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Beware property agents who could devalue your home

Don't gamble with the sale of your home.
Don't gamble with the sale of your home.
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Alex Goldstein, independent property consultant, www.alexgoldstein.co.uk

This is the time of year when property stresses and strains start to manifest themselves. In my privileged role, it allows me to witness the inner workings of people’s lives and I can often foresee issues before they come up, or can come to the rescue when needs be.

A great example of this occurred recently when a client approached me to help them sell their property. A beautiful detached house, with all the trappings of a successful business background, such as gated driveway, luxury cars, bespoke kitchen and designer interiors.

At the initial meeting I sensed that they were holding back some important details and gently pressed them to be more open with me. What unfolded was more akin to a TV drama than real life.

It turned out that they had followed the advice of an individual who claimed to be a “property professional” from a new type of agency, who advised that they go straight on to the open market. For the six months the property was for sale, they had just two viewings. Then unfortunately, their business took a downturn and they needed to sell promptly to release the equity.

It turned out that the “property professional” had less than one year’s experience in estate agency, was based over 100 miles away and, thanks to the clever small print in their terms of business, had already been paid the commission upfront. The agent was incentivised and targeted behind the scenes to sign up new clients, not to sell their home.

Their endeavours included a very badly put together brochure with poorly-lit, ordinary photographs, none of which highlighted the lovely exterior. Not only that, but the property appeared expensive on a ‘pound per square foot basis’ as the agent had missed out an entire floor. They had overlooked that there was potential to extend the property and that gaining outline planning permission was a significant value-adding option.

The client was unaware that his home was being undersold. The ineptitude meant that the client had missed valuable marketing time and had exposed the property to the online search portals – which meant that a digital footprint of the sale had been created and could not be deleted. New enquiries would see this and as a result could be put off, as they would query why the property hadn’t sold.

The poor advice not only had an impact on the client, who now had more pressing reasons to sell, but if they didn’t sell in a timely manner, then their children would potentially stand to lose their inheritance to the bank.

The impact and fallout from getting it wrong was far greater than just the house, as it would affect the vendor and their family’s lives.

All it took was one 30-minute meeting with said “property professional” to set them on a road to possible financial ruin.

Having studied their case, I sent the agent packing, secured a refund of their commission, gained outline planning for a value-adding extension, and we exchanged the other week.

There are some agents out there who have great sales speak and claim to know what they are talking about. As far as I’m concerned, it is highly unethical for the inexperienced to just “blag it” with someone’s most important asset, which has often taken years of hard work and dedication to acquire.

The fallout from getting it wrong can be devastating and it is the vendor who has to pick up the pieces. Anyone can claim to be a “property professional”, but a true expert has the experience to back it up.

www.alexgoldstein.co.uk