The Times Article - hit or miss?

Posted on 8 Apr

I can’t help feeling it must have been a slow news day at Times Central. But those agents who read the article could perhaps be forgiven for feeling a tad frustrated and underwhelmed. I was disappointed, starting from the top; “Estate agents duping sellers, Estate agent chains are overvaluing properties by up to a fifth in a practice that can mislead sellers into paying higher rates of commission, an investigation by The Times has found.”

Does this make sense, sellers would surely happily pay a higher commission if it meant getting a higher price, or am I missing something? Added to this is the fact that the extra commission earned on a standard fee of nearer 1.5%, the extra paid is £150 on every £10k – is that really such an issue. 

Overall, and it’s always been the same, an unsatisfactory result tends to be what happens when seller greed, mentioned by the ever objective Anne Ashworth in her follow up comment, meets an unregulated industry, which wasn’t. Reliable comparison of agents is impossible given a plethora of unreliable rating tools, and what rarely gets mentioned is that the vast majority of agents do a good job. The issue of being unregulated and 

unaccountable is not mentioned by NAEA CEO Mark Hayward, and even the lovely Henry Pryor, quoted correctly as a buying agent, doesn’t mention accountability – they may have done but not been quoted on it. He mentions that an asking price is not a valuation but is a marketing gimmick, bit strong and of course most agents describe the process of meeting a potential

seller as a market appraisal. Many sellers [possibly as many as half?] are discretionary and will market at a price that suits them anyway, and aren’t bothered if it doesn’t sell as they don’t pay a penny, it’s the agent that takes the punt and spends the money - again, not mentioned.

The article is perhaps an opportunity missed but will hopefully start a debate. It’s an easy shot at a unique, unregulated industry that deals with people selling their most valuable asset at a time that might be their most emotional. You may be surprised that The Property Ombudsman’s regular survey of consumers, over many years, put satisfaction levels in their estate agent at more than 95%. PR sellers read almost always comes from those with a vested interest, either selling agents or buying agents, and data on what’s happening in the market is both by definition out of date and lacking in objectivity.

Everyone has an opinion on property but as a question later in the same edition of The Times puts it, ‘the cynic is the person who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing’.

-Ed Mead

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