Fees quickly mount up when you're looking for a new home, and the last thing anyone needs is an unscrupulous agent making things worse. Here are our top tips on how to avoid getting ripped off.
Show them you're serious
Estate agents are primarily working for the seller, and letting agents for the landlords - this is often who pays their salaries. But if you plan your budget and show that you're serious (personally and financially) you'll be viewed as a more promising prospect for a sale, taken more seriously, and treated more carefully. You can use Money Dashboard's free finance software for a clear view of your finances before making contact with an agency.
Check rates in advance
More and more estate agents are trying to add a finders' fee to buyers' bills, which can really hit you hard if you've set your heart on a property. Don't make a formal offer on a property before you've confirmed what you'll be charged, preferably via email so you have a record of what the answer is.
Estate agents are still a mainstay on the UK's High Streets, and the plethora of online options keeps growing, so don't be afraid to investigate your options ahead of the all-important viewings.
Many properties are on the market through several agents, and many more have strict seller requirments that you might fit: whether it's the ability to move quickly, a strong housing chain, or something more subtle. Use everything you've got as leverage to reduce fees - after all, the agents will still make money from the seller.
Record your dealings
Get as much as you can in writing, hang on to emails and, if you've made an offer to buy a house, the estate agent must send a copy to the seller by letter: so make sure to ask for a copy for your own records. That way there can be no denials or confusion later on.
The property market might feel like the wild west at times, but, like most professions, estate agents are regulated. If an agency fails to rectify any charges or practises you think are unfair, take your concerns to the Property Ombudsman or Ombudsman Services to seek recompense. And to the Advertising Standards Authority if you feel you were misled.
If all else fails, remember that you don't have to buy property through an estate agents. Buyers can research and attend property auctions or look into shared ownership schemes; and renters and buyers alike can use websites like Gumtree and Spare Room to find a home.
If you have any more tips to share, let us know in the comments field below.
Posted by Marc Murphy, Marketing Manager at Money Dashboard.