The importance of professional advice

25 June 2010, Buy Association

By Camilla Dell

Investors in the stock market, or in assets such as art or wine, rarely hesitate to seek professional advice, so it is hard to understand why there are investors in the property market who fail to seek proper guidance – especially as it is likely to be one of the biggest financial transactions of their lifetime. The complexity of the London market in particular should not be underestimated, and there are certain pitfalls which homebuyers, particularly those from overseas, can avoid by employing a reputable search agent.

Firstly, there are subtleties in value that only those ‘in the know’ can understand. Value can fluctuate significantly from one area to the next, from one floor to another, or from one side of the street to the other, and independent search agents will not only be able to advise on these differences, but will also use honed negotiation skills to ensure properties are secured for the best possible price – at Black Brick so far this year we have saved our clients an average of 5% off asking prices. It is important to bear in mind that estate agents in the UK act on behalf of the sellers, so without seeking a source of impartial advice elsewhere, buyers have little way of knowing whether they are getting a good deal, or making a sound investment.

A common mistake that buyers make is relying on just one estate agent. In order to see a good selection of what’s on the market, it is important to cast the net wide and consider local as well as big name agents. The problem is that there are circa 80 agents covering the borough of Kensington & Chelsea alone, and it is unlikely buyers have the time or inclination to research all of these agents and their instructions, especially if based overseas. This is where search agents come into their own, selecting only the best and most relevant properties, and ultimately saving their clients a substantial amount of time and effort.

One thing that cannot be overestimated is the importance of building rapport with estate agents. For each new instruction, estate agents will contact those buyers that they consider to be most serious, and in the best financial position, first. Reputable search agents will often be their first port of call, as they are known to represent buyers who have already made a serious commitment to acquiring property.

Off-market sales are also an increasing phenomenon in London, with many properties being sold long before they hit the open market. Estate agents tend to favour some buyers over others so unless you have the time to build a good relationship with the agent, you can end up missing out on a significant amount of opportunities. Additionally, search agents will often be able to source properties completely off market – 12% of properties purchased for Black Brick clients this year have been off market.

Lastly, the process of putting in an offer can be a complex affair, especially for those unfamiliar with the market, and knowing the tricks of the trade can make or break a deal. When bidding with competition, the way in which buyers present themselves to agents and vendors can play a big part. A search agent will build up a buyer profile to show them in their best possible light, whilst also advising on the best team of experts – surveyors, valuers, lawyers and solicitors – in order to ensure the process progresses smoothly.

The London market is not only difficult to navigate, it is also extremely competitive. A buying agent will make the property search a much easier, more rewarding, and quicker process, whether looking for a home or investment opportunity, and will also give the buyer a competitive edge once the right property has been located. As with any unfamiliar market, the processes and protocols can vary hugely across the globe, and London is even unique from the rest of the UK, so taking professional advice is essential if you want to get it right.

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