In recent years, the notion of what an estate agent does, or is expected to do, has changed quite dramatically. Now, the range and level of services offered by different estate agents is very broad, depending on the needs of the seller of the property. For example, some agents conduct the viewings on a seller’s behalf, while some sellers choose to carry out their own viewings.
The agent is chosen and employed by the vendor (the current owner of the property) and it is normally the vendor that pays the agent’s fees. This means that you can only enquire about viewing a property through the agent that has been employed to market. Unlike other countries, the buyer does not usually have their own agent. That said, there are buying and relocation agents that a purchaser could employ in the UK to search for properties for a pre-agreed fee on a purchasers’ behalf.
Agents in England and Scotland are not required to be registered, but we recommend looking for agents who are members of professional trade bodies to ensure you get the best service. Propertymark (NAEA), Royal Institute Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or The Guild of Professional Estate Agents members all work to codes of practice and the relevant logo will be displayed in their offices.
So you are aware, in order for an agent to hold a membership, there are a number of requirements they’ll need to meet:
- Professionalism and Training– Agents will need to maintain professional standards by ensuring that their staff have a minimum level of on-going training to keep up to date with their skills.
- Redress Schemes– All member agents will be part of a redress scheme. If you have a complaint about their services and you are unable to resolve it with the company directly, you can refer your complaint to the redress scheme and they will adjudicate in order to resolve the dispute. An up to date list of government-approved redress schemes can be found here.
- Reputation– Agents have to uphold their reputation to maintain their business and therefore need to take a professional approach to their work.
- Knowing their client– As part of taking on a new vendor, an agent will need to take some basic information and identity documentation so that they know who their client is.
- Compliant – Being registered with HMRC to ensure they comply with all the obligations under the money laundering regulations and having Client Money Protection if they handle client money
A good agent should not only be knowledgeable about the property that you want to view but should also have a good working knowledge of the local area, including what has been sold locally and what is due to come on to the market in the near future. Most people move home about once every 7 years and therefore have limited experience, so this information can be invaluable. There is also data available on Rightmove, but sold prices can take several months for the information to be registered with the Land Registry and for it to become available.
If you get to know the agent, they may also let you know in advance if a property matching your criteria is due to come on the market, allowing you to jump the queue. A good agent will understand the vendors’ situation and what they are looking to achieve through the sale of the property. So, depending on what you are able to offer as a buyer, perhaps a chain free move or a quick completion, they can help broker a better deal for everyone.