/ Home & Energy

Are agents using attractive properties to lure us in?

Keys in hand

Many of you may recall seeing holiday deals in travel agents’ windows. When you went in, the deal had invariably gone. You felt lured in under false pretences. I had a similar feeling when trying to find a house to rent.

Attractive properties on letting agents’ websites disappeared over the horizon when I looked into whether they were available. While they weren’t available, might I be interested in something else?

Led up the garden path

To test this further, a Which? researcher phoned an agent in my area, Chancellors, a chain that covers southern England and Wales. She asked about a handful of homes listed on the site as available.

Of those, she was told one was gone and another wasn’t available, but would she like to leave her details? She asked why the properties were still displayed. Because ‘it takes the internet a while to keep up’, she was told. Fair enough if the houses had been let that day. We looked again three days later, and they were still listed as available. And were still listed as such more than a week after our first enquiry.

This feels like dubious advertising. We believe it’s misleading to advertise a property as available to rent when it’s ‘under offer’. As a customer, I feel my wasted time is valued at nothing by these agents.

Chancellors confirmed that one of the two properties in question had an ‘active offer’ on it. The other was available to rent. It said it owed a duty to landlords to continue to advertise properties as available until an agreement was signed. However, it agreed to consider flagging properties as ‘under offer’.

Agents letting us down

My experience isn’t unique. Which? asked 15 people who were looking for a rental property to keep a diary. Among problems noted were misleading or inaccurate photos of properties and out-of-date information on agents’ websites. Some felt these were ploys to get them to sign up.

Other problems included agents failing to turn up for visits or failing to tell existing tenants to expect a visit. Our recent survey found one in five tenants unhappy with their agent. Out of 50 sectors, only financial comparison websites were more disliked.

We’re delighted that all letting agents will be forced to join a redress scheme, which we’ve campaigned for since 2007. Everyone can take action on wasted time and shoddy service at last.

When looking for rental properties, have you found the most attractive places are gone when you enquire about them?

James says:
25 May 2013

I am looking for a property to buy in london and the number of agents who advertise properties that are under offer without stating this on the advert is ridiculous. There is one particular agent kfh who keeps doing this and they dont mark their adverts so that they say that the property is under offer or sold subject to contract. Nobody seems to do anything about this

This is sheer exploitation of the hot metropolitan property rental market and should be disowned as a practice by the “profession”. Where we live in Norfolk there are more lets than tenants so agents have to behave a bit more responsibly. [Purely as a matter of interest, rents here for 2- and 3- bedroom houses range from £550 per month to £850, 75% of them being under £750 pcm [which gets you a three-bedroomed detached with garage and garden]. And if anyone saw Springwatch on BBC-tv last night, this is where otters romp around on the river banks in the town centre.

This used to really frustrate me when I was a prospective tenant. I’d ask to see a specific property, only to be told it wasn’t available and then put on the books and shown lots more that didn’t fit my criteria. I actually had one estate agent who was going to show me around a property and – when I arrived at his offices – informed me that it had been let but offered to show me around some others. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the alternatives were all awful. Makes me wonder if the original place was ever up for grabs.

Having seen John Ward’s post, I’m now very tempted to move to Norfolk, if only to be near the otters!