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Agents not living up to stereotypes, journalist admits

A journalist has described the estate agents she has recently dealt with as 'borderline trustworthy' and 'downright agreeable', much to her surprise. 

In an article published in The Financial Times titled: 'Why we should admit we love ‘hateful’ estate agents', which also appeared in The Irish Times, columnist Lucy Kellaway writes that she has recently been spending time with 'everyone's least favourite professionals'.

Her perceptions, however, were not perpetuated by the agents she has recently been working with. 


Kellaway lists four things she previously thought ‘wrong’ with agents – including costs and estate agentese – but then goes on to write that ‘not one of the dozen or so I’ve met from various firms has been more than slightly aggravating’. 

Backhanded compliments they may seem, but Kellaway goes on to write: “On both buying and selling sides they have been civilised.”

“They have been on time for every appointment. They have not tried to push properties at me that are obviously hopeless."


After this she begins to state some of the criticisms regularly levelled at agents in the mainstream press and asks why agents aren’t ‘extinct’.

“Estate agents, who were hated long before Tim Berners-Lee gave up train spotting to invent the world wide web, were always going to be the first to go, come the internet age. Instead the reverse is happening: as I cycled through Islington on my way home the other day I counted 17 estate agent shop windows in one street,” she writes.  

The piece then concludes with the journalist explaining why she thinks it is ‘we really hate estate agents’.

She says that agents ‘are doing something we could do for ourselves’ and asserts that people are at their most irrational when buying or selling properties. 

Yesterday we reported on Elliot Lee, an outer London agency which has been criticised by The Guardian for ‘double-charging’ clients.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Well, of course they're not all bad. We all knew that already. But the stereotype wouldn't exist in the first place if there wasn't an ounce of truth to it. It's like bankers or politicians - they're not all money-grabbing weasels, but some of them definitely are.

    Not all agents are greedy and unscrupulous. In fact, the vast majority aren't. But during my time in the industry I met plenty that were.

  • icon

    'Everyone's least favourite professionals', that's after journalists, I assume?

  • Rob  Davies

    "they have been civilised, bright-ish, borderline trustworthy"

    Damned with faint praise or what? The whole article comes across as a little patronising and sneering, as if estate agents should be praised for being slightly less bad than people think.

    As John says, we could turn all this round on Lucy Kellaway and come out with a load of cliches about terrible, unreliable, make it up as they go along journalists. I'd say, in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry and the phone-hacking scandal that has dogged the Sun and the Daily Mirror, that the stock of journalists is lower than it's ever been.

    Maybe an estate agent should go visit the offices of a newspaper and write an article about the journos not being as bad as everyone thinks. Fair's fair.

  • Karl Knipe

    While more positive coverage for estate agents is always welcomed, some of her compliments do seem a bit back-handed.

    If a member of public shadowed me or one of my team they would be surprised at how much work an estate agent does on a day to day basis. We do long hours, we're not all millionaires, and we genuinely want the best for our clients. These are the things that aren't reported on enough. We're an easy target, an easy scapegoat. I can see why, but that doesn't make it right.

  • Rookie Landlord

    The reason estate agents exist is because selling a house is a process that not everyone can do.

    "And this, I think, is why we really hate estate agents. Because they are doing something we could do for ourselves if we trusted ourselves more, if we were not so afraid of such ginormous sums, and if we were more level-headed about the places where we live."

    Lucy, people have tried swerving estate agents and taking the DIY approach and it's never worked out very well. Estate agency still exists because it's still needed. If it wasn't, it would have become obsolete years ago. To compare travel agents and estate agents is just plain unfair - they offer totally different services. A person can go online and book a holiday within minutes, they can't buy or sell their house in minutes. The internet was always going to spell the end of travel agents, it was never going to do the same to estate agents.

    Yes, you don't need qualifications to be an estate agent (although this is slowly changing) and some in the industry are guilty of acting up to the stereotype, but the vast majority aren't.

    Rather than the internet sucking the life out of estate agency, it's allowed it to thrive, because most high-street agents have embraced technology and used it to their advantage.

    Like anything, estate agents offer a service. If there is not enough demand for that service, it disappears. Clearly, there is enough demand for agents because more and more of them keep springing up.

    I think it's just a hip thing these days, to denigrate estate agents. People just do it out of habit, even if their experiences don't actually match their prejudices.

  • Kelly Evans

    Well said, Rookie! People aren't forced to use estate agents, are they? They do it out of choice.

    If they want to try and sell their house themselves, good luck to them. They'll quickly realise how much work it involves. They'll soon be back to a branch, tails between their legs, asking us to take over.

    Estate agents offer a vital service and charge a proportionate fee for it. This whole idea that people can just go out and do it on their own is a myth that is perpetuated by the media to keep up the stereotype of greedy, evil estate agents screwing their clients over.

    Anyone who thinks being an estate agent is a bed of roses should come join me for a week and they'll soon change their mind!

  • Emma  Mitchell

    An article praising estate agents, hurrah! She's not exactly over-emphatic but to hear that she was pleasantly surprised by agents service really highlights the good work that can be found within the industry! We're not all bad, promise!

  • icon

    No matter how many articles get published supporting estate agents, I don't think the stereotype will ever truly disappear. Unfortunately estate agents now have a reputation that has been tarnished because of the few that don't do their job as well, which is such a shame!

  • Tim Gorgulu

    "On both buying and selling sides they have been civilised"

    Well, thank you, Lucy Kellaway. High praise indeed. I wonder what she was expecting - a load of half-clothed reprobates unable to string a sentence together? It's almost like she was expecting a scene from Lord of the Flies and was disappointed when that wasn't the case.

    Glass houses and stones spring to mind. Maybe Ms Kellaway should be having a look at her own profession - which hasn't exactly covered itself in glory in recent years - before having a go at others.

  • Robert  McKechnie

    Most agents do a great job and don't live up to the negative stereotype perpetuated in the media. I thought this would be common knowledge by now.

    The fact that estate agency hasn't shrivelled up and died since the internet arrived says it all. They've embraced technology and used it to further their businesses. Now, in fact, they're thriving more than ever, as we can see from the number of estate agents on the high street.

  • Neil Briggs

    Wow, some relatively positive coverage for a change. What is the world coming to?

    I also agree with the comments here that journalists probably aren't in the best position to be acting as arbiters of morality given recent events.

  • Jamie  Humm

    I think most people realise that the majority of estate agents do a good, honourable job, but that doesn't fit the media's agenda. They're always looking for an easy scapegoat to blame society's ills on. For some reason, estate agents have taken on that mantle.

  • icon

    There are always going to be good and bad in every profession. It's easily forgotten that agents have a vested interest in making the sale complete which is more than can be said for the failed listing services that take upfront fees.


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