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First time buyer’s guide: What do estate agents do?

12th February 2018

As the most visible part of the house buying process, first-time buyers often think they understand the role of an estate agent fairly well.

Unfortunately, things are rarely so simple, and though many estate agents will have a branch on the high street, the work they perform is often behind closed doors.

Estate agents market and sell the property as you most likely know, but they also:

  • Deal with paperwork.
  • Monitor the chain (of buyers selling their old home and sellers buying their new home).
  • Liaise with your solicitor.
  • Negotiate with buyers and sellers.

Estate agents do not deal with surveys – you will need a surveyor for that, but they will most likely have partnerships in place to recommend a surveyor to you.

Estate agents and fees

If you are buying a property, there should be no estate agent fees involved. If you’re selling, you will usually pay between 0.75% and 3.5% of the selling price to your estate agent. Shopping around can save you a great deal, and don’t forget to negotiate once you’ve found an estate agent that you would like to work with.

Finally, check that the fee includes VAT or you’ll need to add another 20% to the price of the fee.

How to deal with estate agents when buying

It’s usually a good idea to stay in regular contact with your estate agent, so they can contact you when your ideal property arrives on the market. You can register with several estate agents, which is certainly worthwhile if you’re still searching for your dream home.

To choose which will be best, look at the type of properties they offer, their fees (if applicable) and speak to friends and family for recommendations.

Also make sure you keep on top of the process when you’re house-hunting – make a note of conversations that you have, including who you spoke to, the date and time. This keeps you in control and is a useful reminder of what’s been discussed and agreed.

Questions to ask

When first talking with your estate agent, there are a few things you’ll want to mention to help your cause.

If you’re a first-time buyer with a ‘mortgage in principle’, make sure you mention this when you meet sellers as it puts you in a strong position to move things forward quickly.

When a property catches your eye, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to. Bear in mind that asking the right questions now might save you quite a lot of money in the future.

Estate agents have a duty to be truthful so grill them for details. This is not a time to be shy. Ask questions such as:

  • How long has the property been on the market?
  • Are there any works expected on the property?
  • What will be included in the sale? (Curtains? Light fittings? Furniture?)

After the offer

Once your offer has been accepted, make sure the estate agent has taken the property off the market and is no longer advertising it for viewings. If someone else is interested and views it, you risk someone else coming in with a higher offer, which is known as gazumping.

You should also receive a letter from the estate agent confirming your offer. If you don’t receive this then make sure to ask for one.

For more information read our first-time buyer guide here.

Being a first-time buyer can be very exciting. However, it can also be very confusing, particularly as you can be unsure when you need an estate agent, when to get in contact with a solicitor and when to make an offer. Take a look at our 12-step infographic on how to buy a new home.


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