The chief executive of online agency easyProperty says the money laundering scandal exposed in Channel 4’s ‘From Russia With Cash’ would not happen with online estate agents because the commissions they earn are uniform and low.
Rob Ellice says the traditional agency process of charging a percentage commission of a sale means the more expensive the property, the more agents earn “and some traditional estate agents ... use unscrupulous tactics to sell properties no matter what the cost.”
He says it is too often the case that reports of what he terms “corrupt” high street estate agents doing whatever is necessary to maximise commissions, regardless of the implications. “But bad practices, including high commission percentages and hidden property fees, reflect badly not just on those ‘corrupt’ estate agents but on everyone. Transparency and fairer pricing is needed to overhaul the industry” he says.
He says online agents offering transparent flat fees are “demystifying” the sales and letting process, empowering owners and buyers “so they can now challenge this unacceptable behaviour.”
And Ellice insists that “flat and transparent fees promote ethical practice and remove any incentive to prioritise one property over another for large commissions like we saw in Channel 4’s documentary.”
“We have strict anti-fraud policies in place, as should all agents. At easyProperty, every property and tenant is subject to numerous fraud checks and all inbound phone calls are also qualified through various security checks” says Ellice.
“While it would be impossible to say that every person with fraudulent intentions will be caught at this stage, the strong values and ethical practices promoted at easyProperty ensures that behaviours such as those observed in From Russia With Cash will never eventuate.”