple garden sign or local pressadvertisement.

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