/ Home & Energy

Me versus the estate agent – how I won

Estate agent window

It’s always a pleasure to say I work at Which? but I wonder how many estate agents feel the same. With mortgage lending up 16% in June, more of us are dealing with them, but how many have a positive experience?

I’d like to think friends and family would consider me a gentle person. I’m not argumentative and I don’t go looking for dramas. Why then, did I lose my temper with our estate agent on not just one but numerous occasions when buying my little flat?

I’m embarrassed to admit that it got so bad that my boyfriend stopped me from communicating with her and he became the sole person to speak to or email her.

Emotions run high with property

Despite the drama, it worked hugely in our favour – I’ll explain why.

As is fair in the bidding process, we lost out to a higher bidder. However, I would not accept that the builder would prefer a slightly higher bid from a buyer yet to put their property on the market, over an offer from first-time buyers, with a mortgage agreed, a decent-ish deposit and no onward chain.

I’m speculating here, but I don’t think our original offers were ever sent to the builder. We had calls to confirm he’d rejected them and I challenged whether they’d ever been forwarded on.

Naturally, this went down badly with the estate agent and she took to making personal jibes: ‘it sounds like you can’t afford the property’, ‘I think you should look for something closer to your price bracket’, ‘it’s better suited to older couples’. Who was she to tell me where I should or shouldn’t live?

I reacted emotionally to these challenges – silly I know. I searched the Companies House website to try and find the contact details of the builders but had no luck. Part of my problem was my fury at not knowing where to turn when we were having issues. I wanted to challenge the estate agent but I didn’t really know how to.

I won the estate agent war

I’ve learnt a great deal from our fabulous legal team here at Which? and think I’d be better equipped to deal with an issue in the future – especially now I’ve located our guide on how to buy a house. But I’m interested to know if anyone has a positive experience to share – estate agents offering brilliant customer service or going the extra mile. Or have most faced similar hurdles to me?

The moral of the story is that greed got the better of our estate agent. Instead of accepting our original offer five months earlier, they ended up selling us the property at £10,000 less than our original asking price. Charlotte 1, estate agent 0.


Whilst I can understand how you were somewhat unhappy with the way things went for you I cannot see how you can describe this estate agent as “your estate agent”.
The estate agent acts for and is paid by the seller (not the buyer). If anyone should really be aggreived by the agent not passing on an offer it’s the seller. As the buyer you really have no comeback. If the agent acting for the seller in any way rejects your offer then I’m afraid that’s it, game over.
Your attempt to talk to the seller direct was a good idea. Had you got through you would have enabled the seller to deal with what sounds like poor service from the agent, but the whole issue was something between the seller and his or her agent, and really not much to do with you, annoying as it must have been.
When faced with a situation like this, even though you may have had your heart set on this property, there is little you can do.
The fact you bought the property five months later for £10,000 less I think is more to do with lack of buyers and the way property prices have fallen rather than some great victory over the agent. Their commission didn’t suffer much if at all. The real loser in all this was the seller even though the agent appears to be the root cause of the problem. Estate agents seem to have a knack of coming out of situations smelling of roses. This are probably why estate agents get the bad press they do.

On the bight side estate agents are having to work rather hard at the moment. Nothing like so many buyers around and many sellers are having trouble coming to terms with the notion that to sell in a world of impoverished buyers the price has to come down.
The old standard estate agent trick on sellers isn’t working so well at the moment either. This is where they value a place too high to sucker the seller into a 3 month sole agency contract. They start advising price reductions very quickly after you’ve signed up of course to give the best chance of a quicker sale and to get their commission sooner. Trouble is because of the current housing market situation sellers arn’t believing them anymore

Like in any profession there are good estate agents and bad. I’ve sold and bought a few houses and found smaller independents better than the larger chains. I even managed to sell one house without an estate agent now I thought at the time that was a real victory.


Good for you Charlotte!

I am experiencing a few similar things at the moment. When I bought my first house in Leeds, I didn’t use an estate agent, I was informed of the property when I was viewing next door, I knocked on the door and the rest is history.

My girlfriend and I are also buying a place together, but we’re not going through an estate agent, just directly to the builder. Buying from the builder we got 10k off the asking price and 11.5k gifted deposit, along with upgraded kitchen and all the rest of the fixtures and fittings. Granted we are not buying in London, but we are buying somewhere that is just 35 minutes away and instead of a small flat, we get a 3 bed semi by the river.

