House-buying fun part one – estate agents from hell

Gary McFarlane's picture

Estate agents, don’t we just love ’em. They are such an open and transparent bunch, and they always have the interests of buyers and sellers close to their hearts. Yeah right, close to their wallets more like. In truth they are the most hated profession in Britain and now I know why, as if I didn't already.

My partner and I are in the middle of buying a house which, given the current state of the market and the level of uncertainty out there, might lead you to ask why on earth we’re doing such a crazy thing. As a way of keeping my blood pressure down I keep telling myself that falling prices might mean we get a lower sale price on our property but it’s balanced by a lower buying price on the property we hope to move into, and besides we’re in this game for the long term.

Finish decorating
So we took the plunge, finished decorating our flat after eight years of stop-start procrastination, selected an estate agent to do the sale, and agreed their fee at 1.25% of the sale price. Then we waited… and waited for the professionals to swing into action. But after a week no ‘for sale’ sign had appeared. We were into the second week and they had eventually managed to get our property onto their website. Oh well, better late than never we thought and besides, they valued our property at nearly £215,000, which was above our own expectations.

By the end of the second week there was still no ‘for sale’ sign up, and more importantly no offers - which was not too surprising given that they hadn’t managed to get a single person through the door to view our beautifully decorated flat.

Okay, it’s time to bring another agency into the mix by taking the so-called multi-agency route. To that end we contacted another two agents. One was the firm that had apparently recently sold our neighbour’s property and the other had helped us buy the flat we currently live in – and on first impressions the former seemed a bit dodgy and the latter far more professional and upfront.

As it happened the dodgy geezers promised the earth – three couples would be coming to view at the weekend – but delivered nothing (the prospective viewers failed to materialise). The latter sounded like they knew what they were doing. They said the property was overvalued given the lower asking price on larger properties just around the corner from us. We took their advice and lowered our asking price by £5,000 to £210k and true to his advice we started getting some people through the door. Indeed we got an offer in a few days, although it was below our new lower asking price.

At last an offer
It was time to have a think. Do we accept our only offer (£205,000) or do we hold out for more. Meanwhile our neighbour who thought he’d sold his property to some buy-to-let investors was getting the runaround from his estate agents – the dodgy geezers, or should that be dodgier geezers. First they said all the money was in place but the buyers had gone on holiday, then they said one of the buyers was back but not the other. Then they said one of partners was having trouble raising the money, although they had told my neighbour previously that the money was already in place. On the day my neighbour was expecting to move out the deal collapsed. On hearing of this sorry tale we decided to dump that estate agent.

...and another
While we were still considering tour sole offer we heard from the very first estate agent – the ones that had not bothered to put a 'for sale' sign. They were going to send a couple to view our flat on Sunday. The couple were first-time buyers and very serious, with a government key worker mortgage in place. “Would it be alright if you showed them around the property as I don’t work on Sundays and it’s the only day they can make?” asked the ‘property consultant’. Well yes , I suppose so was my answer, although I was under the impression that a major part of an estate agency service involved accompanying prospective buyers on visits and persuading them of the attractions and benefits of buying a particular property. To cut to the chase the couple liked our flat and came back for a second viewing, again without the estate agent and eventually made an offer at our asking price of £210,000 or £209,995 to be precise. So we rejected the offer at £205k and accepted the higher one.

The fee
In a few days we got a letter from the estate agent with the agreed sale price and their fee. The figure looked a bit high so I did a quick calculation and discovered that contrary to the contracts they'd sent us (one for single agency and subsequently one for multi-agency) the fee had now risen to 1.5% not 1.25%, although that was better than the very first contract we got which demanded a fee of £215,000 and managed to spell both of our names incorrectly.

I contacted the agent to complain and pointed out that we had actually agreed 1.25%. He told me that he would never have agreed to such a low fee, especially for multi-agency. I felt like telling him that he probably did so in order to get our custom and planned to up it at a later date but I didn’t. Instead I politely told him that I was looking at the two contracts we’d been sent, both of which clearly stated the fee would be 1.25%.

He insisted that it should be 1.5%. Granted, the English language is a funny thing and the same word can often mean different things. Consider this sentence for example: "Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present." I take a professional interest in such things as I'm the style guardian at Moneywise. But this contract was not open to any misreading or confusion.

You can insist all you like I said to my motor-mouth estate agent - less politely this time, but we’re only paying 1.25% as written on the contract – it’s an English Common Law thing written contracts, and I’m quite keen to respect the letter of the law on this one thanks very much.

So after some more inane chatter from the estate agent he eventually agreed to 1.25%, but only after I pointed out that we had done most of the work on selling the property and that they would be lucky to get a peanut off us at this rate as we hadn’t signed and returned any of the contracts sent to us thus far.

So he agreed to the fee of 1.25% but as yet we still haven’t received the new contract. I’ll keep you posted….

Estate agents don’t we just love ’em.

A little game
I haven’t mentioned any of the agents we had dealings with but I’ve placed their links below, and not in any particular order. See if you can guess which ones ‘did’ the sale but still haven’t got it together to send that contract out and which ones were the ‘dodgiest geezers’ of the lot.

Cousins Estate Agents

1st Class Estates

Kings Estates Agents

Your Comments

Great info... usually the estate agents must have a high potential to sell a house in order to get their commission fast. Estate agent is very wise. Be careful with them.. Because not all are trusted..

Just point out first, the user above states the UK property market is amazingly unregulated... Well for a start its actually one of the most regulated industries in the UK, see the governent legislation websites for proof, what do you base that on?!

The owners of properties do make me laugh! As an estate agent for more than twenty years I can tell you without reservation that Vendors of properties really only hear what they want to hear - By this i mean (after reading through your experience) that you say yourself that the property was valued at more than you had expected and there lies the problem (every owner already has a fair idea of what he expects to sell his property for before even calling an agent in)- the honest estate agent who tells the truth on value using comparibles of similar properties that he has sold, simply does not get a look in when the other estate agent tells the owner it is worth ten to fifteen thousand more (than its true value) - I know, because we can now track what a property finally sells for and you can guarantee that they will eventually always end up accepting what was our original & true valuation all be it less than you were promised, but of course we will not have been paid for the information - the liar estate agents would have been - I have even gone as far as to aking vendors why they didn't come back to us when it became blatantly obvious that they had been mis-lead and have been told that 'they were too embaressed' which doesn't help me to pay my staff and bills - In the end it always comes back to the same thing 'greed'! The vendor will in deed go with the agent who has told them it is worth more and then will complain when he hasn't had a viewer for two weeks !! So, in retrospect what do we do now - tell the truth on value or simply tell you what you want to hear like all the others?