/ Home & Energy, Money

Are estate agents getting a bad rap?

Estate agent window

Let’s face it, estate agents are never going to win a popularity contest. But with the housing market heating up, many will have to get used to dealing with estate agents – love them or loathe them.

Having to deal with estate agents is often referenced as one of the main frustrations of buying or selling a house.

It’s fair to say they have a reputation for stretching the truth with their sales patter. But there have also been concerns that some are going further than telling a few white lies and are being downright dishonest.

Estate agent nightmares

For example, when Channel 4’s Dispatches recently went undercover into a number of well-known estate agents they found one agent (incorrectly) claiming that they had the exclusive right to promote the government’s Help to Buy scheme. Others were found telling buyers that they would get priority viewing, or that a property would be removed from the market if they agreed to use the in-house mortgage broker. This runs completely contrary to the law which dictates estate agents cannot discriminate, or threaten to discriminate, against buyers who don’t use services they offer.

And then there are the fees – typically 1.5% of the value of the property being sold, plus VAT. That’s more than £4,000 on the average UK property (£225,000 in December 2013). Are they worth the cost? In the context of a transaction worth £100,000s, a couple of thousand pounds may not sound like much, but in almost any other situation a bill of this size would probably seem pretty extreme.

Getting a bad rap

Are these grumbles justified? After all estate agents are performing a valuable service: offering an understanding of the local property market; helping you make the most of the property; selling its best features; and dealing with all the queries from potential buyers, to name just a few things. It’s also worth mentioning that when the Office of Fair Trading investigated the estate agent market a few years ago they found that only 12% of people were dissatisfied with the service they received.

But we’re interested in hearing your experiences of using an estate agent – either as a buyer or a seller. Have you felt pressured into using their in-house services? Have you felt the sharp end of other poor practice from estate agents?

Comments
Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I don’t see why estate agents fees should be linked to the value of the house. They could offer packages based on what you want them to do – for example, extent of advertising, brochure type, whether you want accompanied viewings, whether they are part of a group that can promote more widely, advice on how to make your house more appealing – in other words for how much work you want them to do on your behalf. If you then choose to use more than one agent you simply pay that one another fee. Your contract with them could include a bonus if they sell the house at an agreed price. Many solicitors charge a fixed fee – why not agents.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I agree with you entirely Malcolm. When I think of the care and expertise that the solicitor or conveyancer has to exercise compared with the efforts of many estate agents it is staggering that the agent might end up with four or five times the payment received by the legal representative. If estate agents’ clients had to make their payments directly by writing out a cheque I think they would be unable to get away with it. As it is, the agent’s fee is incorporated in the completion statement and deducted [together with other expenses] from the proceeds of the sale. They even get the solicitor to do this for them so they have no bouncing cheques or other defaults to cope with!

Member
ekc = emma says:
2 March 2014

Yes they should exercise care and expertise John but unfortunately do not always do so. Solicitors do however have a habit to overcharge their clients just as much as the estate agents do. Although on purely conveyancing the estate agent wins hands down over the solicitor on charges.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Someone, possibly an estate agent, has given Malcolm’s initial comment the thumbs-down. It would interesting if they could give the reason for their rejection of Malcolm’s suggestion about packaged service fees for selling properties. I can imagine some of the arguments against it but none of them seem to me to be in the interests of sellers [or buyers for that matter].

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Seems the agents might be reading this John? It would be interesting to hear arguments in favour of commission-based fees; I am sure there are sound arguments for and against different methods.

Member
Victoria from VMOVE Estate agents says:
25 February 2014

Hello Malcom,

I’m an estate agent, and I agree. We do not penalise those with more expensive houses by using a percentage. We have fixed fees which are low. Let’s face it, those more expensive properties don’t have the volume of traffic etc that the small ones do.

I like your idea of a pick and mix, but it just gets complicated. We do everything for our fixed fees, if you would like extras we are always happy to accommodate.

Thank you. We do not profiteer. There is no need. Our service levels are high too. Never compromise.

Member
PeterM says:
26 February 2014

Just another ‘aside’ – wondering if the bigger property web sites base their charges on the asking price for a house ?

I can imagine the charges mount up, if a property is listed for many months, but surely on the other side, an agent with 500 properties listed probably pays less per property than an agent with 200 properties, so can anyone give a rough figure per month, for a house costing, say, £150,000 ?

