Estate Agents Tip: And What Is a Property Buying Agent Anyway?
A look at why retaining a property buying agent when considering purchasing a property, in particular in a foreign country, in this case Italy, can bring advantages to the buyer.
It's probably fair to say that estate agents or realtors are viewed pretty dimly in some quarters. Indeed, I have, and only recently, come across some charlies in very sharp (and may I say tight) suits looking suspiciously like they wanted to sell me the Eiffel Tower. Not the kind of people you would welcome with open arms into your family home and proudly show off the silverware to. And there's the problem: When someone calls me you can sense the speculation down the line. "Where's the catch?" is the unspoken question squeezing itself between all the spoken ones. Even worse when you arrange to meet and you can actually see their skeptical thoughts forming over their heads in bouncy speech bubbles.
Property buying agents probably know the market much better than you. It's true, you've probably been on holiday to Venice or Lake Como or Siena or whatever far more often than we have. But were you actually conducting an in-depth, from the inside out, study of the property market or just sunbathing? And not only, while you were on holiday in, say, the province of Siena, were you in the province of Florence, Pisa or down in Maremma? Probably not. And if you were, do you know how those areas compare to places in, say, the colline piacentine, both in terms of price and property typology (and weather)? Doubtful. So, there's one serious advantage of retaining a property buying agent; they should be able to give you good info on not just your area of choice (and property of choice), but also other comparable areas you may never have even heard of, but could, absolutely be better for your requirements.
Another big plus is the time we save the client. To illustrate; some dear gentlemen a few years ago requested a country property, and it had to be 'silent' but within easy reach of at least one international airport. (Sometimes, you really do feel like you've accidently taken the same drugs Alice in Wonderland inadvertently took and ended up at the Mad Hatter's tea party – I mean, honestly.) How many properties do you think we viewed on behalf of this client , not just to make sure they were beautiful country homes falling within the search brief requirements, but that also if you stayed there for any length of time, would they be silent enough? But, ever we did find enough to organize a viewing trip with the client. How much time do you think we saved this guy by visiting a never ending list of properties, sometimes several times, before we selected 4 which we deemed worthy of bringing him to? So, that's big plus number two: property buying agents save you lots of precious time.
Here's the third reason: You're retaining someone with a more in depth understanding of the buying process than yourself.
To illustrate: While perusing the documentation for a rather large country house with 18 ha of garden, olive groves, vineyards, pastures and woodland attached, our architect noted a small anomaly in the visura . The visura is one of the documents issued by the Italian Land Registry which details the property and land and is the basis to calculate taxes due when purchasing. The house was built on the ruins of an old podere , much enlarged and featuring awesome picture windows (all the better for enjoying the views of the private valley). The visura said this luxury home was still a farm building. Now, honestly, how many poor old Tuscan contadini with their trousers tied up with string are going to spend their afternoon on sun loungers by an Olympic-size pool, surrounded by beautiful girls in bikinis, sipping on Pina Coladas? We thought probably not many. But, technically, as a farm shed the house had no tax liability. So, somebody was being imaginative – and it was not the sheep.
The suspicion was that when the new house was put up, to avoid or at least postpone the day when taxes had to be paid on what was now a large residential property and not a shed, a little deal had been done with the local town authorities . Surprisingly, the estate agent said not a word, but the matter was examined by our lawyers and architect. Why? Because upon sale the new owners, the clients we were representing, may well have found themselves on the wrong end of a hefty property tax bill. But who would have said ahead of time if not someone retained to act wholly in the interests of the buyer.
Here's another story; an estate agent I know, working for a respectable international outfit, had a particular property on the books, sat, unfortunately (unless you're a plane spotter) bang under a flight path. However, this rather astute character would only take clients to view when there was a gap in flights of about 40 minutes, which occurred early afternoon. And why not? The argument was, they'd been retained by the seller to sell and that's just what they were doing …
We too have done our fair share of plane spotting, but, as a rule, in an effort to forewarn the prospective buyer. I've also spent time in hedges listening to the road, counting how many trucks pass, if the innocent looking building down in the valley emits industrial noises after lunch and lots of other odd things that drive estate agents mad and infuriate sellers.
And why is that? Because a genuine buying agent should be doing their best to work exclusively in the buyer's interests; and strangely enough, we're called buying agents, and if that is not a giveaway, I do not know what is.
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