Buying a home
Estate agents: registering and your rights
By Joe Elvin
Article 4 of 13
Estate agents: registering and your rights
Find out how to decide which estate agents to register with, plus how to ensure you're the first person they call when your dream home hits the market.
When a seller puts their house on the market, the estate agent will often inform registered buyers before they get round to uploading the details to the web.
In this video, we ask estate agents how people can ensure they're the first to hear when a new property hits the market.
- Having a 'mortgage decision in principle' can make you a more attractive buyer when you make an offer on a property. You can speak to Which? Mortgage Advisers for impartial advice by calling 0808 252 7987.
Registering with estate agents
Take a walk down the local high street and look in estate agents' windows, and you may notice that some firms specialise in particular types of property, or lean towards the budget or luxury end of the market.
You'll soon get a feel for the agents most likely to sell properties that match your criteria. Then, if possible, go in and register in person – being able to put a face to a name can work wonders. If you can't register in person, try to do it over the phone rather than online as you're more likely to build up a rapport and give the agent an accurate idea of the type of property you're hoping to buy.
Once you've registered, it's a good idea to maintain regular contact so that you're top of the estate agent's mind when new properties hit the market. And don’t restrict yourself to one agent: the more companies you register with, the more likely you are to be called when your dream home goes up for sale.
Checklist: buying a house through an estate agent
Estate agents don't always have the best reputation. However, the 2015 Which? property survey found that, actually, only one in six people were dissatisfied with the service they received from their estate agent. Given that you're almost certain to deal with estate agents when you're moving house, it makes sense to try to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Our printable checklist will help you get estate agents on your side as a buyer. It also lists the questions you should ask about properties you're interested in viewing or making an offer on.
- Download our free buying through estate agents checklist.
Estate agents and your rights as a buyer
An estate agent's job is to sell properties. They make their living from the commission they charge the seller (estate agents' fees are usually 1-2%), so their duty is to the seller, not you.
Legislation is weighted in favour of protecting the seller against dishonest practice. As the buyer, you have a limited amount of protection.
It’s your legal right that estate agents:
- Don’t invent offers in order to force the price up
- Must use clear contract terms
- Must pass on your offer promptly – they can’t hold it back simply because you don’t want to use their other facilities, such as arranging a mortgage
- Must reveal any financial interest they have in the property that you’re looking at
- Must answer direct questions accurately and reveal defects in the property that could be expected to affect a buyer's decision. If you’re given false information, you might have a claim against the agent under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs).
If you suspect that an agent has acted in breach of these regulations, you should contact the local authority’s trading standards department.
To avoid disputes over whether things have or haven't been verbally agreed, it's a good idea to record details of any conversations you have, including who you spoke to, on what date and what was said.
All estate agents have to be members of an ombudsman scheme that handles complaints, so check whether an agent is a member of one of these two:
- The Property Ombudsman (formerly known as the Ombudsman for Estate Agents)
- Ombudsman Services: Property.
Find out more: visit our guide on how to sell a house for information on dealing with estate agents when you're selling.
Case study: first-time buyers experience pressure tactics
In this video, first-time buyers Lydia and Amanda share their experiences of viewing flats and explain the underhand tactics they experienced during one viewing.
- Last updated: December 2016
- Updated by: Joe Elvin