Given there are 3 or maybe more web sites, anyone able to suggest the range (eg site A charges £10/ per £100,000 property, per month, site B charges £12.50, etc) Strikes me that while an agent may have to leave a property online for a few extra months if they ever artificially gave a higher price recommendation, the benefit for them could be tens of times more than the cost for promoting it, even if it took 3-6 months longer to sell…

Vendor knows nothing about the actual costs, and while a vendor could place their own adverts, they’d have fewer viewings than a similar property listed on one of the widely used ‘major’ sites (compared with them using their local paper, Gumtree, Friday Ad site, etc).

This is not a general or individual criticism, but an area where the consumer knows little about the profit levels of estate agents. Services charging a fixed fee seem far fairer to me, but even so, A may charge a fixed fee of £750 and B may charge £2,000 and it will depend on local house prices in general as to whether they are considered acceptable to vendor – yet the actual costs for salaries and promotion may be very similar between two different parts of the country, so firm B could be making more profit than the energy firms, as a proportion of turnover, simply ‘because house prices are generally higher’ in their area, and yet be putting in no more effort than firm A did.

So even with fixed fees, some might be playing fair and others could be cowboys !
(not suggesting any cowboys would dream of posting here though!)

Member
Victoria from VMOVE Estate agents says:
25 February 2014

I’m sure it was the 2009 OFT report you are rendering too. I studied it closely. I’m sure it wS as high as 36% that said that estate agents represented poor value for money.

I must check this, I have it on my desk.

As with all trades there are a plethora of agents off all service levels. Some poor some outstanding. They are dealing with your biggest asset, interview them, only instruct those that you trust and that are proactive. They must earn their fee.

Member
Tracy says:
25 February 2014

I used an online agent – emoov – brilliant service for fixed fee. Photographer fantastic. Saved me thousands and the only difference was that I did the viewings which I prefer. In previous sales I have paid a percentage and in most cases conducted the viewings myself anyway in order to accommodate potential buyers. With most buyers first port of call being online it seems mad not try that out first.

Member
Nigel Adams BigBlackHen says:
26 February 2014

I run my own estate agency and I started it as I felt that alot of practices in the industry needed shaking up. The commisssion system is one as is expensive but also because it allows agents to charge as much as they think they can get away with – which is why we opted for fixed fees which are starightforward and upfront. My clients like the clarity this brings.

My biggest issue though was contracts with lots of small print and long tie-in periods which means that you can’t switch agents if you are unhappy with the service – something that happened to me before I became an agent. That’s why we have no tie-in or notice periods and NO SMALL PRINT.

I also hate gazumping and so introduced an anti-gazumping clause into the contract – no one has ever been gazumped at my company in 9 years!

The truth is though that there are lots of agents working hard out there and doing a really good job for their clients so it really isn’t fair to write off the whole industry because of a few bad apples.

Member
PeterM says:
26 February 2014

I think it is more than “a few bad apples”. In recent years I have moved, one of my sisters has moved and another sister is likely to move soon. Looking at properties (we all help with online searching as three pairs of eyes work better than one), we have all seen lots of properties with only a single photo.

Very few seem to have any floorplans (and just to see if it was down to asking price, given such wide range of prices in my area of Merseyside, did more searching, for properties well in excess of what any of us could/ would pay, eg 600,000 and up) and given how many searches are done online, perhaps from hundreds of miles away if moving because of career or other situations, I’d have thought the effort would be worthwhile, so someone can get a better feel for whether they can see changes that might make a property suitable with some building work, and draw up a shortlist of places to view.

Appreciate not everyone is good at drawing, but since measurements are being taken, in nearly all cases, it is surely not beyond possibility for floorplans to be produced ? Perhaps an estate agent can comment on the cost for getting this done, if they hire in some help… ?

Member
Victoria at VMOVE Estate Agents says:
26 February 2014

Hello, Online marketing is the key to getting these homes sold.

Poor pictures, and a poor write up are not acceptable. Like you say we are now open to the worlds eyes. The pictures and write up should each be treated as a marketing exercise. Its quite simple, create a desire. Poor pictures do not do this. Show them what your house is made of!!

I love this, troubleshooting to enable houses to sell is a key part of my job. I love the feeling of showing an owner how we market their house, and seeing them shocked that they don’t get this everywhere else. We have a unique advantage as estate agents to showcase homes to their full potential, it should be done as standard. Never ever accept less than the best. If you aren’t happy, speak up. You cannot be charged for a service you are not receiving.

