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How to complain about an estate agent.

Prevention is better than cure. Choosing an estate agent is not a decision which should be taken lightly. Selling your home can be a very stressful experience and ideally your estate agent should work to lighten the load. So before we discuss complaint procedures, let’s think about how to choose the right agency in the first place.

How to complain about an estate agent.

Location, Location, Location.

Using a local agency is always an advantage as you will gain instant access to a list of perspective buyers in your area.

Money, Money, Money

It is wise to remember that estate agents fees vary from between 1.00% to 3.00% of the house sale value. Negotiate on this cost before signing any paperwork. Also take into consideration whether you are signing a sole or joint agency agreement.

In the first instance the agreement allows you to advertise the property privately or via the internet and the agency will only claim a fee if they find the buyer. In the latter case, you are free to employ as many estate agents as possible and only the one who finds the buyer will be able to claim a fee.

Finally, more and more agencies are offering a fixed price sales agreement of about 0.5%. Under these circumstances you could be expected to conduct viewings yourself, but this could help save large amounts of money.

Top Ten Complaints

In 2014 the Financial Times ran an article about the top 10 most common complaints regarding Es-tate Agents in the UK. See below:

Sole selling rights/sole agent agreements Valuation tactics - Undervaluing a property to boost cashflow or overvaluing to attract customers before slashing prices. Delay in marketing of property Poor quality photography Hidden fees Failure to turn up to viewings Failure to ensure that potential buyers have funds in place Lack of communication Failure to update website Pressurising sales tactics to use in house mortgage service

I need to complain, what shall I do next?

In the first instance it is advisable to complain to the agency using their internal complaints proce-dure. Estate agencies should have a procedure in place so ask for a copy of this document. You should then carry out the following steps.

  1. Gather together all the information, emails, documents, agreements and letters.
  2. Put a complaint in writing outlining the specific problem
  3. Highlight how you believe this issue can be resolved
  4. Make a note of the person handling your complaint and await for a reply within 15 days.

Time to call the Ombudsman

If the agency does not satisfy your complaint internally you can take up your complaint with one of the following schemes. All agents must belong to one of the schemes but is advisable to ensure your estate agency is a member from the outset.

The Property Ombudsman
http://www.tpos.co.uk/index.php

The Ombudsman Service
http://www.ombudsman-services.org/property.html

Property Redress Scheme
https://www.theprs.co.uk

The above services will only handle a complaint if the agency is registered with their scheme. Fur-thermore you must have written to the agency to inform them of your complaint. If eight weeks has passed and your complaint has still not been satisfied then you should refer your complaint to one of the above schemes.

The agency should also be signed up to the National Association of Estate Agents. All members must hold an indemnity insurance which can pay compensation to both sellers and buyers when a successful claim is made.

In the unlikely event that the estate agent is not a member of either of the above organisations, then it is advisable to contact a solicitor who may suggest going through the small claims court.

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