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?