I hope that I can lead by example in my area. Competition brings out the best in agents. Let’s up the ante.

As for floorplans, there are many software providers that do this for free online. It is not rocket science. If you measure right, it works!! They can be knocked up easily in 10-15 minutes depending on the property.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Estate agentsv have software that makes floorplans very easy once the dimensions and room layout have beenrecorded. Agents that can’t employ somebody capable of doing that don’t deserve to be i business.

Floorplans are crucial for house-hunters but some firms steadfastly refuse to produce them because, as they have explained it to me, they think “people should make an appointment to view a property with the agent’s representative/negotiator in order to appreciate all the features and the excellent value of the property”. The internet has made it not just possible but very easy for people to consider properties over long distances and the floorplan is an essential pre-selector tool that enables prospective buyers to create a suitable shortlist for detailed viewings. In 2012, when we were looking for a property within thirty miles of Norwich, the choice, in our bracket of the market, was enormous and any property without a floorplan was rejected outright. We also wished we could have, but never got, a large scale OS plot plan to show the relationship of the property to other structures, road lines, boundaries, and other important details. Property auctioneers seem to be able to do it but house-selling agents [sometimes in the same office!] must think we wouldn’t be able to make any sense of such complicated things which are best left to surveyors and valuers.

Member
PeeBee says:
27 February 2014

“Hello, Online marketing is the key to getting these homes sold.”

Well… I wouldn’t expect anything else said from an ONLINE Agent, with no street presence; no press advertising – and no way of “selling” property if the internet goes bang one day.

In another post you state “I’m an estate agent, and I agree. We do not penalise those with more expensive houses by using a percentage”

SEMI correct. Instead, you “penalise those with more expensive houses” by charging A HIGHER FIXED FEE. Why would THAT be – you agree that it is unfair to penalise based upon price-band?

Member
Victoria at VMOVE Estate Agents says:
27 February 2014

Thank you PeeBee

I think you will still find that our fees are extremely competitive. We are not just and ONLINE agent. We are a local agent without a shop front. Hence the reason our fees are lower than our counterparts. We do everything your high street agent does. We value, we do the viewings, online agents are natiowide, they dont do the viewings, they dont do the photographs and in some cases they still charge more.

Just so you know. Newspaper adverts are there for the sellers, it is a branding exercise and not a method of selling houses. If this was the case all the houses would be on the adverts. One of the biggest agents in our area, does not advertise in our area in the newspaper, the 3rd biggest only puts in 6 houses per week.

Our fixed fees benefit our sellers by enabling them to budget properly.

Everyone has a different view and I understand this. 96% of all property searches start online, we still have the second best method to find people houses, our buyer list, to match buyers with houses.

Member
Anne says:
15 July 2015

A ha..the online search..well this is interesting cover for what often can go on and the BIAS around information ie favours and exclusion of other buyers

I assume my comment on july 15 will account for the other 4%…or probably more..ie the propery ‘search’ which involves going into estate agent and being favoured with information about new properties…to the exclusion of many buyers/searchers signed up for ages faithfully checking out ONLINE, and ringing in. Noticeable of course around the desirable properties…
Then there’s the online search which provides us with al lthose properties we want..but which infuriatingly ARRIVE on line UNDER OFFER.
can you comment on my post of above date

Member
chenz says:
26 February 2014

There are a high proportion of agents that operator rogue practices and sadly these are so much embedded in their business practices that many new employees are trained into believing this is the way estate agents all work and so none the wiser. You just need to read the reviews on Allagents.co.uk to see this is not isolated cases. London in particular is the worst

Member
PeeBee says:
27 February 2014

That is total, unadulterated rubbish.

What you demonstrate as your ‘knowledge’ of Estate Agency can quite easily be written on the back of a flea with a five-inch paintbrush.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hi PeeBee, please be polite to other commenters even if you disagree them. These are the commenting guidelines you agree to when you comment on Which? Conversation: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines

Member
PeeBee says:
12 July 2016

So… a commentator is okay to basically accuse “a high proportion of agents” of rogue practice but I am not allowed to offer any defence.

Says it all about Which’s position, really.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello PeeBee, good to see you. Of course you are welcome to offer a defense – we just try to ensure that comments aren’t personal. Please do explain your position if you’d like to.

