If you want to go into a profession where people trust you, then estate agency perhaps isn’t one of them, and I say this with no bitterness whatsoever after eight months of trying to sell a London property. Hmmmph.
According to a new report, nine out of 10 home-buyers believe that estate agents should be forced to meet regulations to make sure they are up to scratch.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) say there should be a national set of rules to raise standards for estate agents and that the current system is too complex.
Lack of consumer trust
Apparently its findings uncover a “shocking lack of consumer trust” in the estate agency profession.
I have to admit, I had no idea that under the current rules only agents who belong to a professional body are obliged to meet minimum competency standards.
I spoke to the head office of the agent we happen to be on with at the moment as I couldn’t see our particular branch registered as members of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
They told me that it was up to individuals if they wanted to sit the exams. So although other branches in our area did have some registered members, it wasn’t compulsory.
“You’ve got to sit 12 hours worth of exams so it’s quite in-depth and is up to the individual if they want to go that extra length,” a spokesperson told me.
She added: “We do encourage them to do it but some people are already very good at their jobs regardless of whether or not they have this technical recognition.”
So if there isn’t one main body that everyone has to be associated to or governed by, surely this is going to have an impact on the level of service you receive? (Regardless of how well-known your agent may be.)
Trying to sell and having no luck
In terms of our property sale failure – seven minutes from the tube. With a south-westerly garden. And a driveway. Not bitter at all – who’s to blame?
Is it the estate agents for overvaluing it at the beginning and setting our sights too high, or is it simply because we are a nation of bargain hunters and the asking price means nothing unless you have several people all bidding for the same property (as we did in 2008 during the property boom – how things have changed).
Agent #1 – no names mentioned – valued our house at way above what they later said it was worth, explaining it was “just to test the market”. In doing this, it set our expectations high and left us looking at properties we would never be able to afford.
They received an offer on our behalf and failed to tell us of this, because: “We didn’t think you would accept it, because you didn’t accept a similar offer a couple of months ago that was put forward.” We moved on swiftly to another agent.
Cheeky estate agent tactics
Our post is often filled with estate agents pleading with us to let them market our property. The line that they think will work is (written in what looks like handwriting but is quite blatantly not): “We have someone who is interested in your property. Give us a call, what have you got to lose?”
I’ve even ended up reporting one well-known high street estate agent (again I will refrain from naming and shaming) for harassment. Not convinced that I didn’t want them to come and do a valuation, the man proceeded to call me every two days to find out how our house sale was going.
The last straw was when he came to the house and posted our details printed from a property website with his business card on the top. There’s pushy, and there’s pushy.
But one day, a letter arrived and after three months of no luck with agent #1, I had a read. It seemed polite, they had some good stats, and they promised to always get back to the seller with feedback the following day (pet hate when you don’t get this after a viewing).
Agent #2 were friendly always trying to think outside of the box (even saying that we weren’t tied to a contract if we felt the relationship wasn’t working, which is unusual at the best of times) – but we had no offers and hardly anyone through the door.
A nation of bargain hunters
Agent #3 is probably the most well-known agent in our area. They have succeeded in regular viewings and finally last we received a new offer, £30k under the asking price. They try to convince us that because we are being offered amounts around £30-40k under the asking price, this is what our property is now worth.
People are looking for a bargain, times are hard, why should we suffer because someone can’t afford what is quite frankly a great investment? Or perhaps we are just being unrealistic. We’ve told them that tomorrow is the last day we will stay on the market and we will try again next year.
One agent responded by saying that it may not be a good idea to take it off because their books were starting to look emptier, therefore there was more chance that properties that have stuck are now starting to sell due to there being less choice.
A day later, an agent from the same branch told me that we should have a good think about accepting the low offer because there were ‘so many other similar properties on the market at the moment’. Quite the different story. Same agency.
The truth in a valuation
I am starting to realise that a valuation means absolutely nothing. The couple who offered last week put the same low offer on a flat that was on the market for around the same amount. The seller accepted this offer.
So it seems while there are people prepared to take way under the asking price because they are desperate to sell, people like us who aren’t so desperate (but would eventually like to move!) will suffer. Who do we believe, the estate agents who tell us to put it on for X amount then two months later tell us to drop it by a whopping £25k, or the people who try and convince us they’ve done their research and they can get something better for less?
As it stands, I am not sure I will ever fully trust an estate agent. But if a standardised set of rules helps bolster the current sluggish housing market, then I am all up for it!