Estate Agents tricks of the trade

Like all professions, Estate Agents have various tricks of the trade, ranging from the moral grey area to the outright criminal.

Here we list some of the more serious scams and what you can do to prevent them.

The Scam: Deliberate Undervaluing / False Purchasing: The agent undervalues the property. If the seller accepts the slick assurances that this is the best they'll get, the agent quickly buys the property through
a "friend". They then sell it on for its true value making a big profit.

The Antidiote: Get several agents to value the property. They'll do this for free. You can listen to them all happily slag each other off. Those that don't are either well mannered or don't want to throw rocks in the greenhouse ie have something to hide about their own records.

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The Scam: Not passing on all offers: You give the seller's agent a backhander. They hold the property for you while you get your mortgage etc sorted. They don't tell their client about any other offers or interest. A
variation of this is for the agent to open any sealed bids and bin the ones that are better than their briber.

The Antidiote: - If you're selling: Get a friend to put in an offer - or a deliberately high sealed bid - and see if the agent passes this on. Properly recorded, these could prove that the agent is cheating you.

The Antidiote: - If you're buying: You could approach the seller directly for example leaving a note in the door saying "I was just looking at your house again and really do love it. I do hope you're interested in our
offer. We look forward to hearing from (their agent)." That way the agent can't get too angry with you. After all you're not trying to cut them out of anything but are just being keen… Put your phone number on the note, just ihn case.

The Scam: Lying about the property: The sellers' agent will assure you, for example, that planning permission for putting in the swimming pool (that's depicted in the brochure) or whatever - has been obtained. You go
ahead on this basis. If you're lucky you'll have a good solicitor who will spot this and alert you. If not you'll sign up. Once you've signed, then that's the only agreement that counts. What the agent told you is basically irrelevant. They'll claim they told you they'd been mistaken but you wanted to go ahead anyway. You may have some legal redress but only if you're wealthy and have a few years to spare.

The Antidiote: Don't believe the agent's word. Ask for written proof. If they put this in a letter watch out for caveats like "to the best of my knowledge" etc. Also make sure you have a good solicitor. Write to them with the outline of your intentions. Highlight the crucial points and double check it's all been covered.

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