Believe it or not, estate agents are not the enemy. Play your cards right and they might go the extra mile to help you find your dream home. I always say that they’re like sales assistants in a shop that you need to win over. They need to value you and while you might not fancy inviting them round for a glass of wine or two, establishing a relationship that’s close to friendship will work in your favour.
An estate agent is paid by the person selling the house (the seller) and not you as a potential buyer, so their loyalty naturally lies elsewhere. To get them onside and use them to your advantage, you need to be friendly and make them convinced that you’re serious about your property search.
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Start by spreading your net widely and calling up as many estate agents as you can keep up with per week. Talking to as many different people as you can will help you work out who’s good and who isn’t (all should belong to the Ombudsman scheme or a professional association such as the National Association of Estate Agents or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) but it’s important not to cut them off too early. You want access to as many different homes as possible.
Keep the contact up; visit them in their offices to register and after that, once a week so you can soak up information and give them a better idea of what you’re looking for. By making things personal and throwing in comments like, “Ben has his friends over a lot so we need the second bedroom to be similar in size as the main bedroom”, your agent will build up a picture of what you wouldn’t be happy to view.
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More than 70% of buyers spend 20% more than they planned to, so you need to make sure that the homes you’re viewing are suitable. There’s a difference between viewing a property that’s out of your price range and one that’s out of your price range and missing the essentials. Sometimes a wild card could be the golden ticket to your dream home, so it’s worth being a bit flexible on the can-haves but firm on the real must-haves.
If in doubt, ask. We’d all like to view an endless supply of homes but keep the balance and make sure that you’re not agreeing to view every vaguely suitable property that won’t cut the mustard. Viewings are an estate agent’s bread and butter – the more they make, the better their performance. A good agent will recognise that there’s no point booking viewing after viewing that comes to nothing, but being sure of what you want and making sure that a home ticks the majority of your boxes will encourage them to place your happiness higher up the scale. For example, you could ask:
- Does this home have the kitchen diner that I need for home entertaining?
- Does the master bedroom come with the ensuite that’s one of my essentials?
Keep a written record of your communication to make sure that there’s no room for misunderstandings.
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I’ve also heard of people being vague with where they would like to live. It’s one of the biggest mistakes that you can make. To put yourself on that hot buyers list and be one of the first to view a property when it comes on the market, you need to be sure of what you want – or at least give that impression! Use a different estate agent to look in a different area if you want to cover more ground.
Know your stuff and be friendly yet firm and you’ll get the most out of your estate agent.