The Property Finders
A buyers agent can be your best friend
My #1 rule
A buyer’s agent makes every effort to locate properties that are privately for sale or get direct access to a seller through a network of contacts. However, it is also vital to maintain good relations with estate agents. Lots of acquisitions will be done via the seller’s agent. Once a good relationship is established the best agents will pro-actively bring properties to our attention before they are on the market.
Therefore we see it as part of our job to sort the good agents from the bad. As a result, when we are dealing with an office for the first time we will normally make the enquiry as though we are the buyer. We find this gives lots of clues about how they do business. What we am looking for is honesty and a bit of realism. However, some are so pushy that it’s a bit like being hit by a truck.
However, once we have decided to view a house with an agent Rule #1 is that we see it in advance. Firstly, this is essential to make an initial assessment about the house itself. Secondly, and just as important, an advance visit is to assess ‘the other stuff’. A good property is about more than just the bricks and mortar. It is just as much about the location. What is nearby, checking for orientation, road noise, electricity pylons. And, of course, the neighbours.
A good agent understands this and explains our role to the seller. In addition, most sellers think it is an excellent way of doing things. Our visit will be brief and to the point. They appreciate that the buyer will only view if the property matches the criteria. In my experience sellers think it is a total waste of their time to have people trailing around their house if it isn’t what they are looking for.
Rule #1 broken – bad idea
But recently an agent refused to show me a house in advance. Stupidly, I broke Rule #1. It’s a mistake I won’t be making again. I had realised this particular agent was not comfortable with any negativity about a property or its environment. Everything has to be talked up. Our job is the exact opposite. We are there to undercover any problems so the client has the knowledge to make an informed decision. Some of these may be obvious, others less so,
This particular agent hated this. It gave him no chance to practice his strong-arm selling technique. However, on this occasion, as I didn’t know the property, he took centre stage. It was toe-curling and embarrassing, my clients hated it. They had already made a couple of poor investment decisions in Spain during the boom, misled by an agent. As a result they decided to use our services to ensure they didn’t make another one.
It turned out to be a great house and may well have made it on to the short list. However, as we were driving away we noticed what looked like building supplies stored in the yard of the nearest neighbour. It was a property of a much lower quality than the one we had just viewed. This hadn’t been visible on the way up to the house as it was down below road level. Fortunately,it became very noticeable on the way down. Several commercial vehicles in the yard made us question if this was also a business premises. In addition, the number of tables, chairs and sofas in the garden indicated that whoever lived there spent the hot months camping outside. This raised issues about noise.
Don’t ask questions
Not surprisingly, my clients asked me to make enquiries. However,when I asked the agent who had done the guided tour about the ‘scruffy’ neighbouring house I was informed that there were no ‘scruffy’ houses in his area. In additon, he suggested I should tell my clients it was all part of Spanish charm. If they weren’t prepared to accept it perhaps they shouldn’t be looking in the countryside! What a dumb response. It made us think we had picked up on one of the reasons why the current owners want to sell. We had viewed a lovely house just ten minutes off the coast in a quiet wooded area priced at €1 million. But the agent was annoyed prospective purchasers wanted information about their future neighbours.
Of course, if he had had the buyers in his car he would have made sure that he was talking and holding their attention as they drove past and very likely they wouldn’t have spotted it. That’s what agents do, diguise problems. A buyers agent does the opposite, we highlight them. Fortunately, they were in my car, driving very slowly and carefully inspecting every property we passed.
So rule #1 is back in force and I am not going to break it again. If I don’t get the opportunity to check out properties in advance then they won’t get short listed. If an agent objects then I will assume there is something suspect about the property or they want to the chance to grandstand to my clients. Needless to say this agent and I have mutually agreed that we will avoid each other in the future and for me, that’s no problem. There is always another route to a property.
A Happy Ending
And the clients? Well, they bought a property in El Madroñal, near Marbella. It was their first choice location but unlikely on their budget. However, with some tough negotiating and a lot of luck in being in the right place at the right time, they bought a great house which had started out at €1.4 million but they secured it at €730,000, a fantastic deal. After renovation La Sorpresa is the result.
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