I am having to use an estate agent for the selling of my house in Leeds, like you I am having issues with them charging extra without telling me up front, and so I am now on my second estate agent!

Luckily they’re not all the same so just steer clear of Manning Stainton if you ever want to buy in Yorkshire 🙂


I live in quiet a small town – 3000ish people and that is services by about 5 estate agents (although 2 are from same parent co) I was surprised by the lack of competition and differentiation between them. Very little movement on price/conditions etc – I went with the one that at least sounded the most genuine amongst them – and from a selling perspective they are doing quite well. However I do share some similar frustrations with the offer process. We had a buyer for our place who wanted to move quickly and our offer was straight rejected on the place we wanted – while it was quite low the property had been on the market for a long time – It would be nice to see a written (or even online) offer/rejection process that goes direct to the seller – using the estate agent as an intermediary in facilitation only giving a nice audit trail to ensure fairness – get the feeling that wouldn’t be too popular with agents tho….


I *love* this idea – I had similar problems to Charlotte when I bought my flat, although in my case I put in a higher offer, my mortgage had been agreed in principle, and the accepted offer came from someone offering less and with no mortgage. At the insistence of my sister, who is a lawyer and quite brave about these things, I went into the agent’s offices and asked them what was going on. It turns out they had ‘recommended’ to the seller that they accept the other offer because the other buyer was going to get a mortgage through their broker, and use their solicitor, which would ‘just be easier’. I think that’s code for ‘just get me a bit more commission.’

I wrote a letter and popped it through the seller’s door, letting her know that I didn’t think the agents were acting in her best interests, telling her my full offer, and giving her my mobile number. I appreciate that the agent had no responsibility towards me, but I think in a situation like this where they can be shown to be acting demonstrably against the best interests of the seller, something like the system you suggest would work well. But then… what would the estate agent be doing for his/her commission? =)


Good point @Chris. I used the term ‘my estate agent’ rather loosely as they really were the seller’s estate agent. But as you say they weren’t working in the seller’s best interest either. One thing I neglected to mention was that they accepted the higher offer on the condition the same estate agents sold their house. They didn’t know I knew this – I just happened to know the other bidder! Somehow I think they had their own interests at heart with this rather than the seller’s.

@Dean – if you need any template letters for resolving the issues you had with your first estate agent we’ve plenty on the site. http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/making-a-complaint/dealing-with-problem-estate-agents/sample-letters/ . Sounds like our ‘No advance information on charges’ one would do the job.

@Lombear – your idea sounds interesting. I’ll pass it on to colleagues to see if it’s something that could be taken forward.



I would be surprised if the current estate agent model persists after 5 years.

I would think someonelike rightmove would already be working on removing them from the equation – after all the EA is only really useful for supplying the floorplan etc for the house these days. With an online guide you could do that yourself and list direct to rightmove. Then they just need a ‘Make an offer’ button and upsell links to local solicitors. There you go – a simple business plan to get rid of estate agents!

Mark Deviance says:
5 August 2011

This behaviour is common place, no one should be surprised. It takes a certain kind of person to become an estate agent. I’m sure they’re born with that crap haircut, and wearing a plastic suit.

James says:
6 December 2011

Haha Mark that’s not fair saying “it takes a certain kind of person to become an estate agent”, I can imagine this sort of foul play is very common yes, but I don’t think it’s right to make it into a generalisation.
I am quite up for becoming an estate agent because I like the idea of presenting a house to someone, and as it’s probably one of the biggest purchases someone is likely to make in their life I would like to be a part of helping someone to find the best home they can get with there money, I know estate agents have bad rep but I do intend to build an honest relationship with each of my clients as I think in the long run it’s better.

Uzume says:
7 August 2011

@Lombear there would need to be a way to view, of course, and this may be the only downside to your idea. EAs do offer a secure way to look at properties. However, maybe EAs could become Hpuse Viewing Assistants instead, on around £20,000 pa with 0.25% commission from the proceeds of the sale if a house sells due to their knowledge and professional behaviour.

