The NAEA has hit back at claims that agents are secretive about their fees and have "sharp practices" in their contracts.
NAEA president Jan Hytch says the claims - from the HomeOwners' Alliance - are based on highly unusual requests by those conducting the survey, specifically asking agents for no information other than their fees.
Hytch says most agents are happy to disclose fees but as part of a broader explanation of the many services they provide. Therefore the findings of the survey do not reflect the more positive experiences which sellers encounter when selecting agents to sell their homes.
"There are 12,500 estate agents out there doing an extremely good job and the sample used in the survey was small and unrepresentative," says Hytch.
Ironically, the survey's assessment of fees comes as research shows that UK agents' fees are actually low compared to their counterparts in many other countries - see EAT's next story today.
The HomeOwners' Alliance survey, which involved visiting just 150 websites and speaking to only 45 branches, came up with these findings:
- only 2% of estate agents openly mention their fees on their website;
- 82% of estate agent websites make no mention of fees at all;
The alliance also claims there are what it calls sharp practices in unfair contracts including:
- hidden fees charge such as £99 registration fee or marketing incentive fee of £200;
- fees chargeable both to the seller and the buyer.
Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance, says agents are far too secretive about the fees they charge, and too often include blatantly unfair terms and conditions in their contracts. The result is that owners routinely pay thousands of pounds more in fees than they need to, and too often end up in disputes with their agents, adding massively to the cost and stress of moving home.