It can be stressful enough trying to sell your home, without an estate agent making things worse.
Reader AW put his house in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, on the market last year with major estate agent Fine & Country, a company that boasts of its “network of offices in 300 locations worldwide”.
AW said: “The contract was a sole selling rights contract for a period of 20 weeks. We had several viewings, but no offers. In February 2018, I received a flyer from another estate agent, which was less than half the fee that was agreed with the first estate agent.”
He told me he phoned Fine & Country to say he now wanted to market his home on a multi-agent basis, but the agent said it preferred to proceed on a ‘winner takes all’ basis.
The property was sold through the second agency in July, but then AW was shocked to receive an invoice from Fine & Country for £13,500, its fee for the sale.
AW was extremely upset and contacted Moneywise for help. I have talked extensively with both parties to try to resolve things amicably.
Both sides dispute what actually happened.
Fine & Country told me: “At no time did this company agree to change our sole selling agent mandate to a multiple agency arrangement.”
AW claimed that was agreed over the phone.
There are various other disputes, too many to go into here, but they led Fine & Country to conclude: “We are fully entitled to receive our commission in full and our position is consistent with both the contract and The Property Ombudsman guidelines.”
The biggest problem is that AW signed the contract without reading it properly, mainly because he was trying to cope with caring for two seriously ill older members of the family, who have subsequently died.
That was compounded by him not getting in writing the revised agreement he said he discussed over the phone with the firm’s local agent.
Where does that leave us? AW told me he won’t back down and pay up.
He said: “We’re very well-prepared to take them on in court over this. My solicitor thinks we have a very strong case.”
Our reader says the agent agreed to a ‘winner takes all’ deal
Fine & Country recently had a board meeting at which it discussed the issue. Unfortunately, it has ignored my advice and has issued a summons against the customer.
When dealing with estate agents, it’s essential to know exactly what you’re committing to. I asked Mark Hayward, chief executive of estate agency body NAEA Propertymark, to comment.
He says: “The contract you sign with your estate agent will stipulate whether you’re obliged to pay them if they’re able to sell your home or not. Although this is a very frustrating situation for the seller, it reminds us how important it is to read the small print and understand all the financial penalties you could face before signing any agreement to sell your home.”
He adds: “But it is best practice for agents to draw attention to onerous implications and any unusual terms before entering an agreement, to ensure people understand the Ts&Cs.”
OUTCOME: A lesson for readers: check the small print