What is portal juggling?
Portal juggling is a method used by estate agents to delist a property and put it back on the market a few weeks or months later, to make it look like a brand new property listing.
There are, of course, many genuine reasons for taking a property off the market before re-listing again, such as during the quiet season over Christmas. However, it is when properties are being taken off the market and put back on over such short periods of time that alarm bells start ringing and concerns over portal juggling become evident.
Why is portal juggling so ‘bad?’
Portal juggling has been labelled a scam because ultimately, buyers are being misled and given the impression that a property is new to the market when it is not. It can also limit the buyer’s potential ability to negotiate a lower price when buying a house, as the property can seem as if it has only been on the market for a short amount of time.
Buyers and tenants make important decisions when it comes to finding a new home, which is why it has become an offence for agents to misdescribe the condition or status of a property. This includes the length of time the property has been listed for sale or rent, making it an offence under the Consumer Protection Regulations Act.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team confirmed that portal juggling is an illegal act and one that could lead to prosecution. Removing and re-listing a property can falsely inflate sales statistics, and some estate agents have been giving the impression that they have 10 times more property listings than they actually have on the market. This is not only falsely advertising the property, but it can also mean that in certain areas, asking prices for property can become skewed.
As a result, this type of deceit constitutes as an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 due to the illegal and dishonest nature of the scam.
How do you spot a ‘juggled’ property?
During the stress of moving house and buying a new home, it can be quite difficult to spot a juggled property unless you’re constantly watching property portals for similar listings. More and more estate agents are using dedicated software to search portals for similar or duplicate listings to identify properties that are being juggled.
Rightmove has rolled out a new policy to help combat the issue of portal juggling. Now, instead of the previous two-week period, a sales property that has previously been listed on Rightmove cannot be re-listed as new within 14 weeks of it being removed. The change is to ensure that buyers are seeing accurate property listings, with improved technology that can identify relisted properties more accurately.
Whilst estate agents and platforms such as Rightmove and Zoopla are doing all that they can to reduce portal juggling, there are a few things you can do as a buyer or seller:
• Review the listing history on a portal
• Keep an eye on property email alerts to see how often the same property is popping up
• Ask estate agents about the marketing history of a property
What are the consequences of portal juggling?
Those who disregard the severity of portal juggling may be subject to review by the Ombudsman’s disciplinary panels, and false representations of property listings that have been made by estate agents, could also fall under the Fraud Act 2008.
NTSEAT team leader, James Munro warns, “estate agents involved in portal juggling may be breaking the law, which could lead to enforcement action from local Trading Standards authorities and prosecution.”
If you suspect portal juggling on any properties you have seen, be sure to speak to the estate agent listing the advertised property and contact Citizens Advice to report the issue.