In the UK, estate agents arrange the sale, rental or management of property (real estate). The term ‘estate agent’ can refer to a business engaged in estate agency, to an individual working as an agent within such a business, or to an agent operating individually as a sole trader. In England and Wales, estate agents are typically involved in the marketing and negotiations of sales work, and solicitors carry out the legal process, conveying the property from seller to buyer. In Scotland, differing legal processes have led to solicitors being more involved in the marketing process, and some solicitor firms work exclusively on property transactions.
The broad role of a sales estate agent is to market sellers’ properties to the general public, arrange or conduct viewings on those properties, and negotiate the most advantageous selling price and other terms for the seller. Estate agents are, in the vast majority of cases, employed by the seller, and there are very few agents who represent the interests of buyers. In Scotland, the legal system requires that offers for properties are made on behalf of buyers by solicitors, and this leads to buyers being represented by their solicitor at an early stage.
Estate agents mainly have high-street offices, and they will display sellers’ properties in their window, along with For Sale boards at the properties. In some instances, regular press advertising can be posted in local or national newspapers, often in themed property pages or supplements. Agencies based in local high streets can also generate interest from local contacts and networking with other finance professionals. With the growth of the internet, the high-street agents, and a new breed of ‘online agents’ can now offer some form of internet presence and promotion, through their own websites, and through property portals, which accept listings from multiple agents. The availability of e-mail and other messaging options has also improved the process of informing an agent’s client base of new properties coming to market.
Rentals and Management
In addition to marketing rental properties in broadly the same way as sales agents, rental agents will also handle matters such as rent collection, vetting and credit checking of tenants, and sometimes ongoing management of the property during the tenancy. This could extend to arranging maintenance contractors, inventory checks, and the like.