“A man is his own easiest dupe…

…for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.” Demosthenes.  Now I would like to think that I share many characteristics with the 4th century BC Greek statesman and orator; a patrician air, an ability to express contemporary society’s political and cultural proclivities, (ok, Pontnewyyd Social Club may not have absolute parity with the Senate in Athens, but you get the picture) and the prowess to wear a toga and not look like Frankie Howerd (titter ye not). Much of last week’s media reporting of the workings of my fellow property professionals did have me agreeing with The Big D having asked (and had it answered unequivocally), “Are people really that stupid?”  Firstly, I will acknowledge that estate agents and those who brand themselves as property or land agents (don’t think that the difference in title and the tweed suit raises you to a moral high ground), are placed by society as a whole somewhere between journalists, (step forward Ms R Brooks) and politicians, (that would be you, Mr A Blair). Wait a minute, don’t they know each other and didn’t we as a nation elect one of them to lead our beleaguered isle…? I digress.  Being employed by someone to market and hopefully sell their property is a job description akin to murdering their first born son.  Just call me Herod.  I wholly concur that there are some very dubious characters peddling their wares as estate agents, just as there are some very dubious characters peddling their wares as doctors, bankers, politicians and members of the clergy.  We do as a profession generate a quite unique level of opprobrium.  Some of which is deserved.  I do though have to ask who is gullible/desperate/sufficiently intellectually challenged to fall for some of the behaviour? Secondly, is some of this “shocking” behaviour as dastardly as is portrayed? In no particular order, examples cited in last week’s papers:

  •  Staging a two hour open viewing with the aim of pushing buyers into making higher offers.  What a load of bollocks and a minute’s consideration of the rationale involved clearly determines this.  Open house viewings are invariably held at empty properties and in my experience, 85% of the viewers are there because they have nothing better to do, fancied a nose around and are a TWOFT.   Open viewings are legitimate and have their place, but time restrictions do not push people into increasing their offer.  It isn’t a game show where you have to answered the question before the commercial break.
  • Non refundable deposits to filter out those potential buyers who are not serious.  This is genuinely appalling. Ballsy of the agent but you really would have to have been short-changed on the grey cells to agree to this.
  • Introductory fees forced on potential buyers.  Again, appalling, but who in the name of the good Lord, (other deities are available) would allow themselves to be “forced” into doing this?
  • An agent stating that a property is only available to cash buyers – and demanding proof.  A cash-only policy is a definite no-no, but any professional agent who is working for the best interests of their client – the vendor- should be requiring proof of funds before wasting everyone’s time and depleting the emotional bank of hope and enthusiasm.  There is a world of difference between an agent congratulating themselves and crowing to their client about the huge number of viewings booked for their property when none of those viewing have the funds even for the deposit, and a select, smaller number of viewings by those whom the agent knows have the financial means to make the purchase.
  • Getting unnecessary planning consent for extensions in order to boost asking prices.  Why shouldn’t a vendor do this?  Who is that deems the consent to be, ‘unnecessary’?  People viewing a property that they think may in its current condition be slightly small for their planned expanding family may make the purchase if they know that planning has been granted for an additional bedroom and bathroom.  Planning consent merely broadens a vendor’s potential market.  What isn’t there to be commended in such a move?

If a potential vendor or purchaser believes that an estate agent is trying to mug them off, then they should walk away.  No one could campaign on the ticket that there is a shortage of estate agents. “Caveat emptor” is applicable to all parties; and to paraphrase The Big D, those who get mugged off have usually allowed themselves to be treated as such with a certain word tattooed across their forehead.