Member
Anise says:
26 February 2014

What makes me laugh the most is that estate agents need no formal qualification in this country! In North America, they have to actually be qualified to sell homes and it shows in the level of quality and service you get. Here, there are so many cowboys (and girls) who know that with little education, they can make good money while lying and misleading buyers.

I know not all agents are like that, but when you see what they will do just to make a buck, skepticism runs high.

Member
Chris Wood says:
26 February 2014

Hi Anise
I couldn’t agree with you more (along with a lot of other like minded agents in England and Wales). There are, in fact, qualifications in estate agency up to degree equivalent level but, sadly, they are not compulsory.

At my firm, and many other professional firms, I insist that all of my team work towards their qualifications and, they are not allowed to value or advise customers until I am happy they meet a good standard of competence, skills and knowledge.

The problems arise when you are competing with agents who believe that by employing unskilled, unqualified ‘cheap’ staff you can deliver the same standard of service and advice. I know that there are many occasions where we have negotiated a much higher figure for our customer than they would have achieved with a competitor and, have also spotted significant opportunities for sellers, such as identifying highly valuable potential building plots that other, less skilled agents have completely failed to spot (or have kept quiet about with the hope of developing it themselves). There is also the issue of liaising with everyone in a chain to keep a sale together when they hit the inevitable problems.

Unfortunately, a great deal of what we do as agents, is not seen by the public so, the appearance can be that we do little for our fee. As you say, some agents thoroughly deserve this but not all of us.

There are good agents out there but sellers must do their ground work to ensure they choose a good, competent firm with trained experienced staff to help them.

Chris Wood
PDQ Estates Ltd

Member
PeterM says:
26 February 2014

Ah, but what are “typical” commission charges in the USA ? I expect there is variation from state to state, and no doubt different rates of state taxes too. Am I imagining it, or are some fees in N America as much as 8% ?? Sounds closer to Auctioneer charges.

While the professionalism may be higher, and attention to detail perhaps a lot higher, I wonder if it justifies several times the level of fees being paid?

Member

Sadly mine is a Total nightmare experience of all but one estate agents.

Where to start;

Having had my offer excepted on a property which took several months it was found that the property had bats in the loft, the agent said “not surprised” but failed to tell me that piece of information, following long delays due to the timing of expensive bat surveys, the agents failed to reply to contact for over a month re access, so the next bat survey was missed causing a further delay of NINE months before the next bat survey was carried out. I eventually lost the property but got no compensation from the ombudsman. I wonder did the agents tell the next buyer??

Next property I travelled 5 hours after hire of a car for the day to view a property, the agent did not show up at the viewing, only to be told by the vendor on viewing the property had been sold the week before. The ombudsman upheld my complaint, but then backed down with no right of appeal.

Next, viewed a property that had a low offer on it, I made an offer of the asking price, asked to prove funds etc, still no acceptance of offer, then 2 weeks later told they had a higher offer, so increased mine, this continued, with me increasing my offer several times, in the end was told I was out bid!!! but looking on the land reg at the sale price was LOWER than my last offer!! needles to say did not bother with the ombudsman!!

Next property final sealed offers, offer accepted, hidden in the tiny print showed a right of access over the property, my solicitor did not see it either!! cost a fortune, and months of delay, with my solicitor quoting £750 an then charging /taking £7000.00 from my funds when I sacked them.

Selling my property the agent could not get the details right so I had to write them, photos were terrible so again did my own, collected the for sale board from the agent and put it up, on first viewing agent was useless so I took over the viewing, sold on first viewing, I had to do all the contact/negotiations etc, even took the for sale board down and returned to agents office, but they still charged the full commission.

Clearly my view of Estate agents is very low, but a friend recently used one inn Cornwall call PDQ who were a very refreshing change, they were perfect, despite problems with the sales, they kept in contact at all times, so there are good agents, but very few.

The property ombudsman is useless, estate agents need to be regulated, and qualified, I wrote the the OFT but they do not reply, how can we have an ombudsman for agents run by themselves??

Member
PeterM says:
26 February 2014

Alan – so sorry to read of your catalogue of failures and expenses. Hope you are settled so may not need another set of fence jumping to have everything done properly.

