The Relocation Agent - Costa Blanca Select

What is a Relocation Agent, and how do they differ from an Estate Agent?
A Relocation Agent works on the buyer’s behalf, unlike conventional Estate Agents who act on behalf of the vendor. A Relocation Agent will find you the best possible selection of properties to choose from, in the right locations, and at prices to suit your budget. The other major distinction is the level of service you should expect from a Relocation Agent. Some estate agents now claim that they too will provide a full purchase support and after-sales service, but the reality is that most are not properly geared up with the right resources, or service minded approach and often the reality is that their new-found philosophy of customer service quickly evaporates in the heat of a deposit payment!

What level of help and guidance can we expect from a Relocation Agent?

Well, regardless of their claims, the actual level and quality of advice and the lifespan of support varies enormously between Relocation Agent, and it can be difficult to judge between them prior to nominating one. Consider the following:

A good Relocation Agent will, first and foremost, listen carefully to your requirements and preferences, then search for suitable properties which closely match your criteria, in the locations of your choice, and within your stated budget. Prior to your viewing visit, a viewing itinerary will be agreed and arranged, together with all logistics such as visit dates, accommodation, transportation etc. The Relocation Agent should orientate you to the general area, attend all viewings with you, advise and negotiate a purchase price on your behalf - if required, introduce and arrange solicitors, bank accounts, NIE registration, and help with all ongoing arrangements: insurance, furniture (removals or local purchase), doctors and medical support, gardeners, pool maintenance, builders, and any other issue that may arise. With a committed and conscientious Relocation Agent there should be no ‘expiry date’ to this ongoing support.

Do we need one; can’t we use estate agents directly?
No, you don’t need one, and yes, you can go directly to any number of agents. Please consider first though: enlisting the help of a good Relocation Agent should cost you nothing, but may well save you considerable time, money and frustration. Estate agents in Spain are no different to those in the UK – there are a few good, honest, hardworking ones, and there are plenty of duff ones. Without the local knowledge of a Relocation Agent based in your target area, and working within this fraternity, it is not always easy to identify the heroes from the villains. The same applies to the choice of builders (in the instance of a new build project), solicitor, bank, surveyor or any other professional that might be involved in a property purchase.

Are the properties listed on your website all the properties you have available?
Oh no. We have access to several thousand properties within our area of operation but, due to operational limitations, we are able to show just a small selection of what is available to each of our clients. Our properties section is purely an up to date sample of what is currently available – our shop window, as it were. This is the only facet of our service which –at this stage of the process – can’t be tailored to the individual client. At the early stages of a potential buyer’s thought process is the question: ‘What are the property choices and what will my money buy me?’ The best way to illustrate this is to provide a representative selection of currently available properties, in order to familiarise potential buyers with local prices.

How do Relocation Agent find the properties advertised on their websites?
In our particular case, we feel strongly that this database of properties is updated virtually every day. All properties listed are limited to the listings of the very best of the local agents. These are hand-picked by us on the basis of our experience and their established and well-earned reputations. We do not display properties offered by any agent (or builder) beyond this ‘trusted circle’. All properties listed on our site are genuine and are currently available, unless marked otherwise (i.e. sold or withdrawn etc).

Why do you sometimes seem to list private properties?

In common with most well established Relocation Agent we are often approached by private potential vendors looking to sell their current property in our area. If their price is sensible, then we are pleased to add these properties to our listings. These properties have been inspected and photographed personally by us, consequently we are generally more knowledgeable of our direct properties, and have a better understanding of the vendor’s situation, too. In many of these cases we have these properties on an exclusive basis.

So, how do we choose between different Relocation Agents?
There are several considerations here:
Would you consider buying a UK home from an agent in Spain? Probably not, so why buy a Spanish property from a UK based office which, most likely, represents a further unnecessary layer of communication (and profit) between you the buyer, and the property vendor?
Many shabby agents of all kinds are little more than a fancy advertisement or website which is designed to impress rather than inform. If the site does not clearly state the key personnel by name, their full postal and office address, their business registration number, and permanent landline telephone number, I suggest you pass them by.

What is the agency setup? Are you receiving the personal attention of the agency principles, or just dealing with a franchise holder, or another intermediate level of ‘agent’, or a pressure driven ‘Apprentice’ style salesperson?
If a Relocation Agent claims to ‘specialise’, then by definition they should demonstrate this by focusing on one specific area of Spain of which they have intimate knowledge. If they claim to be specialists of two or three different Costas, and/or several other countries, I don’t see they can claim to be specialists!           

Will we gain by using several Relocation Agent?
No, please don’t do that! The whole point of our role is that we can take a holistic and systematic approach to your property search. Key to this is our collaboration with a careful selection of local estate agents, or if appropriate, builders, from which we can properly coordinate the client’s viewing itinerary. This can only be done with the full confidence and trust of the client in their exclusive selection of one Relocation Agent to guide and support them through the whole selection and purchase process. It also saves the client (and Relocation Agent) the embarrassment of viewing the same property with several different agents. Yes, we’ve all been there!

