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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;

- a third of agents refuse to give fees to sellers over the telephone;
- two thirds of estate agents insist on doing an in-home valuation before discussing fees;
- fees from under one per cent to 2.5 per cent plus VAT for a sole-agency contract;
- agents often fail to state whether VAT is included in their fee, despite a legal obligation to do so.

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;

- hefty non-refundable deposits of up to £500 if the seller withdraws their property;
- lengthy sole agency lock-ins of nearly half a year compared to some agents that require no more than two weeks' written notice;

- 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.


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    This problem of non-disclosure may happen only in the U.K. It does not occur in the U.S.

    • 02 May 2014 12:35 PM
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    Does the NAEA still exist

    • 13 March 2014 13:29 PM
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    The whole issue over fees is a misnomer. I have no issue discussing fees - but the key is the sale price, not the saving of a fraction of a percentage point. An agent marketing to the whole market will incur much greater costs than one who doesn't advertise properly or fully. In few service industries is the cheapest, the best. It's about the sale price, the service, the ability to avoid abortive costs, qualifying buyers, accompanying viewings, staffing levels and so much more. If you are comparing fees, then you need to compare agents and what they offer, Failing to do so is simply naive. I have heard complaints about agents in sales and lettings where clients have lost out. When asked why they chose that agent, it's often down to fees.

    • 11 March 2014 09:50 AM
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    @ Steve from Leics. The level of service required by the vendor Sell my house ! what you have to do to sell it is down to you, the only thing I want is my house sold quickly and for top price.

    • 10 March 2014 14:21 PM
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    For goodness sake EAT! Please read between the lines and not give them the free exposure to slate agents - they seem to be just an advertising medium.

    • 10 March 2014 12:56 PM
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    Who are Homeownersalliance They seem to be flogging mortgages and conveyancing services. I would love to know how many paid members they have.

    • 10 March 2014 10:38 AM
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    HomeOwners' Alliance are idiots. Ridiculous survey. Good for NAEA/Estate Agent Today for pointing out the stupidity of the survey.

    • 10 March 2014 09:38 AM
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    Did it occur to those who did the survey that not quoting fees up front might be because fees are negotiable and might vary depending on the type of property and the level of service required by the vendor

    There's loads of products and services from all industry sectors where you can't simply ring up or look on line and get a fixed price - not because the companies concerned are colluding to make their pricing a mystery but because the honest answer is "it depends".

    • 10 March 2014 09:30 AM
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    A much better article from Estate Agent Today. I'm not saying that Estate Agent Today should only promote agents, and not put anything negative about them, but recently there has been a complete lack of balance - and far too online agent focused. This puts both sides of the story...

    • 10 March 2014 09:30 AM
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    1. Lock-in terms of more than 3 months are considered a potential unfair term by the OFT.
    2. Why shouldn't agents charge 500 if the seller withdraws; it's a costly business to promote a house for sale. I don't call 500 "hefty".

    • 10 March 2014 08:39 AM
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