Estate agents help you find the perfect home, but they work for the seller. First Time Home Buying: What to Ask Estate Agents shows how to deal with agents. Estate agents may have built up a reputation over the years for being tricky, but they do have to play a dual role – working closely with you the buyer while serving the interests of the seller.
They’ll be feeding you new properties on the market before they go online and drive you from viewing to viewing unless you have your own transport. However helpful and talented the agents are, they are not on your side. That being said, the agent is going to be the best help you’ll get as you search for a home and one you will want to get on well with.
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They are your personal concierge while you make up your mind, offering coffee and passing messages between you and the seller. But they will also be trying to find out how they can push you to buy asap and pay top dollar.
Why ask the Estate Agent when we have the Internet?
The internet has become a huge part of how we look for properties – just 25 years ago we had to call each individual agency and ask them to post brochures and go see them. Now we have almost the entire market at our finger tips. So why go see the agent at all? The answer: while the web is a fabulous resource centre, it is also a soup of information and mis-information. Showing up is hugely important – the thing that can make a difference between landing your dream home and it going to someone else.
By showing up, agents will know you are a serious buyer, they’ll get to know you and keep you on their radar, you’ll get to know them, and, unless you already know what property you want to buy, they can feed you opportunities that wouldn’t arise otherwise. Starting from scratch, not knowing exactly where you want to buy and can afford – even if you have a basic idea of the location – call as many estate agencies as possible, big or small.
Questions to ask the Estate Agent when viewing a Property – Be ready to strike
As with so many other things – personal contact beats phone calls and emails any day. Be proactive and ready to strike. The property journey is full of surprises – you could end up with a fabulous flat or house in an area you’d least expected because a little known agency put it in front of you before anyone else saw it. Your job as a home buyer is to get as much useful information out of the agent while not revealing too much about your own position.
How long has the property been on the market – if it’s been on the market for long, why? Have there been any offers so far and if so, why did sales fall through? Why is the vendor selling? Those are just some of the questions which will give you a good idea of whether this is a good deal or not. And the more you like what you see, the more critical you have to be…
How do you talk to an Estate Agent?
Anything you reveal will be used against you to try and get the best deal for the seller, particularly when you put in an offer. Getting the most our of the agent is a balancing act, but by asking good questions and keeping your own cards close to your chest you can make them work to your benefit.
If you still have unanswered questions or doubts about the property you can always ask for a second or third viewing – a second viewing is not only advisable before offering, it’s really a must. That’s the time to have second thoughts, not after contracts have been exchanged…
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Other Things to look out for when House or Apartment hunting
- Buying above commercial property is more acceptable than just 10 years ago – back then most banks wouldn’t lend on them – but above an office is now a good idea. Easier to get a mortgage. But stay away from apartments above fast food outlets and restaurants (rats, foxes looking for left overs)
- Is there a smart cafe in the area. If so, it’s a sign plans are underway to attract a more upmarket crowd which is likely to push prices up and investment opportunitie
- For max gain think where and if it’s possible to add square footage – rather than just improvement. Is there space outside, loft space, basement or soft panelling which could be taken down and increase the are even by a small amount?
- Be careful of short leases: some view short leases as an opportunity for fast growth and that’s true, if you a seasoned developer and expert, but they can be highly complicated
Top Tip – Contact the local Authorities for a search online BEFORE putting in an offer
Another tip: Remember you’re the one with lots of questions to ask, not the agent. The agent will want to know how ready you are to buy and how serious – is it a cash purchase, do you have a mortgage in place, would you like one of their independent mortgage advisors (No is the answer, ask friends or Google one for independence), what’s your budget (go low) and so on.