Could Using A Buying Agent Save You Money?

Annabel Dixon April 22, 2024

Buying agents excel at gaining access to houses of which there’s nary a whisper on the market.

‘Most clients come via word of mouth,’ says Guy Meacock, director of Prime Purchase. ‘The wealthy are used to getting advice, based on experience. Shouldn’t that be even more the case when it comes to your home?’

In the mid and upper echelons of the housing market, buying agents are familiar faces, quietly navigating highs and lows on behalf of their clients. In the Cotswolds prime country-house market, for example, 50% of transactions above £2 million involve buying agents. This proportion rises to 80% for homes of £10 million and over, says Jonathan Bramwell, head of The Buying Solution.

An ability to scour the market for time-pressed buyers is one of the buying agent’s trump cards, complemented by local knowledge and a little black book of contacts. Often, they come up with homes that are marketed discreetly — or not at all; 67% of houses bought via Prime Purchase last year were off-market, says Mr Meacock.

‘We know the best houses in the region and we can create opportunities,’ adds Mr Bramwell. ‘There are the so-called Ds that drive the housing market — death, debt and divorce — and we are (sadly) plugged into that.’ And although ‘we get clients through the doors before anyone else,’ adds Jamie Freeman, director at Haringtons UK, ‘our biggest value add is to ensure access to the whole market, so no stone is left unturned’.

For properties sure to attract offers, such as this old rectory near Bristol, £1.55m (Knight Frank), a buying agent brings a competitive edge.

Recommended videos for you Once a property is found, the buying agent’s role includes assessing its value and negotiating the deal. They act purely for the buyer, whereas the selling agent represents the seller. This is where they really prove their worth, says Henry Pryor of Pryor & Co. ‘A buying agent can evaluate a suitable property dispassionately, because we haven’t fallen in love with it.’ Nigel Bishop of Recoco Property Search agrees. ‘Buying agents are often in a stronger position to secure a property below the seller’s asking price, as they are quickly able to spot weak points.’

There are good discounts to be had in the housing market, too, adds Jason Corbett of Rowallan Buying Agents, with ‘many sellers lowering their expectations’. In short, buying agents hold their client’s hand throughout the process. ‘We want to ensure that the right price is paid and we make it through to completion,’ says Mr Freeman.

Not merely the preserve of the rich, although clients are ‘often well-known personalities or influential business people, increasingly, they are normal families that might be relocating from abroad or simply value a good-quality service,’ explains Mr Corbett. Either way, ‘many clients don’t want people to know their business and, if discretion is lacking, it’s best to avoid that agent’.

Some buying agents are easy to find, such as those owned by major estate agents, (Prime Purchase is Savills’s, The Buying Solution is Knight Frank’s and so on); others are smaller scale. The best way to find a good one is through recommendations. Mr Bishop advises buyers to look for someone ‘who really understands their requirements and with whom they feel comfortable. Experience is the most important factor, says Mr Corbett — ‘followed closely by industry connections’.

‘There are a lot of desktop buying agents and a lot of brokers trying to buy and sell,’ adds Mr Meacock. ‘But in terms of pure-breed buying agents who do only that, there are still very few. We can probably count on two hands the number of companies that we would consider viable competition.’

Of course, a buying agent’s service comes at a price. They often charge a retainer fee and commission based on the purchase price, between 1.5% to 3%, plus VAT. Other cost structures include ‘pay as you go’ and fixed fees. Either way, ‘we often save far more than our fee,’ says Mr Meacock.

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