What Estate Agents Do
Estate agents are there to act on behalf of the vendor, the person selling the property. It's good practice to remember this when dealing with them - their first loyalty is to their client, not you.
Agents are engaged by the person or party selling the property to act on their behalf, to handle the sale of the property at their instruction, and it's the person selling who pays the agent's commission. It's therefore in the agent's best interest to get as good a price for the property as possible.
Of course this take some skill in balancing what the property is worth and getting the best possible price for it, as there is a risk of scaring off buyers, or overvaluing the property. If the property is overvalued, when the mortgage company become aware of this, they will refuse to offer a loan over and above what the property is worth and the sale can fall through.
How Does it Work?The vendor will contact the agent and tell them they have a property for sale. The agent will then visit the property and value it, based on their knowledge of the housing market, the local knowledge and economical climate. They then agree a selling price with the vendor. At this stage the agent will agree terms with the seller and settle on a commission structure and an agreement is drawn up between vendor and agent.
The agent then prepares details, or particulars of the property. These days the information has to be factual and accurate, with no creative description, such as those seen in the 1980s! The Property Misdescriptions Act means you are protected from flowery details that bear no resemblance to the properties you view.
The agent will then display the details - perhaps in their office window, or in the local newspaper - and very often online too, both on their own site and other dedicated property websites.
They will also put up a For Sale board at the property itself, so that passing potential buyers will be able to contact them.
Contacting you DirectIf you have already made a visit to the agent, and left your details with them, there is a good chance the agent will contact you direct to let you know they have a new instruction. The agent is naturally keen to effect a sale so you might find that the property they call about does not tick all the right boxes. Do not be cajoled into viewing properties that are not what you are looking for!
If it sounds of interest though, you may wish to view the property and arrange a time to meet the agent there.
Viewing property is a skill all of its own and there is a related article on this site about this which covers this in more detail. But assuming all is well, you may want to make an offer on the property.
What Happens Next?You make the offer to the agent either face to face or on the phone. It's often a good idea to wait a while after seeing a place before plumping for an offer - think it over and assess both what it's worth and what you can afford.
The agent will liaise with the vendor and once a price is agreed, will then handle the sale, dealing with solicitors and the other buyers or sellers that may be in a chain, liaising with all parties until the sale is complete.
Regarding negotiations over fixtures and fittings, it's best to deal direct with the vendor over this, so try early on to strike up a rapport and communication with him or her. It will pay off.
It's in the agent's best interest to ensure a smooth and speed sale, but it's perfectly acceptable for you to keep in contact to remain up to date on progress.