If you’re looking to buy a house across the pond, then congratulations! London has one of the top real estate markets in the world. You’ll soon live in a city that Forbes named one of the top 10 places to invest in real estate in 2015.
On the other hand, an overseas relocation can be daunting. The logistics you’ll have to handle make a corporate merger look easy by comparison. Thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone. An experienced estate agent can serve as an usher to the London property market and find you a home without a hassle.
Before you start interviewing potential agents, you’ll need a shortlist of promising candidates. Most major London estate agents have their own websites, so you might want to start there. Check on the site or search the web to see if the agent or brokerage offers client testimonials in support of their services.
See what kind of properties the agent or company is listing now to determine whether they’re a good match for you. Alternatively, if you’re moving to London for business purposes, try asking your coworkers for the names of the agents that helped them find their London homes.
According to the United Kingdom HomeOwners Alliance, most estate agents charge a percentage fee, which can range from 0.75% to 3.0%+VAT of your home’s purchase price. VAT, or value-added tax, is the UK equivalent of the United States’ sales tax.
To give you an idea of what most London homebuyers pay, the Homeowners Alliance reported that the average fee for a sole agency contract was 1.5%+VAT, while the UK’s national average is 1.8%+VAT. Don’t be afraid to negotiate — most estate agents are flexible on fees.
A good estate agent will give you a package of services, not just a list of properties. For example, London Relocation Services offers a bundle of services that includes a thorough property-needs assessment, a viewing day of 18-25 properties, negotiation services, and a guaranteed move-in.
Ask prospective agents what they’ll do to earn their fee. Do they negotiate sales or leases for you, help you with settling in (e.g., utilities, bank accounts), or offer any guarantees?