The role of an estate agent – what every first-time buyer needs to know

If you’re ready to start looking for your dream first home, then you’ll soon be dealing with estate agents.

The idea of having to deal with estate agents is daunting for many of the first-time buyers we work with. 

We’ve discovered that some buyers don’t really understand the role of the estate agent in the house buying process. 

This means they could be more likely to make mistakes, be taken advantage of, or just not be able to play things the right way to get the best result. 

It could end up costing you thousands of pounds, so it is worth learning more about it in advance.

So, let’s take a look at what you should know about estate agents…

  • We usually first come into contact with estate agents when we want to see a property that we like. Estate agents typically arrange the time of viewings and will normally meet you at the property to show you around.
  • On the day of the viewing, you may well speak or meet with somebody different to the person you booked with. It is a good idea to engage in small talk about the property and local market as you walk around the property, to break the ice and gather important information you can use later on. The viewing is your chance to check if the property is right for you, and it’s a good idea to take a viewing checklist with you on the appointment.
  • The best estate agents have a good knowledge of the properties you view and the local area. However, some are more junior and are only seeing the property for the first time themselves.

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions; if they don’t know the answer, then ask them to find out for you later and follow up on anything important on email.  It’s important to realise that the estate agent doesn’t work for you. 
  • It’s a common misconception that can mean that things don’t get off to a great start. The estate agent works for the seller (who’s the one paying their fees). 

    Their job is to sell the property for the best possible price (for the seller and to earn a good commission). Although they cannot tell you about other offers on the property, you can ask about interest from other buyers.
  • All this doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in you as a buyer. In fact, it is their job to know whether you are a ‘good buyer’. You should expect questions about whether you have had mortgage advice so they can better understand your situation.  Ideally, you should have your finances sorted before viewing. In some cases, having a Decision In Principle can help show that you are a serious buyer who is ready to go.
  • You are, in fact, ‘applying’ to buy a property, so it’s important to keep the estate agent onside where possible. Try to be positive and demonstrate that you can afford this property. The challenge is doing this without revealing your top budget, as this can weaken your negotiating position. 
  • They might recommend their in-house mortgage broker or insist that they ‘financially qualify’ you. Our top tip here is not to feel pressured into anything. You are free to choose your own mortgage broker if you like. Ideally, you should do this before viewing properties.

    Some estate agents may earn a commission if you choose to work with their in-house mortgage advisor or solicitor, but they should be transparent about this when asked.
  • When you decide you would like to buy the property, you will make an offer stating how much you would like to pay. The estate agent will often act as the go-between, between you and the seller. Remember, they are trained negotiators, so it is important to at least learn the basics of how to make an offer to present yourself in the best light.
  • Don’t be surprised after having your offer accepted that they ask to see identification and the source of your funds; they have a legal responsibility to check the identity of who they are dealing with. Anti-money laundering regulations are there to ensure that the money you are using is yours and has not been obtained illegally.
  • A good estate agent will play an important role in the sales process which comes next. They are responsible for making the process run smoothly for everyone involved, managing the relationship between you and the seller, the progress of the sale and any questions or issues that arise.

    However, expect them to act more in favour of the seller than you (remember the point about who pays their fees). At the end of the day, the best advice is not to expect too much from them during the sales process and be proactive in managing the sale through yourself. If this is your dream home, it will be worth it.

You should now be much better informed about what an estate agent does. 

It’s a lot to take in, so don’t be afraid to look for help and support moving forwards.

The more confident you are by the time you start looking at properties, the better.

If you are looking for more help, then check out our coaching services designed especially to support first-time buyers.

Good luck finding your dream home and successfully navigating the process.