Member
John B says:
27 February 2014

Two big issues as I see it,

firstly the pressure to cross sell mortgages and conveyencing on staff working in Estate Agency, particularly the big agents. Legislate to make it illegal for estate agents to earn a commission from either lawyers or financial advisers.

secondly, end no sale-no fee, which is a charging system totally unfair on the consumer as people that do sell pay for all those that don’t, and of course means actual fees paid are twice what they need to be. Certainly have a commission element to incentivise the agent to sell the property rather than just put it on the market, but a payment up front for an agreed service seems to me to be the way to go.

Member
Chris Hargreaves says:
27 February 2014

I would like to know what every estate agent charges the same price in my town? Compare this to when the local taxi firms all agreed to charge the same rates before the council issued legal proceedings as it was not competitive for consumers.

My biggest frustration is estate agents are allowed to operate without being transparent about any conflicts of interests.. I’ve heard so many people tell me homes were under valued then sold to a developer or a landlord who happens to be connected with the estate agent. In some cases they were partners in the business buying the home on the cheap.

I have bought a home by knocking on the owners door and even though it was with an estate agent they did nothing. The sale was so fast they had not even advertised it. The owners still had to pay 1.5% for basically nothing.

Don’t forget on top of fees they can also get kickbacks from solicitors and other people in the sale chain. I know interest rates are rock bottom but when you add up the vast amount of money from the sale of homes kept in solicitors bank accounts also makes them a tidy sum.

Profile photo of 2036FOX
Member

I must dispute this comment about the money held in solicitors’ accounts. Having worked for a conveyancing solicitor for nearly 25 years I know that very little interest is earned on these monies and at completion all monies are paid out on the day of completion to agents, mortgage companies and of course for the new property. Solicitors do not earn any better rates than the normal saver and mostly it is nothing at all as nowadays exchange and completion can be within days rather than, as it used to be, several weeks.

From bitter experience I would not trust an agent as far as I could throw him/her.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello everyone, lots of very interesting discussions on this Conversation, so we’ve rounded up some of the best in this week’s comment round-up, including this week’s comment of the week… https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/estate-agents-debate-house-buying-selling/

Member
Anne says:
15 July 2015

will you be reading further comments then if feb 14 was a round up; will there be other ’round ups’. Hope so. maybe you can do something with a take from the buyers point of view…a lot of the comments are naturally from sellers.
Some of those from buyers provide a wider view and real taste of ‘what goes on’ and can get lost among the many comments from sellers/agents eg about fees.

The buyers’ experience is one to be considered, if not for the fact that they are NOT paying, yet many regularly assume, and are very much led to believe, that they are being ‘looked after’.

Member
nondipoo says:
1 March 2014

It is true that Estate Agents do not do as much work as the solicitor. Their fees should have been calculated on the amount of work entailed, rather than the cost of the house. Solicitors fees were changed about 35 years ago so that they could use a scale as a guideline, but they can lower their fees if they feel it is fairer to do this and of course charge more if necessary too. When I sold my parents’ bungalow, the first agent I used didn’t even advertise it, let alone send anyone round. I changed to a different agent, refusing to pay his sole agency fee as he hadn’t done anything and sold it the first day it was with the new agent. The first agent didn’t even quibble when I refused to pay. Perhaps more of us should question them direct like this.

Member
Miguel says:
1 March 2014

I agree that there are good and bad agents, as in everything. But some agents do really act on the illegal and dodgy side of things. I even had an agent trying to get £6,000 cash “under the table” so that we could get the deal on that property… we refused to pay and he even drove 30 miles to our house and waited outside for an hour or so to try to discuss this… how dodgy is that?

Member
Annabel says:
1 March 2014

I work for an estate agents that pays for all its staff to qualify in estate agents exams, produce high quality brochures with floor plans and garden plans we are open until 7pm week nights and we are open 7 days, we are achieving 96% of asking price, we are not tied to any financial firms or indeed any legal firms, we advertise on right move at premium level and use professional photographic equipment, when vendor decides to go with an agent it is invariably down to fees with some agents quoting desperate fees to get the business or inflated house price, when will people realise that u really do get what u pay for, I use the analogy of two jumpers, one from primark and one from m&s, they r both jumpers but I know which one I would buy! It is a false economy to go for the cheapest agent, the marketing is usually inferior and u end up reducing your property! We invariably have the properties come to us and ask for us to take their properties on as they haven’t sold, sometimes they are unable to as some agents have 6 month tie ins! We never tie anyone in, we believe in our service level and won’t compromise! Mystery shop agents, those staff u talk to will be selling your property, if they are not passionate people, how can they be passionate about your most valuable assett! We are not all rogues, some of us believe in what we do!

