An estate agent is a person or business that arranges the selling, renting or management of properties, and other buildings, in the United Kingdom and Ireland. An agent that specialises in renting is often called a letting or management agent. Estate agents are mainly engaged in the marketing of property available for sale and a solicitor or licensed conveyancer is used to prepare the legal documents. In Scotland, however, many solicitors also act as estate agents, a practice that is rare in England and Wales.
It is customary in the United Kingdom and in Ireland to refer to real estate or real property simply as property.
The estate agent remains the current title for the person responsible for the management of one group of privately owned, all or mostly tenanted, properties under one ownership. Alternative titles are Factor, Steward or Bailiff depending on the era, the region and the extent of the property concerned.
The term originally referred to a person responsible for managing a landed estate, while those engaged in the buying and selling of homes were "House Agents", and those selling land were "Land Agents". However, in the 20th century, "Estate Agent" started to be used as a generic term, perhaps because it was thought to sound more impressive. Estate agent is roughly synonymous in the United States with the term real estate broker.
The job of the agent is to know his or her community and local factors that can increase or decrease property prices. e.g. if a new road or airport is to be built this can blight houses nearby. Equally, the closing of a quarry or improvement of an area can enhance prices. It is the job of the agent to value based on what has, or has not sold in comparison and to achieve the best price for their client.
Estate agents use estate agency software to manage their buying applicants, property viewings, marketing and property sales. Estate agents can use the software to prepare property particulars which are used to advertise the property either online or in print. They can also record the requirements of a buying applicant and automatically match them against their database of properties. Once a sale is agreed, they can manage the chain of linked property sales using the software.
Estate agency software will also help with property marketing by automatically distributing the property details to property portals.
The latest technology enables home buyers to receive property details while outside a property, visit estate agents' websites for the latest listings and display properties for sale in the local vicinity using location based applications on mobile phones.
In recent years agents have started working together again through systems similar to the USA called MLS (multi listing service). This is where a main agent will take on a property and send details via the most to other local (sub) agents. The sub agents will market and introduce applicants to the main agent. MLS can achieve more offers, sell a property quicker and is offered by agents as a premium service.
In the US property data is passed from the agents software by the RETS data feed schema. In the UK the INEA idx (information data exchange) data feed is being adopted by many software to receive sub (mls) property listings back.
In both cases technology via MLS and idx means that sub agents collaborating can populate many more properties into their websites by working together.
Estate agent speak
Estate agents are known for their unique way of putting a positive spin on their description of properties. For example, 'in need of modernisation' may actually mean a great deal of repair work is required to a house, this is necessary as they do not wish to offend any clients that may like the way their home is currently finished.