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Estate Agents: high fees, poor service - and that's official

We’ve moaned about them for years but at long last we have official confirmation of just how bad they are

An Office of Fair Trading report published this week has slammed estate agents in England and Wales. It found that one in four people (26%) who sold their homes recently were dissatisfied with the level of service they received.

Typical complaints from sellers were:

Estate agents offer poor value for money (38% of those surveyed said this was a problem)

Poor communication by the agent (19% were dissatisfied in this area)

Delays in the sale (about 14% blamed their agents for sales taking longer than expected)

An even larger proportion of buyers (28%) said they were unhappy with estate agents. Their gripes included:

Poor communication from the agent was poor (24%)

About 6% thought the agent was responsible for a prolonged transaction process

Although fewer than one per cent of buyers thought that they had lost a house because their offer was not passed on, this is a particularly serious issue as it represents a potential breach of the law.

The OFT also identified some serious complaints such as failure by agents to pass on offers or declare a personal interest, and suggestions that buyers would be more successful if they used financial services offered by the agent.

How you should fight back

The report found that agents earned an estimated £2.5 billion from the sale of residential property in England and Wales in 2002. But it also claimed that price competition between agents is limited. “At present, there is widespread use of fixed 'pricing points', with the majority of fees being set at quarter-point increments from 1% to 2%,” said the report

Consumers, the report suggests, should shop around more before deciding which estate agent to use. At present only about half of all sellers bother to obtain a quote from more than one agent. Those who did shop around and negotiate fees paid on average 14% lower fees than others. For a property of average value, this represents a saving of about £300.

The OFT said it will launch a consumer information campaign to raise awareness of the savings that can be made by comparing prices between estate agents and negotiating on fees. John Vickers, OFT chairman, said: "There is widespread public dissatisfaction about the market for estate agency services. Necessary change includes sharper price competition, more effective regulation and higher industry standards."

Estate agents will have to clean up their act or face the possibility of having to adhere to a compulsory code of conduct. About time: let's face it, how would you feel about shelling out more than £1,000 for a service where you have a one-in-four chance of being dissatisfied?

The government has 90 days to respond to the report.


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Please note that articles on this site do not constitute regulated financial advice, which recommends a course of action based upon the specifics of your personal circumstances. The articles are intended to provide general personal financial information. We urge you to consult an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) before making any important decisions about your finances. Call 0800 085 3250 for details of IFAs in your local area. Any statement regarding financial services products and tax liability is based on legislation and tax practices as at 1 January 2004, which is, of course, subject to change.The value of any tax benefits or reliefs depends upon the individual circumstances of the investor.When investment performance is mentioned you should remember that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Where products have an underlying investment content, in many cases the value of the investment can fall as well as rise. For with-profit based investments, there is no guarantee as to the level of bonuses that will be declared, if any. Where mortgages or secured loans are explained do remember that your home is at risk if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it. All mortgages are subject to underwriting, status and are not available to people under the age of 18.

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Schedule of Articles

property investing
property refurbishment
buying overseas property
moving house
home letting
buy to let
home improvements

top 10 celebrity areas
6 up & comming areas
5 signs that an area is up & comming
city types yearn for the country in town
your place in the sun
equity release
planning permissions & extensions
estate agents
rent or buy
buy to let
mortgage overpayment
mortgage endowments
mortgage protection
stamp duty
self build your home
electrical surveys
the cost of moving in
the perfect neighbourhood
council tax
house price league
good neighbours
stamp duty land tax
top 20 towns 2003
cut the cost of moving
interest rates
buying in scotland
dream homes
first time buyers
the worth of uk homes
bad estate agents
keeping up appearances
home improvements


Please note that articles on this site & any other 'planning-approval' related web site does not constitute professional advice. All articles are intended to provide a general view of many subjects. We suggest you to consult a solicitor before making any important decisions.  The author is not an expert in any given field.

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