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I like the sound of the service your firm provides, Annabel. Garden plans! . . . that’s a revelation and really useful; the photographs usually don’t show enough or they are so distorted as to make short small gardens look like prairies.

I cannot understand why agents can’t or won’t do proper photographs of bedrooms. When viewing a property it is usually the bedrooms that don’t seem to correspond with the images in the agent’s particulars because there is a mass of cupboard oversailing the bed, or there is a violently blue wall with “Tottenham Hotspur” in big letters painted on it, or there are lengths of electrical trunking serving additional socket outletssuggesting the original circuits are inadequate. Most agents appear to take the view that so long as there is a nice picture of a big bed covered in cuddly toys and cushions. Bathrooms are often another disappointment because the photographer wants to show a pile of folded towels rather than the stained and curled-up flooring round the loo. I suspect that, when the Property Misdescriptions Act was repealed, agents thought they could be a bit more economical with the truth and more flamboyant with the descriptions, overlooking the fact that they come fully within the scope of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. These regulations are much less prescriptive but place a general duty on agents to provide the information a prospective purchaser might reasonably require. In particular, it is no longer sufficient for agents not to mis-describe or misrepresent aspects of the property: neither should they leave out important information nor conceal relevant details that consumers need in order to make informed decisions. The get-out here is that no one in their right mind buys a house without looking at it and, obviously, the property speaks for itself; as agents always say “an early viewing is recommended to avoid disappointment”. I feel that substituting “guarantee” for “avoid” would bring them closer into compliance with the legal requirements perhaps.

Member
Annabel says:
2 March 2014

We are moving away from brochures that have long boring descriptions in, who is really interested in where the telephone points are, photographs are the main items in our brochures, together with the floor and garden plans, take a look at our standards on our website karltatler.com u can down load one, the same standard for the lower priced properties to the top end properties too!

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thank you Annabel. I disagree with you about telephone points. It is extremely useful to know not only which rooms have them but where they are. The same goes for TV aerial points and power sockets.Good floor plans will show these details. It is also useful to know at the outset what the sellers are leaving or taking with them. Some friends of ours are hoping to buy a house where the owners have said they intend to take the fitted curtain poles but leave behind the free-standing gas cooker, the dishwasher, some big shelving, and a dozen Koi Carp in the pond. These are all unwanted and need to be removed in order to give vacant possession but it has caused friction; the agents have washed their hands of any involvement but in my view it would have been advantageous to the sale process if they had established the position and advised the homeowner what to do in the first place. New owners don’t want the trouble and expense of getting rid of the previous owners’ discards. The market is too fragile at the moment to accommodate that sort of imposition. Perhaps agents disagree.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

You also need to know where radiators are located. However, if the description of the basic house is to your liking, then I suggest these details are best seen in the flesh at your viewing. Anything you remain unsure about, or forgot to check, can be seen on a second viewing if you are interested. Best to make up a check-list before you view to ensure anything important is not overlooked.

Member
Annabel says:
3 March 2014

I agree Malcolm, the point is the brochure is intended to get the applicant over the door and the fixtures and fittings list is for the details of what is left or taken, the offering stage is the time that extras are negotiated, surely the closer the potential purchaser is to the asking price, the more a vendor is likely to leave more behind. There can be no ambiguity as to what is left if it is not left in the brochure, I have never had anyone give us feedback that they didn’t offer on a property because there wasn’t enough telephone points,

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I accept that from the agent’s point of view the crucial thing is to get a buyer interested enough to view the property and a degree of creative description, enticement, and selectivity over what to reveal are some of thedevices employed for that purpose. However, since it costs next to nothing to include more detail in the description that appears on an on-line property platform I am a bit mystified by the resistance to putting in more of the information that a prospective purchaser might consider useful. Does the seller really want to put off a cash buyer with no chain who won’t even look at the property because the agent’s particulars were inadequate? I suspect that only a tiny percentage of the overall number of hits on a property website lead to viewings. Outside London and the south-east the market is not exactly hot. We had a choice of over a hundred houses in our price bracket and location radius when we were house-hunting in 2012. We had to whittle them down to a manageable shortlist to make viewings practical. Any particulars that didn’t give us the key details of every room were rejected. What sellers might not realise in a buyer’s market is that once house-hunters have discovered that an estate agency is not doing the best for their clients, is issuing inadequate particulars, and is leaving important things to be discovered at the first viewing, then we don’t want to deal with them anymore and won’t even look at the other properties it has on offer. In our part of the country there are so many properties on the market that are virtually interchangeable in terms of acceptability that buyers really can pick and choose and they want the information that enables them to do that.

