Monday’s Daily Mail headline about an estate agent attempting to fleece a dying gentleman out of the thick end of a million pounds did nothing to enhance the professional reputation of our industry. London-based Bargets had written to Mr Owen Hill who owned a property in St John’s Wood, claiming that their agency had a ‘genuine buyer’ interested in buying his home. Under the erroneous impression that the letter had been written to him personally, he contacted Bargets who dispatched Mr Malcolm Collins to visit Mr Hill in person. According to court documents, Mr Hill was in a ‘fragile and vulnerable physical and mental condition’, [sic] and was deliberately misled and exploited by Mr Collins, who failed to carry out a valuation merely asking the gentleman how much he wanted for the property and failing to point out that the answer he recieved was substantially lower than its market value. Further more, he then contacted his brother-in-law to buy the property at the reduced rate. Following a year long legal wrangle orchestrated by a number of concerned neighbours, the matter was settled out of court, with the agency’s insurers meeting the costs of the case. Initially, Mr Collins was allowed back into the Barget’s fold, but this was rescinded when his boss/the owner of the agency was door stepped by a national newspaper with one of the largest readerships. Profuse apologies were offered coupled with a fervent claim that no such nefarious behaviour would ever happen again. Uh-huh. Mr Collin’s and his behaviour were only denounced when he and more appositely his employer, were publicly outed. Firstly, none of us have squatting rights on the moral high ground, but such shenanigans are indefensible. This behaviour rightly gives our industry a bad name. A poll released last year showed that estate agents rank fifth on a series of professions the public doesn’t trust – just below bankers, politicians, journalists and car salesmen. Illustrious company indeed. Why do people regard us with such distaste? Stories such as the one above are evidence enough, but in our time-poor, property obsessed society, we are a necessary evil. Of course anyone can sell their house themselves, saving a considerable amount in fees, but this is time-consuming and requires a certain amount of savvy. We are professional salespeople who serve a useful function; of course we are there to make money for ourselves but also to get the best price for somebody’s property. Like any good deal, a house sale should benefit all parties. The story mentioned above raises some pertinent pointers for those venturing into the shark infested waters of property selling:
- Any letter claiming that an agency has someone who wants to buy your house-yes, your particular house- not anyone else’s, is to put it politely, propaganda. Interest in the area is one thing, a list of ten proceedable people who want your house and only your house is akin to my claiming that I had to get out a restraining order against Miss Minogue.
- Unless you as the vendor have to sell your house by a week on Friday, always be conscious that an agent who comes in quickly with a low, but very proceedable offer that they are pushing you to accept may have some ulterior motive or connection lurking in the background. Always remember that your agent should, (having discussed the parameters of the sale) be working to get you the best price, not necessarily the quickest sale.
- An agent must always declare an interest if a property is bring purchased by them or a family member.
- The world is full of shysters, regardless of the profession. Various world religions are evidence of this.