The consumer affairs correspondent of The Times has savaged High Street estate agents because of the commission they charge when compared to online rivals.
Andrew Ellson has written that he was shocked at the commission rates when he was asked by family members to help sell two properties recently, one in Cornwall and the other in London.
His short piece in the paper referred to “the gargantuan fee” levied by one agent, whose absence of even a “basic level of professionalism” was evident as he “appears to spend more time buckling up his Burberry jacket than researching the market.”
Ellson goes on to say that the absence of regulation and minimum standards in the industry mean that agents “have fewer qualifications than bricklayers” and are “charging fees that would make a senior barrister blush.”
The piece has, inevitably, generated comment on Twitter with one property industry figure saying it was surprising that Ellson repeatedly asked for quotes from traditional agents if he felt online operators were so much more reasonable. However, another commentator said the piece threw up examples of “shockingly bad” service.
Here’s the piece in full:
No one in their right mind would consider paying anyone thousands of pounds to sell their car yet in the property market, this remains a reasonable suggestion.
In the past month, I’ve been asked by family members to help sell two properties and it’s shocking how much traditional estate agents still ask for in commission despite the advance of online competition.
One London agent wanted £16,500 to sell a home it valued at £550,000. The agent said the property would sell easily, perhaps forgetting that this meant he would be doing very little to justify his gargantuan fee.
The truth is the property won’t sell easily, particularly at that valuation, because the market is stagnating. An identical flat just yards away priced at £50,000 less hasn’t sold in months.
The agent might have known this if he’d bothered to check Rightmove first. However, that basic level of professionalism was too much for a man who appears to spend more time buckling up his Burberry jacket than researching the market.
It’s no surprise, really. Estate agents are not professionals — they don’t have to do a day of training or pass a single exam before setting up shop. They have fewer qualifications than bricklayers. Sadly that doesn’t stop them from charging fees that would make a senior barrister blush.
The problem is not confined to property hotspots like London and the southeast. In Cornwall, I was trying to help sell a property valued at £400,000.
The first agent, who wanted a £7,600 commission, failed in a fortnight to show up to take photos. The only other credible agent wanted £10,000 and there was no negotiating. When I pointed out I could employ a highly trained local solicitor for almost a month for the same money he said he had expensive “marketing overheads”. Yet these are the same overheads faced by online estate agents who charge a flat fee of £700.
In vain did I point out that the last time I sold a property myself, I used an online estate agent who charged just £495 and that within weeks I got a buyer offering more than any traditional agents’ valuation.
Quite why old-fashioned agents think they can stick to their ludicrous charging structure in the face of online competition is a mystery. In the absence of legislation, it’s down to all of us to shun them until they follow the rest of the high street into the 21st century.