Arguably, one of the most unpopular professions in the UK.
Heavy sales tactics and dishonesty. They’ve contributed to — and hugely benefited from — the astronomical rise in house prices over the past decade that has pushed many average-income buyers out of the property market. And yet, when it comes to buying a home, quite possibly the biggest and most important financial decision of your life, they hold all the cards.
I’m referring, of course, to estate agents. In a recent YouGov poll, it was found that almost two out of three people do not trust estate agents, and 43 per cent believe they earn too much money for the work that they do.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the only professionals involved in the house-buying process who do not need to meet any training or competency standards and are completely unregulated.
Don’t let a rogue estate agent waste your time, effort and money. Use this guide to the truth behind some typical estate agent lies:
- “There’s no point putting in an offer below asking price.” An agent once told a friend that his offer — at £20,000 below asking price — was ‘insulting’. A few days later, it was accepted. The fact is, estate agents are legally obligated to present any offer you make to the vendor, no matter how low they might think it is. This includes any offer made right up until contracts have been exchanged.
- “It’s right in the heart of town, only five minutes’ walk from the station — honest.” It is an offence, under the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991, to make false or misleading statements about property offered for sale. That includes oral statements, so the next time you suspect an estate agent is trying to pull a fast one on you, mention the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 (don’t forget the 1991)… and watch them wriggle. It may give you a small sense of satisfaction.
- “We give preferential treatment to buyers who use our legal and mortgage services.” It is illegal for any estate agent to make it a condition of the sale that you use their services and an estate agent who discriminates against you because you decline their services is breaking the law. And any estate agent worth his/her salt should be able to work quickly and efficiently with any lender, solicitor or broker.
- “I can recommend a broker who has access to the best mortgage rates and a solicitor who knows the local market.” Don’t listen to this twaddle: the estate agent has no idea about what the best mortgage rate for you will be. And solicitors do not need to know the local market to do a good job. The reason estate agents say this is because they get a cut for referring you on. You’d be much better off asking friends and family for objective recommendations.
- “Trust me, a similar property on this road sold for £10,000 more last year.” You don’t need to trust the estate agent, you can find out the facts yourself from the Land Registry. All you need is the postcode of the property and you can look up the actual prices paid on that road recently yourself here, for free. Never forget that it is in the estate agent’s interests to push the price up as high as possible, because their fee is usually a percentage of the price paid. This might seem like good news if you are selling a property, but it’s you who are inconvenienced if your property takes months to sell because they valued it too highly.
Of course, there are some good estate agents out there — and they’re likely to be members of the National Association of Estate Agents, a voluntary trade association which has a strict code of conduct and a complaints procedure.
If you can’t find a member near you, you could always try to sell your property yourself online, via a DIY property website like House Ladder. Not only is this likely to save you thousands but, according to a recent survey by Alliance & Leicester, you will sell your home up to a month quicker.
There is another option, of course, and that is to learn how to efficently do it yourself because there’s no one can better to sell your house…Than You!