In rural areas, visits can involve round trips of 60 miles or more within the same county; we sold our house in south Norfolk to somebody from the west coast of Wales – they did all their house-hunting on-line apart from the final three properties which they viewed. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think our house was top of the shortlist [against a lot of competition] because I made sure the agent’s particulars were as comprehensive as possible and left out nothing significant.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I do not know why plans don’t generally show the orientation of houses. It’s important when considering natural lighting of rooms and the suitability of the garden. It’s useful to have this information when producing a shortlist of houses to view or even inspect externally. Providing the full address is useful for various reasons, so why just give the street, as many agents do.

I agree that the location of power points is important. Telephone points are less important now that cordless phones are popular.

Member
Mike says:
2 March 2014

Years ago when we were trying to get a mortgage, the company based the (poor) offer on the survey we had paid for through the estate agents. I didn’t think they shouldn’t have had any access to this at all.

Member
emma says:
2 March 2014

Lets not forget the rip of service of surveyors and the strange fact that if you like a house you have to get a surveyor in, instead of the seller having to give a report to potential buyers so as to reduce the overall amount going out to this sort of cost.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Being a cautious individual, I don’t think I would trust a survey done for the seller.

Member
Mary Rich says:
2 March 2014

Now have a buyer and waiting to get to signing contracts. We accepted a price of £94,000 but were informed by Connells that if the buyer used their “Free” legal service, we would only get £93,000!!!

Free – not if we pay for it.

We agreed agents fees of £2000, after visiting several agents. which was not the cheapest but we hoped would be most likely to get a buyer. We refused to accept this charge as it was not in the contract we had signed. As it happens the buyer made his own legal arrangements, but when challenged the Agent blustered and said it would all be OK. They were obviously trying it on.

We have complications as the property is let to a DSS tenant who has not vacated on the date given in the S21 Termination Notice so we have to proceed to take her to court. We told Connells this might happen and they assure us the buyer is prepared to wait. We currently wait to hear if this is the case.

Member
Moysie says:
3 March 2014

I never use land based estate agents any longer, but use online agents and the only difference is the fees. I’ve used both so please don’t start emailing about how online agents can’t give you that personal touch and don’t know the local market.

I called an estate agent about three years ago and asked why their fee was so high. He told me that they had to work much harder in the current market. When I asked why then their fees were n’t less during the property boom, he had no answer.

Member
ND says:
4 March 2014

What do they mean ONLY 12% weren’t satisfied with the service they received – that’s unacceptably high proportion!!! If my clients weren’t happy with my work 12% of the time I’d be sacked!!!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

When I was house hunting about 30 years ago I bought a copy of a Which? book on buying and selling houses, and looked at adverts in the local paper. I also drove around the area where I was interested in buying a house. At that time, private sales were quite common and it was evident that both private advertisements and notices in house windows were working well.

Over the years I have seen the number of private sales decline locally and more estate agents’ notices appear. That was happening before most estate agents were making use of websites to advertise properties.

Anyone who grudges paying estate agents’ fees could always try selling or buying privately and if they are unsuccessful they might be happier about paying to do the job for them. It would be interesting to hear the experiences of anyone who has tried both approaches.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

To Annabel . . .

I took up your suggestion (02/03/2014 @ 4:46 pm) to have a look at your firm’s website and I can honestly say that it is certainly one of the best estate agent’s sites that I have ever seen. I looked at random at a large number of the properties you are marketing in all price brackets and I was impressed with each example. The pictures are as good as you get – they give a much better idea of each room than many agents’ efforts The floor plans are excellent, the garden plans are just what we want [including the compass points and showing where any outbuildings are in relation to the house], and the brochures are very well designed and composed. I must say also that I did not see a single property that was not presented to a very high standard – there must be a really high level of pride in the home in your part of the country [or you must be giving your clients lots of help and support with the presentation].

