Estate agents play a vital role in our lives, helping us negotiate one of our most important and financially significant experiences. As such, agents come under a lot of scrutiny, and quite rightly.
When an estate agent fails to do their job properly, it can cause immeasurable upset and inconvenience. And because their responsibilities are so wide ranging, complaints about them are equally wide ranging.
Here are 8 of the most common complaints about UK estate agents.
1. Flawed valuation
If an estate agent fails to value your property appropriately, it can knock your selling aspirations off course from the very beginning.
If the value is placed too high, it will be difficult to find interested buyers. If too low, you might miss out on thousands of pounds a better agent could have helped you achieve.
It’s often the case that sellers grow frustrated of not being able to find a buyer so start looking back at the journey so far in search of an explanation, at which point they find themselves reexamining the agent’s initial valuation.
If they discover the valuation was wildly off target, they often lodge a formal complaint, stating that the agent’s apparent incompetence has thwarted their home sale from the very beginning.
2. Slow and poor quality marketing
Once you instruct an agent to sell your home, they should act quickly to get it on the market. Sometimes, however, agents don’t appear to be in any rush whatsoever. This issue can be particularly infuriating if they operate a no-refundable up-front fee pricing model (like Purplebricks) instead of a commission based model.
As well as complaining about tardiness, customers often complain that the standard of marketing materials that the agent creates for their home is lacklustre. This might include the photographs they take for use on portals like Rightmove. If these photos are poorly executed, they can make your home appear far less attractive than it actually is, thus reducing your chances of finding a good buyer.
3. Hidden fees
This is a big one – lots of people complain about agents who suddenly demand you pay for fees that you weren’t expecting. And, most of the time, the reason you weren’t expecting them is because the agent hid their existence from you until it was too late for you to argue.
You can avoid having to complain about an agent’s hidden fees by explicitly asking them to explain, from the outset, every single fee you will need to pay. Get it in writing if you can.
4. Failure to turn up to viewings
This is just pure laziness, or negligence. You’d be amazed by the number of estate agents who simply fail to show up for arranged viewings. This causes inconvenience for both sellers and buyers, and can even cause potential buyers to lose interest in your home and look elsewhere. Why would they want to deal with such a shoddy selling agent, anyway?
5. Introducing tyre-kicking buyers
Another common complaint about estate agents occurs when they keep bringing people to view a property who aren’t serious about buying, or aren’t anywhere close to being in a position to make a serious offer.
An agent might do this because it makes them look good – lots of viewings and ‘interested buyers’ can make it look like they’re driving lots of demand for your home. But if these people aren’t serious about buying, they are a massive inconvenience. They have no value for you, so the agent should be keeping them well away and certainly not giving them tours of your home.
6. Lack of knowledge and communication
General incompetence, that’s what we’re talking about here. It’s common for people to complain that their estate agent is dreadful at staying in touch with them, keeping them in the loop on progress and so on. Such poor communication is disrespectful and does not suggest your agent is working hard for their fee.
And lack of market knowledge, too, is a common complaint. An agent who doesn’t know enough about the local property market is not a good agent. Lack of knowledge means they don’t know how best to market your property and don’t know who to market it to. This can result in your home staying on the market for months on end.
7. Ignoring their client’s best interests
Sometimes, an agent will stop acting in the best interests of their client, and start acting the best interests of themselves. This might manifest itself in their pushing you to accept a lower than expected offer because ‘it’s the best you’re going to get’, when the real explanation is they just want to flog your place quickly, take their cut and move on.
What they should be doing is making sure your home sells for the best possible price for you. Their commission should be a secondary motivation, something that they get only by serving your interests first.
8. Pressure tactics
Finally, one of the most common complaints about estate agents comes when clients feel they are being pressured or intimidated into decisions or actions they do not want to take. The agent is there to serve your interests. It’s important that they advise you on what’s best to do at all stages, but the final decision should be yours and yours alone. If an agent starts pressuring you to do something you’re not sure about, do not do it. Instead, immediately lodge a complaint. You are not paying them to make you feel uncomfortable.