19th September 2023

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Estate agents and buying agents – what’s the difference?

A property buying agent can help you to find the property of your dreams at any stage in the househunting process. Whether you’re just starting out and want to know what’s on the market, about to come on the market, and off market, or you’ve chosen a specific area and want the best buying agent London can offer, there’s a professional ready and waiting to help.

Your house buying agent will take the strain and time out of the property search, screening and shortlisting the best opportunities they can find that match your criteria and your budget. Drawing on their expert knowledge and experience of the local market, they may also be able to identify properties that have not yet officially come on to the market that meet with your criteria. 

So, what are the key differences between a property buying agent vs. an estate agent? If you’re early in the househunting process, you could be forgiven for thinking the two terms are interchangeable – but in fact, using a property buying agent could make a world of difference for buyers when it comes to securing the best deal.


What is a property buying agent?

There’s a big clue in the name: a property buying agent works on behalf of the buyer to find the best properties and negotiate the best (i.e. lowest) purchase price. It’s not just about money. A good house buying agent will also offer in-depth knowledge of the local market, trends affecting asking prices and any other tools that could help to secure the property for the buyer.

Consequently, there are several different advantages to using a property buying agent vs. estate agent for the buyer:

  • A professional to represent you and act in your best interest.
  • Save time by having a professional meticulously search the whole market and screen properties on your behalf so you only view properties that meet your brief. 
  • Expertise including local market knowledge.
  • Access to off market properties that otherwise would be impossible to find.
  • Cost savings by negotiating best purchase price.
  • Someone to manage and oversee the entire buying process from beginning to end.

The best house buying agent London has to offer should be able to advise on housing market trends, be able to gain early access to properties before they come onto the market, identify off market properties, refurbishment and turnkey opportunities, and new-builds still under development in desirable prime locations. Similarly to estate agents, buying agents may have a list of available properties in prime locations.

Importantly, buying agents aren’t just for the super-rich. While property buying agents offer services to high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients, anyone looking for property in prime London locations is likely to benefit from their services to speed up the search, gain invaluable insight and knowledge of the market and save on the final purchase price.


What is an estate agent?

It’s a misconception that an estate agent acts as a neutral go-between for the vendor and buyer alike. In fact, estate agents are hired by the vendor and work on their behalf to get the best (i.e. highest) selling price for the property.

A more sophisticated version of this is a managed property sale, in which a selling agent works to find interested buyers for a particular property, sometimes working under conditions of confidentiality, with an aim to achieve the highest selling price for their client.

Without the involvement of a buying agent, nobody is directly representing the interests of the buyer, except for the buyer themselves. This can mean house price negotiations are imbalanced and, other than a structural survey, the buyer is left to decide whether the property is fairly priced or not. The buyer also runs the risk of not being able to access every property that might be suitable for them, including off market properties, as estate agents are often only interested in selling what they have on their books. 


What do they do the same?

It might sound like property buying agents and estate agents are poles apart, and in a sense that is true as they represent opposite sides of the purchase transaction; however, the nature of their roles means they are not completely different from one another.

There are some similarities between buying agents vs. estate agents, for example:

  • Both are experts in the property market, house prices and local knowledge
  • Both are proactive, with an interest to complete property sales without delay
  • Both are skilled in negotiation and will represent the interests of their client

In some ways, the process of shortlisting and viewing properties may feel very similar too. It’s in an estate agent’s best interests to make the buyer feel cared for and looked after, although it is arguably more ‘genuine’ when this feeling comes from a buying agent.

Both property buying agents and estate agents should take you to view homes on the market that are a good match for your key criteria, as well as any strong propositions that are worth considering or that offer something you haven’t previously thought about.


What are the main differences?

As discussed, property buying agents are there to represent the buyer, whereas estate agents represent the seller. But what does this mean in practical terms for the buyer?

One of the key differences is in the way property buying agents vs. estate agents shortlist properties for viewings. A buying agent will spend time ensuring that shortlisted properties are a strong match for your specified criteria, whereas an estate agent is likely to schedule a much greater number of viewings, of properties that are not of the ideal specification.

There are a few reasons for this. The estate agent is not there on the buyer’s behalf, so there’s little to lose by adopting more of a scatter-gun approach. Marketing psychology may also play a part, as showing a buyer several imperfect properties before viewing one ‘perfect match’ can make the final property seem even more appealing.

Convenience is one of the biggest differences and a huge deciding factor for many people who choose to use a buying agent. A good property buying agent will carry out the initial search and viewings for you, before supplying you with a shortlist of prequalified properties with full details and photographs.

This saves you time and expense and can be crucial for overseas buyers looking for a shortlist of UK property investment prospects without needing to visit the country multiple times for speculative viewings.


How do you know which to choose?

So, when do you know it’s time to reach out to the best property buying agent London has at its disposal? There are several scenarios when you might want to choose a property buying agent vs. an estate agent:

  • Looking to get the best from your budget – at the best price.
  • Want to put forward a professional, organised image to the vendor.
  • Need local knowledge about a certain area or the local housing market.
  • Buying from overseas and can’t attend too many viewings in person.
  • Want a faster, easier, and less costly property buying process.
  • Have tried the traditional route to market but got frustrated and want to outsource the process to a professional. 
  • Want access to more than what the property portals and agents can offer.

If you fall into any of these scenarios, or you have your own reason for choosing a buying agent for your property search, contact Black Brick today to get started, or read another of our Buyers’ Guides for more expert insight.

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