Member
Annabel says:
4 March 2014

Thank you so much for your kind words, we refuse to compromise on quality and guide our clients through the presentation of their properties. One of our listers has even been known to iron curtains for the client! If our director isn’t happy with anything we have produced then its straight back to take them again! We have won awards at the estate agents of the year awards for 8 years running, this encourages us to keep on reinventing ourselves, we will not compromise on fees as obviously this all costs money, so unfortunately we do lose instructions to agents who promise the earth for 0.0002%!! They cannot compete on quality and the clients invariably come back to us! We can launch a property live on the Internet within a half an hour of a measure up and one I measured up today was matched to over a hundred applicants within an hour! Our software enables a very proactive service! As u can probably tell I am passionate about what we do!

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Very impressed too and pleased to see you , despite very high service values, are still making profit to stay in business.

The only caveat I have is a plan normally comes with some scale so I would suggest widthe of plot and depth in the garden as an improvement …. minor but as you like to keep improving ; )

Member
wolfman says:
14 August 2014

Hi
I recently had a really bad experience with an Estate Agent, they put extreme pressure on us to use their inhouse services, to a point that we “lost” the purchase as they refused to complete the sale detail proforma unless we did (they used the “the vendor insists” line to try and get round the rules). The agent was so bad that we will never use them again, if their name is on the board we won’t view, unless we can get in without them knowing, we had the manager shouting down the phone to me, telling us how good she was and how she knew her job, when challenged about the vendors insistance on us using their in house mortgage and conveyencing services she blew her top screaming “i’m not a liar, I know my job i’m good at my job etc. I made a complaint to the TPO, the house strangely came back to the market and we made the purchase using our own financial services etc. and saved around £1500. Recently some of our complaint was upheld by the TPO and we were awarded a small fee and this took around 11 months from our original complaint to the Agent, you have to exhaust their in house grievance procedure first. The TPO is not what you might think it is very Agent biased and their is a conflict of interest as the Agent is paying the membership fee, the TPO is there to help the Agent comply with the act and their own code of practice, if they choose to sgn up for that also.
We had made it clear from the outset we would not need the Agents in house services and even explained why (bad experience in the past with the conveyaning firm they use, and financial services were available without the agents extra fee, I believe they saw this as a challenge and were determined beyond any reasoning to force us to use their services, unfortunately it is difficult to document abuse by an agent, therefor the only things that the tpo upheld were written down stuff and the agent did not write the abuse down on paper, for obvious reasons I will not name them, however they are big in the Peterborough area and strangely linked to another agent in Peterborough area, a search of bad agents will probably reveal them, to all perspective sellers and buyers beware the agent offering “£1000 cash back” it really doesn’t exist, if you use the conveyancers they will add all sorts of extras including a fee for exchange and completion within 5 days! they will forget to exchange on time in order for that to happen! Speak to people about their own experiences you will soon see a picture forming.

Member
Jane Carr says:
14 August 2014

Country Properties Welwyn Garden City advised us to market our house at £400k. We agreed to put it on at £375k because we wanted a quick sale although still felt this was too high. They said if we only wanted to achieve £365k they would sell it within 48 hours. This was when the market was very hot in early May. We subsequently reduced it to £325k and eventually accepted £310k. We think they provided exceptionally poor advice and if it had been priced correctly we may have achieved nearer to £325k when the market was at its peak. This along with precious little service to see the sale through led us to ask for a reduction in fees. They declined to acknowledge any shortcomings on their part and said the sale had proceeded smoothly, however we did all the chasing while they did precious little. They answered our challenge with breathtaking arrogance and are a classic example of why people have such a poor opinion with the estate agent trade. We would definitely not recommend them to anyone.

Member
Jane Carr says:
1 August 2015

We were so exasperated about this we took our complaint to The Property Ombudsman on principle. It took 9 months to get an outcome but our complaint was upheld in part although the amount of the award was only £100 which was paid promptly by Country Properties Welwyn Garden City. We did however feel vindicated that it was right to make a complaint.

Member
Annabel says:
14 August 2014

I regularly go out to market appraisals with comparable evidence of sold house prices ,(information a surveyor will use to put his valuation at survey stage) only to be told by a vendor that another agent has put an unrealisticly high valuation on the property (with no compatible evidence provided), they love my companies product but feel they have to go for the higher valuation, I always say that they should come on with us at the higher price and have a four week plan, so the properties listed price is re-evaluated after this time scale. It just makes me so frustrated that vendors still fall for this ploy by some agents who over value!

Member
Anne says:
15 July 2015

[Hi, this comment has been removed as it was in breach of our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]