We all know that real estate is local. What is happening in Northern Virginia is not the same as Detroit Michigan or Phoenix Arizona. How we work with our buyers and sellers in our market areas reflects what is happening in those areas.
However it is also interesting to step outside of our normal business to take a look at real estate in other parts of the world. This week I've been in the UK and have been doing some research on the market, how homes are bought and sold and the differences or similarities to the Northern Virginia market. In my last post the London headlines were calling their current market the "Worst Ever for Buyers" today was a chance to talk to "estate agents" to discuss how buyers find houses for sale and how they list homes.
First the concept of "buyer agency" is non-existent in the UK. The only way to see a home is to call the listing company and make an appointment. Since there is no concept of a centralized listing service, buyers do the footwork to find properties on their own. If the agency has a website they can search there or in the newspaper. If you want to see the house next door that may be listed with another company you need to call them. Agents from one company can not show the listings from another company. Since there is no one looking out directly for the buyer then all offers and negotiations go through the listing company. All offers are done verbally until everyone comes to agreement.
Once the agreement is reached the buyers hire a lawyer who will write up their offer. The buyers can have a survey, somewhat like a home inspection but without the in-depth look at the systems of the house and if there are any issues that need to be negotiated they go back to the listing agent. If a change is agreed upon the lawyer adds that to the contract and signatures are exchanged.
Buyers do not determine the closing date. What we call "coinciding" settlements for buyers in the UK are called the "chain". If you are in the middle of the chain when you close will be determined by when all of the other settlements take place. It could be in a month or it could be in three. If one settlement in the "chain" fails then your settlement and the house that you were planning on buying may end up being taken off the market.
The other interesting part of this process is the concept of "exclusive right to sell" which is common in Northern Virginia. In the UK a seller can sign as many listing agreements as they wish in order to get their home sold. Since there is no centralized listing service it is actually to their benefit to do this. There home will be seen in the various windows (where the buyers passing by might see them) and on different agency websites. It isn't unusual to see two for sale signs in front of a home.
So for a buyer in Northern Virginia the benefits of being represented by a buyers agent are obvious. Not only will it save you time in trying to find homes listed on multiple sites but you have someone who is looking out for your interests during the entire transaction. Talking with new homeowners in London about how our process works everyone of them said "I wish I had someone who was working for me when I bought my flat." For sellers having a centralized listing service (MLS) obviously provides the highest level of exposure to the most buyers and their agents. Couple this with an agent who also uses multiple streams of marketing to get your home noticed and you are far ahead of your counterparts in the UK.
it is obvious that for buyers and sellers in Northern Virginia we have come a long way from the day of office listing books. I'm glad I have the options to offer both my buyers and sellers far more services than agents in the UK can. It was an interesting conversation and I think all of us learned a lot about how our counterparts across the pond go about the business of buying and selling homes.
As an Associate Broker with RE/MAX Allegiance in Northern Virginia and native of the area I can assist you whether you are buying, selling or renting a home anywhere in Northern Virginia. For more information about the area or my services you can check VaRealEstateTalk or my Northern Virginia website.
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