Now, as a first-time buyer, your contact with the estate agent will be in terms of them finding you suitable properties to look at based on your requirements, and then showing you around properties and then negotiating with the vendor on your behalf if you ultimately decide to put in an offer.
Researching and finding properties can be quite time-consuming, and unless you look regularly you might miss something, so don't be afraid of calling your estate agent frequently to see what new properties have come up and if they think any are suitable for you; in the current climate it is definitely easier to be a buyer than a seller, so make the most of the fact that this is the case.
One of the most important things to remember about an estate agent is that they get commission in the vast majority of cases once they make the sale (the vendor gives them money if they make the sale, basically), so don't be too taken in by what they say in the house-viewing process, but rather form your own opinions and don't be rushed around. Read the article 'tips on viewing a property' in this section for further hints and advice on looking around a house.
Some estate agents are more willing to share all the information that you might need to know with you than others, but don't be discouraged from asking questions - although beware that the answer to "do you know if the neighbours are noisy or not" is likely to be something neutral like "I'm afraid I don't know anything about the neighbours"... but it doesn't hurt to ask.
The estate agent can also be of great help in the actual negotiation process. They are supposed to pass on every offer to the vendor, and some will be more enthusiastic than others in terms of updating you on what is happening, and helping you to negotiate the sale by steering the vendor with what they say ('you've had an offer of xx thousand' vs 'you've had an attractive offer of xx thousand') and so on.
So stay on good terms with the estate agent and the worst that it can happen is that it has no impact and the best is that they will try that little bit harder to negotiate with the vendor on your behalf and coax them to accept your final offer which may be a few thousand less than the sellers are ideally looking for! And remember that, assuming you have no chain as a first-time buyer, you must let the estate agent know that and pass it on the vendor as that can be a very significant consideration for many vendors who are looking for as pain-free and smooth a sale as possible: chains can complicate things!
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