What does a Relocation Agent typically charge for their service?
Relocation Agents working in Spain, almost without exception, charge no fee to the buying client. We certainly make no charge to our clients at any stage, even accompanying our clients for their NIE registration is just part of our service. Our advice is to avoid any Relocation Agent or Property Finder who suggests you pay them any fee, either an up-front fee, or a commission linked to the purchase value of the property, this could easily run into a five figure sum which is a totally unnecessary and unjustifiable surcharge to you. Relocation Agent earn their income in the form of a share of the commission earned by the estate agent, or commission paid by the developer or, in some instances, a private vendor. To make any kind of additional charge to the purchasing client is unnecessary and plain greedy!

How can Relocation Agent be impartial if they are remunerated by the ‘other side’?
A carefully selected Relocation Agent should be able to be relied upon to conduct themselves in a professional and impartial manner. We never forget that we can only expect a prosperous and long term business future if we nurture and guide our clients with total integrity. Our business is based on 100% client satisfaction. Without that reputation, we would have no future. Whether we earn our income from source ‘a’ or source ‘b’, our over-riding concern is to seek out the best property options and the best value for those clients who trust us and select us to work with them. Additionally, we have a strict policy of not accepting any kind of commission for any related professional services which we recommend to our clients, we make any referrals of this kind purely on merit alone.

Do you provide subsidised viewing trips?
Whilst we would never suggest anyone should consider buying abroad without visiting the area and evaluation the property choices available to them, we feel that serious buyers are fully prepared to finance and arrange their own viewing visit, albeit with our practical help and guidance. We do not entice buyers to Spain with the offer of cheap deals and herd them around in a minibus like cattle, until they buy one of a very limited choice of new, overpriced developments! We offer our clients a very personal service; each client’s viewing trip is tailored to their specific personal requirements, with viewings arranged to whatever level and duration they choose. The entire viewing and purchase process is a relaxed and pressure-free experience.

Why do you only cover a relatively small part of the Costa Blanca?
As stated earlier, one can’t realistically specialise without a major element of focus. Therefore, we feel we can only practice what we preach. We have been familiar with this particular part of the northern Costa Blanca for almost thirty years. Before permanently basing ourselves here in Moraira, eight years ago, we needed to satisfy ourselves that there were no better options along Spain’s Mediterranean coast. We concluded there were no finer alternatives to Moraira and the surrounding area and, being more naturally evangelical than sales orientated, we have taken much satisfaction from enticing people to this lovely part of Spain. Given that we wish to remain a small business, providing a very personal service to a discerning clientele; as interest and demand from buyers is quickly gathering momentum, we have little choice but to reduce the coverage of the area in which we operate and focus our attention on the most popular areas of Moraira and Javea, together with the surrounding villages & rural areas. By concentrating on a smaller area, we believe, this is the only way we can truly be regarded as specialists.

How should we prepare for a viewing visit?
Firstly decide what kind of use and lifestyle you want your property to provide for you, then consider the type of property and location which best suites this purpose. Decide on your budget (remember 10% for your purchase costs), research carefully the pros & cons of different areas; decide who is best suited to provide you with specialised local knowledge and to help you with your purchase process. Prioritise you criteria and be prepared to implement the 80/20 rule: your perfect villa will usually be beyond your budget; compromise is your most powerful tool, so by re-appraising your criteria (or, as a last resort – your budget!) you should always achieve the Spanish home of your dreams!

Do you have any particular tips for visiting buyers?
Yes. Before your visit, take the trouble to measure each of the rooms in your current home. When you view property here – especially new-build or empty property, you will have a clearer idea of relative size and space. Do bear in mind though, in Spain we spend so much more of our time outdoors, so much more room is given over to outside areas like the naya (open but covered porch), patios, balconies and pool terraces etc. This should also be borne in mind with furniture budgets too, a higher percentage of spend will need to be allocated to your outside furniture than in the UK.

What is the usual timescale for Spanish property purchase?
We have arranged several purchases, recently, which were achieved within three weeks – from viewing to completion! The sequence of events is that once an offer has been agreed and a reservation deposit (usually €3,000) has been paid; the property should be surveyed and the initial property legal checks should be carried out. All being well, the buyer is then required to make their deposit up to 10% of the purchase cost and the completion date is then mutually agreed and fixed between the buyer and vendor. This period can be anything from say: 10 days to 10 months, at both parties’ mutual convenience.

So what are the specific aims or philosophy at Costa Blanca Select?
Quite simply: spending your hard earned money on a home on the Med. – whether as a holiday base or permanent home, should always be a safe, risk-free, relaxed and fun experience – you deserve nothing less! Seek the best advice from the right people, employ recommended and fully qualified solicitors and surveyors before you commit (as you would in the UK!). Follow the correct procedures, don’t listen to the ‘advice’ from ‘blokes in bars’, be sure you have chosen the best area – it will also prove to be the best investment. Our over-riding aim is to ensure that the whole experience will prove to be one of your best decisions, ever!

Author:  Chris Garwood – Partner, Costa Blanca Select, December 2010