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Estate agents have a pretty notorious reputation. They’re up there with politicians and marketers in opinion polls as one of the least trustworthy professions in the UK.
One of the common myths of ‘estate agent tricks’ is that agents make up viewings - or hire professional house viewers. The idea behind this is that estate agents want to reassure their home seller that they are marketing their home effectively, so that a homeseller doesn’t switch to another agent. Because high street estate agents are paid once a house is sold, if a homeseller switches to another agency, the original agent loses their fee.
But is there actually any basis to this myth? Do estate agents really make up visits by potential buyers?
Below we look deeper into how to deal with estate agents when selling, what to expect from viewings, the legality of fake house visits, and what to do if you suspect your agent may be making up viewings.
If it’s your first time going through the selling process, it’s easy to feel unsure about what’s ‘normal’. You probably don’t know how many house viewings it takes to sell a property on average, or whether potential buyers will want to see your home more than once off the top of your head. Having a sense of these things will help you figure out how well (or how badly) your estate agent is performing.
On average you should expect 15 to 18 people to view your house before it sells.
However, there is some regional disparity. Research has found that properties up North generally have fewer viewings before they are sold. If you live in Carlisle, for example, you can expect closer to 8 potential buyers looking round.
In contrast, properties in London will have significantly more. This is in part because of how house prices vary by area, and also due to the number of active buyers in each neighbourhood.
This roughly equates to two or three viewings a week. Though in reality you’re likely to get more viewings early on, and fewer later. If you’re getting about this amount, your sale is on track. If you’re getting significantly fewer viewings than this it’s time to get your estate agent to reevaluate their marketing strategy.
If you’re getting significantly more, your property is probably one of the lucky few that are in high demand in your local market. If your house is competitively priced, well-presented, and you’re close to a good school or commuter links, it’s more likely that your home is in high demand than that your estate agent is faking viewings.
Make sure you’re on top of your estate agent’s performance. Our listing monitor shows whether you’re getting the right number of viewings, and predicts when you should expect to sell your home by. Check it out now.
Technically, it’s not illegal for an estate agent to make up viewings. But, it does go against the rules of the major estate agent redress and regulation services.
Most estate agents are members of the The Property Ombudsman scheme, and the National Association of Estate Agents (aka. the NAEA). Being a member is a sign of legitimacy. Not being a member suggests an agent is untrustworthy.
The Property Ombudsman scheme works to independently resolve disputes between estate agents and the people who use their services, if a problem should arise. If a member estate agent does not follow the rules laid out by the scheme, they will be expelled by the scheme, and the home seller/buyer will receive compensation.
The Property Ombudsman states in their Code of Practice (which must also be followed by NAEA members too) that estate agents ‘should not seek business by methods that are dishonest, deceitful, manipulative, or involve misrepresentation.’
It would be pretty hard to argue that fake viewings aren’t ‘dishonest’ or a misrepresentation.
Before you enlist an estate agent, make sure they are a member of at least one of these redress schemes.
Because of these regulations, it’s very unlikely that a legitimate estate agent would attempt to make up viewings. The damage that being expelled from the Property Ombudsman Scheme would do to an agency’s reputation is a huge deterrent; you can’t keep business if you’re no longer able to attract customers.
And, despite their reputation, many estate agents do genuinely care about their clients and the local community within which they work.
A good thing about the regulation and redress schemes that monitor the property market is that they provide a formal avenue to make a complaint.
If your estate agent is a member of the Property Ombudsman scheme or the NAEA, and you suspect that they are making up viewings, you can seek redress with the following process:
Your first port of call should be to talk to your estate agent. Ask them to provide you with feedback on each viewing, and discuss with them the best ways to market your property. If you’re unhappy with the number of viewings you’re getting, or suspicious that you’re getting too many, have a frank conversation with your agent. If you have proof that they are fabricating viewings (for example cctv footage) confront them directly.
If you continue to feel like your agent is untrustworthy, and are unsatisfied with their response, you should make a formal complaint.
Every estate agency should have a formal complaints procedure. Usually this involves putting your complaint in writing for the manager via email, or a set complaints form. The estate agency will then have a formal obligation to respond within a set period of time. If they do not, or you are not happy with their response, you can then escalate the complaint to the Property Ombudsman.
The Property Ombudsman acts as an independent moderator in disputes between homesellers and estate agents. Once you submit your complaint, they will begin an investigation into the conduct of your estate agent’s and decide on the best way to proceed.
After the Property Ombudsman investigation is complete they will decide upon an appropriate resolution. In many cases if misconduct is discovered the homeseller will receive some nominal compensation.
If you believe your agent is making up viewings you may also wish to consider switching to a different estate agent. For more information about how to go about this, check out our blog post.
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