Simon Barnes: The life cycle of buying prime property and the press proclaiming the death of buying agents ….

I was interested to read a recent article in the Financial Times about an increasing number of buying agents going out of business or throwing in the towel. Before times got tough in Prime Central London, it didn’t make monetary sense among a lot of estate agents for the lazy estate agent ‘Henry Fitzwilliam-Smythe’ to contact other property professionals or  properly ‘work’ his database; not when he could sell a property with one phone call and happily take his commission, rather than making two or three calls to achieve the same result.

 While sloppy buying agents won’t retain good clients and will be ignored by estate agents, the best buying agents who have vetted and carried out due diligence on their clients will now be making their presence felt and more importantly count with estate agents finding the current market conditions in Prime Central London trickier than for some time.  Estate agents need to have the ear of those acting for serious buyers, who make the right buying noises and should be picking up the phone to buying agents with a direct access to these candidates and really exploiting this receptive market.

 Established estate agencies, who on a point of principle, would not deal with buying agents however talented have or should think again.  It’s a tough market out in Prime Central London, and it’s not a question of the fittest, but more about property consultants and buying agents being skilful, knowledgeable, tenacious, experienced and well-connected.  Let’s be honest, great properties do not come to those who wait, you need to know who might be tempted to sell, who is selling and where to seek and find the best. Similarly, having access to serious buyers, with funds in place and motivated to buy or invest in property in PCL  is a vital component in making the life cycle of a property transaction actually come to fruition.

 People tend to fixated with the amount property agents earn, they begrudge lining their jewel coloured silk lined pockets, but what they don’t learn is that this fixation will actually cost them money.  Investing in a good skilful agent is money wisely spent. There is more to searching for a suitable property for your clients than sending out 50 “dear fellow agent” emails asking if they have anything suitable.  The fact is that the best property is not going to be unearthed from trawling through the 50 irrelevant emails sent by young Henry at Idle & Partners who doesn’t know you from Adam and has no understanding of the type of property you really want.  I know because I receive at least 20 of the blanket emails on a daily basis.

 What you should expect and get from your property advisor is someone with tried and tested local knowledge not ‘Google maps’, someone who knows how to negotiate confidently, someone who can (dare I say it) play one party off against the other to buy at the best market price and above all someone who works incessantly hard for their clients.  Choose this person wisely and I guarantee they will save you money. Personally, I have never looked after more than four or five clients, if I did, well I’d need to create more days in the week than the current seven.  Keeping it small and personal guarantees I can anticipate each clients’ needs during their life cycle – from first Mayfair apartments, to family homes in Belgravia to investment flats in Chelsea and university accommodation for their children or grandchildren, right through to retirement country houses and getaways abroad.

There’s no doubt that the current market place is tough in Prime Central London, which is why those who came into the buying business thinking it was a way to make a pile of money, are falling by the wayside.  The reality is that it may be an easy profession to enter, but to be successful and stand the test of time you need much more than a smartphone and a smart suit.’

Simon Barnes, H. Barnes & Co

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