I have bought and sold several houses and my experiences have been very mixed. I hate the ‘cheeky chappie’ EA who comes across like a used car salesman and I am equally underwhelmed by the ‘cool kid’ type with Hollyoaks hairdo and pinstriped skinny suits. That said, I have had some very professional and good EAs who just do a job and do it well.

I also bought and sold a house in the USA and I have to say, the UK system is better. In the US, anyone can show your home from a big database that is accessed online. This means that when we were shown properties, they simply read the info off a sheet, (the same as we had access to) and knew little about the property or area. When selling, you pay the listing realtor and the agent who sells. We negotiated a fee of 5% (3% for the realtor, 2% for the agent) which was 1% lower than average as we knew the agent, not well, but enough.

All in all, most EAs in the UK, from my experience, do some work to sell a house… not so much in the USA where in general, they would just walk along behind us guessing where everything was along with us or saying nothing at all. For that they get 2%!!


I have never quite understood how the estate agent manages to command so much more in commission than the solicitor gets in fees for selling a property, especially when you consider the relative responsibility levels exercised. I have been following the property market for years and am astonished at how poorly agents perform on behalf of their clients: titchy adverts, no street name, badly written particulars, inadequate information, appalling photos, hasty viewings, lack of communication, and so on. Their contributions to websites are dreadful, with sloppy descriptions, no floor plans, bad location maps. They can’t even be bothered to find out the Council Tax band or name the relevant local authorities and water company. “Early viewing is recommended in order to avoid disappointment . . .” they say; I’m sorry, as a prospective purchaser, I’m deeply disappointed already. Of course, in the present market, they are absolutely petrified of reducing valuations to realistic [i.e. supply/demand determined] levels because that would pull the rug out from under all the other properties on their books, and, they would argue, that is not in their clients’ best interests. So many chains collapse nowadays because agents are resigned to taking six months to find a buyer. There is the sole remaining hope that as the number of people putting their house on the market of their own volition continues to fall the market will be driven by executor sales and other enforced disposals where time is not infinite and capital has to be raised. Estate agents are being fortuitously sustained by lettings at the present time but I foresee a flight from rental in due course as landlords fail to manage their properties properly, the long-term unsuitability of private sector rental becomes more readily appreciated by both tenants and owners, and more funds are released into the market. I agree with so many of the comments above and especially the idea of transparent offer consideration; agents are supposed to bring willing seller and a willing buyer together, not stand between them playing games with their emotions. I also think they should be more involved in the honest fulfilment of the Sellers Property Information Form which is the cornerstone of the transaction; the seller’s solicitor disowns it [merely acting as a conduit] and the agent does not even assist the seller with its completion [should be necessary before they even formally accept instructions to market a property]; the oblique excuses and omissions must be the biggest cause of hold-ups in the conveyancing process as buyers try to ascertain the facts. At least in the present slump buyers have plenty of time to inspect a property very thoroughly – they are strongly recommended to take as much time as they need, have several viewings, get proper answers to all their questions, and not be pressured by agents to slam in an offer and face uncertainties later.

Suri says:
23 June 2012

Agree 100% with Lombear, it’s only a matter of time before estate agents will and should be removed from the equation. It used to be the case before the recession(s) that a for sale sign was put up and your house was sold in a matter of weeks with the EA happily collecting their fee at the end having put in little or no work to complete a sale. Now they are actually having to work at their job and by god are they struggling. I honestly have not got a good word to say about estate agents, they are the ones who are making the business of buying and selling houses so stressful, it’s like they are playing god with one of the biggest financial transactions any of us will ever make. I have had numerous dealings with estate agencies in the both Glasgow and Edinburgh and I can honestly say I could not recommend one. Doing away with them and implementing a similar idea to the one Lombear has suggested would get this market moving and remove the distress that comes with dealing with Estate Agents.


I viewed a property twice and subsequently made an offer of £315,000, the property was being marketed for £350,000. My finances were also in place and I had no chain. 5 days later I had heard nothing so I contacted the agent, only to be told that my offer had been declined and the seller was prepared to sit and wait for an offer much closer to the asking price. The agent agreed to keep me informed of any other interest or offers made. 2 weeks later I saw on the Internet that the property had been sold (subject to contract). I phoned the agent to complain about not being given the opportunity to counter offer but was told they couldn’t discuss anything with me. I was extremely angry about the poor service and lies, however, I was further confused to find 2 months later that the property had been sold for £250,000.