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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Countrywide, Connells accused of pressuring buyers over mortgages

A magazine claims its investigations into the sales tactics of Countrywide and Connells suggest the two agency are “harming consumers, stopping them from getting the best deals and even causing house sales to collapse.”

The magazine, Mortgage Strategy, also recently carried a specific allegation that one office of a Countrywide brand - Palmer Snell, in Taunton - pressured two customers to use their preferred mortgage broker.

Now the magazine says it has found “dozens of cases of customers across the UK being pressured or ordered to use estate agents’ in-house mortgage and conveyancing staff, sometimes before being allowed to view or put offers in on houses.”

The magazine adds while some smaller agencies are guilty of the practice, “mortgage brokers mainly link the practice to branches of large estate agents such as Countrywide, its brands Entwistle Green, Palmer Snell and Bairstow Eves, as well as Connells, its subsidiary Sequence and trading names Fox & Sons and William H. Brown.” 

Mortgage Strategy says that since it ran the Palmer Snell Taunton story, nearly 20 people have come forward to report similar instances of that it calls “pressurised selling.”

It goes on to explain that such practices may mean consumers not being able to access the best mortgage deals - “Connells and Countrywide both operate restricted panels, and would not reveal their lenders when asked” it says - in addition to the problem that many buyers feel obliged to stay ‘in house’ if they think it improves their chance of securing the property they want to purchase.

“Mortgage Strategy has been contacted by four former Countrywide advisers who said this was policy at their branches during their employment. All said buyers were told to talk to the in-house mortgage adviser about finance or their offer would not be put forward” says the story.

The magazine also says: “William H Brown was brought up several times over an incentive where homebuyers get a £1,000 discount on the property price if they use the firm’s preferred mortgage broker and conveyancer.”

Estate Agent Today has asked both Countrywide and Connells for comments.

A Countrywide spokeswoman told Estate Agent Today: “Our company policy is committed to putting our customers at the forefront of the services we offer and we pride ourselves in our ability to support buyers and vendors through the complexities of the property purchase process.”

In addition, she says the firm vets buyers to make sure they are able to buy the houses they show interest in. She adds that more than 92 per cent of Countrywide customers would refer the firm to a friend if asked.

A Connells spokeswoman told EAT: “Connells Group offers customers a class-leading range of products and services which are entirely optional. There is no pressure to use them and we treat all customers equally regardless of whether they opt to use additional services or not.”

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  • Rob Hailstone

    Surely persuasive 'arm twisting' like this has been going on for years (and I am not referring to any particular estate agent when I say that) and is still widespread? I received the email below only last week:

    "My daughter is looking to buy her first property. She has a mortgage offer in principle through a family friend that is, ironically, also an ex Xxxxxx (estate agent) adviser.

    Xxxxxx (same agent) have two potentially suitable properties on their books. They have been trying to push their own mortgage adviser and first tried to tell my daughter that a family friend could not be trusted to come up with the best offer for her (I would have thought it the reverse personally), and then said that if she made an offer which only matched an offer made by someone else then, obviously, they would go with the people who had been checked out by their own mortgage adviser."

    The question is, when does too much persuasion become an incorrect amount of 'arm twisting'?

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    An investigation by the FSA is long, long overdue. Connell has always used the ‘bait’ of getting the house to use Connells Mortgage Services. Back in the day of Endowment policies and now non regulated products in addition to their ‘extortionate’ conveyance charges where they take margin on everything that is part of the process. It is a scandal that has been unchecked for years and needs appropriate sanctions for contravention.

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    This practice has been going on for years and due to a lack of focus on their main job role, which is to market and sell property, revenues have fallen as a result and the pressure is then on to attract revenue from other streams albeit in an unprofessional manner. however lets not forget the new home builders, it would be a good idea for estate agent today to send out some under cover reporters to some of theses national house builders and pose as would be buyers. Express an interest in a plot and let them know that you have your mortgage already agreed and then see how easy or receptive they are for you to reserve the plot without being pressured in to using their mortgage service and yes they will more than likely offer you an incentive to see their mortgage people.

    estate agents are in a weak position currently and whilst I do not sympathise with them lets see if estate agent today can investigate the new home developers and report their finding next month.

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    Connells are part of the Skipton Building Society-a mutual and who should know better-that’s if they even are aware of these sharp tactics.Venor paying £1000 to ensure the agent gets FS commission -is it even legal ?

  • Kit Johnson

    This is about Countrywide and Connells using strong arm tactics to sell other products attached to the house selling and buying process, without doubt targeting staff to sell such products regardless of the benefits or otherwise to buyer or seller.

    In other news, Pope Francis admits to having "sympathies" with the Catholic Doctrine.

    Evidence has been found that Bears have been using woodland for defecation purposes.

  • jeremy clarke

    Surely an agent's duty means that the agent is employed to get the best price for a seller? If there is a £1,000 floating around which the buyer gets then how has the seller got the best price?
    Fiduciary duty means that an agent must be transparent with his principal (seller) and divulge any monies or other incentives earned as a result of the seller's instruction to the agent -do all the sellers know about the £1,000??

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    Thanks independent mortgage strategy mag ha!

    I worked for countrywide for 18 years, they are no different to any company selling any product, in fact they could of been a lot more focused on selling all the products they offer. Some offices booked a few mortgage appointments month, some none!! pressuring buyers, really?

    btw they can use any lender beside the likes of woolich and HSBC (when i left anyway) , however they have a panel they get exclusive rates with but are not tied too.

    The beauty of countrywide mortgage services is the consultants are paid the same commission regardless of which lender appose to an IFA who may get £500 commission from one lender and maybe £1500 from another, which one would would you get advise from?

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    I think you’ve missed the point Chris. This is about a buyer being lead to believe their chance of getting the house is enhanced by using the agents mortgage service. It is that misinformation which is wrong and perpetuating poor standards across the industry.

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    No i didn't miss the point! I only ever witnessed Countrywide offering better exclusive mortgages the majority of the time then small firms of IFAs and the client always went with the best rates, it never had anything to do with enhancing the chances of getting a house! however I witnessed poor standards from IFAs using the 'Knowing the client card' on occasion even know they are costing the client more a month! now that is poor standards surely?!

     
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    Perhaps a few sellers should be contacted to inform them of such tactics being employed by their agent when they should treat all buyers equally?

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    I work for one of the mentioned agents in London and can guarantee you that we do not ‘force’ people to use our mortgage advisor. As a company, we wrote an incredible amount of business last year for mortgage lenders which means that we get exclusive rates - most notably a NatWest business/private client who thought he had the best deal only for our advisor to trump that deal by £80 a month with a NatWest exclusive product.

    Deal with your clients how you expect to be dealt with, and they’ll do business with you

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    Like Connells was ever anything more than a cover to flog financial services and bolt on's...dear oh dear this is news from 1995!

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