AS someone who has worked in estate agencies for more than 20 years, I have seen so many tricks of the trade.
They range from the downright scandalous and corrupt to the little tricks to create some interest from buyers. The task of buying a house can be one of the most stressful things in life, even topping having a baby or getting a divorce.
So it’s no wonder that estate agencies, in a high-pressure selling environment, can become hotbeds of drama.
My best advice is try to get a second opinion. And always see a property for yourself to avoid any of the pitfalls.
Complimenting your property
WHEN estate agents visit to value your property they will use their sales patter.
One method is to tell you that you have an attractive property in an area that is sought after, with many buyers already lined up.
You must use your own judgment to decide whether this is the case or not, because it is an often-used tactic for an agent to land a client.
Showing you perfect pictures
IT is very rare you will see any photographs in a brochure that have not been digitally enhanced in some way.
Pictures are taken on a wide-angle lens to give the impression of larger rooms.
Photographs outside the home are usually Photoshopped to give a clear blue sky – offering a cleaner, smarter image.
Undervaluing your property
I WAS once aghast to see a colleague dramatically undervalue a property for an elderly woman, then step in and buy it for himself.
This is totally illegal. But I have seen it happen, so I’m sure it must occur elsewhere.
If you’ve got rogue agents willing to exploit the system, then this can happen to anybody.
Saying they have financial services
BY law, estate agents cannot force you to use their company’s financial services.
But this shady practice is used by some underhand agents.
When they do this, they are lining their own pockets with kickbacks, while restricting you to their adviser – who may not necessarily have the best advice for you.
The dodgy discount
MAKE sure incentives are what they say they are.
One estate agent I worked for had an incentive scheme where they gave a £1,000 discount to a buyer when they bought a house through them and used their financial services and solicitors. But in fact the £1,000 was passed on to the vendor, who swallowed up the cost in the house sale.
They often unknowingly agreed to this when they first signed paperwork when they allowed the estate agents to work on their behalf.
Telling buyer lots of viewings
POTENTIAL buyers are in a stressful position right now.
Houses are being snapped up quickly as homes are in demand.
But even if they weren’t, an estate agent could still say they’d had a lot of interest to pressure you into putting in a quick offer.
It can make house-buying incredibly stressful. But there will be other houses, and you will find another home you love.
As you view more, you will get a better feel for knowing when you want to make a quick offer. Don’t do it because you feel pressured.
Overvaluing your property
IF a vendor approaches a couple of estate agents for valuations of their property, it can be easy to fall for the sales patter and go with the agent giving you the highest valuation.
Some estate agents will give a higher, false valuation to attract your business – but be careful.
If the price is too high then you will only end up reducing it later.
You could even put off potential buyers who may not be looking at homes in a higher price bracket – leaving your house on the market for longer.
Being mates with investors
IF an investor is interested in a property, I have seen agents accept backhanders for the sale to go their way.
Of course, this type of behaviour is illegal and goes against an estate agent’s code of practice.
There is not much you can do to protect yourself from such underhand behaviour.
Do your best to talk to several agents to find one you are comfortable with.
Buddying up with potential buyer
IF there are several people interested in buying a property, there can be a “lean” towards a buyer who is planning to use all the agent’s financial services – mortgage adviser and solicitor.
That buyer might get preferential treatment or insider knowledge about what’s going on with the sale.
Of course, this is not allowed, so I wouldn’t recommend taking up a firm’s financial services just to win over an estate agent, as it should not happen in the first place.