How sellers can suss out less than honest estate agents

How dirty is your estate agent? We congratulate Alex Goldstein on his recent feature in theYorkshire Post about underhand tactics in the industry. The ghost viewing he describes is said notonly on good authority but has been corroborated, so sellers beware. In my experience, underhandmethods have a tendency to become endemic in a declining market.

For some rogue agents, false promises are standard practice. The range spans from well-intended assurances, loosely based on truths, to outright lies.

Sellers would be well advised to accept nothing at face value and to ask their agent to substantiate any wild claims. After all, who would want to entrust the sale of their property to an estate agent whose well-rehearsed and persuasive argument is based on a false premise?

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So, just what are the clichéd lines delivered by those agents eager to cut an on-the-spot deal and how do you check the veracity of the claims?

How to suss out less than honest estate agentsHow to suss out less than honest estate agents
How to suss out less than honest estate agents

“We’ve got a number of cash buyers lined up.” This may indeed be an honest claim, although unlikely in today’s market, so don’t hesitate to ask for identities and details. Exactly how many?

What do you mean by "cash” and are they truly proceedable? If the buyers disappear in a puff of smoke a few days later, there may be a valid explanation but do press the agent to explain.

“We’ve recently sold six properties in your area”. This is easy to corroborate. Ask for more information about precisely where, when, as “recently” means different things to different people, and what prices were achieved?

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Interestingly, fact-checking can work both ways. We the estate agent sometimes need to ask the seller, courteously, of course, to explain their reason for not instructing us when we feel that we have presented the stronger argument.

“We’ve decided to go with the agent that offers national coverage” is a statement that should be met with a spirited response. Misconceptions about local independent agents and their supposed lack of "national coverage” proliferate.

Perhaps we are guilty of not making our case clearer. However, more often than not, the source can be traced to a hapless estate agent and a lazy, throwaway

comment. Occasionally, it can be traced to a very well-informed professional with a cynical pitch.

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The sources are threefold:- It might have been dreamt up by the marketing department of a large corporate estate agency, perilously hanging on to a line of reasoning unchanged in a generation.

“Of course, our national coverage sets us apart from independent agents”. They know as well as we do that the march of progress in conjunction with the unassailable rise of property portals has put an end to such certainties.

More often than not, these empty declarations fall onto deaf ears, but sometimes they cut through and reverberate.

After all, we have to question the presumption that a disparate network of regional offices equates to "national coverage”. Certainly, it doesn’t present a cohesive argument for achieving a stronger sales outcome.

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Finally, it might come from an independent agent who has signed up to a decades-old scam that works on the premise that paying for a space in a Mayfair office will automatically turn their homegrown service global. It does not.

So, let’s picture for a moment a pumped-up Miles Toogood in his Audi A4

Saloon riding down to London, making a few calls from his occasional desk in the W1 office and then persuading his clients in York that by doing so he is facilitating the sale of their townhouse.

In truth, it’s a waste of money, time, resources and energy better spent face-to-face or in close cahoots with the various contributing parties.

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Ok, hands up, Blenkin & Co is partisan, but we do believe that it’s difficult to beat a thriving business that is rooted in the region, independent of thought, and has someone at the helm who values the staff and provides them with agency and freedom.

The independent business is unambiguously motivated to succeed and is able to face financial risks head-on, and without any boardroom squabbling when quick decisions need to be made in volatile markets.

We recognise the strengths of the corporates, nonetheless, and have tended to employ hugely experienced people who have moved over from the corporate sector and thrived in an independent environment.

The corporates may be throwing around big bucks in central office but the independent can now claim national coverage along with the much-vaunted benefit of creative freedom and entrepreneurship.

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We gleefully recall a conversation that took place between a Director of Blenkin & Co and a senior manager of a York office that is part of a national estate agency network.

Immediately following the successful completion of a sale, the latter despondently bewailed: “When my cheque comes in, I have to send it directly to London".

Setting apart the resentment, there was clearly no fire in his belly and a sale meant little more than a slap on the back from his superior. How different it is for

the motivated independents.

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