A central London buying agent says she was once offered a bribe by an estate agent to try to persuade a client to submit a larger offer on a property for sale.
The claim is made by Nathalie Hirst, the long-standing head of her own buying agency; she says that despite her clients’ admiration for the house in question, she made them aware immediately and walked away from the sale.
Hirst says buying agents - who tend to operate only at the highest end of the market - can help protect the public from rogue estate agents.
She says the vast majority of estate agents are good ones but admits “issues of professionalism and ethics are prevalent” and suggests that inexperienced agents do not have the appropriate knowledge on subjects ranging from money laundering and data protection to the basics of what’s happening in the local market.
“A good buying agent can help protect buyers from unprofessionalism” says Hirst, who has welcomed recent government announcements outlining the need for sales agents to have qualifications before setting up business, and other measures attempting to make transactions more transparent and less vulnerable to fall-throughs or gazumping.
She says she is often approached by frustrated buyers who have had unpleasant experiences dealing with estate agents.
For example, she says one potential client had bought a very expensive house in London through a sales agent.
On the day his family moved in, they discovered a tube line ran immediately under the garden, which caused it to rumble quite significantly. The surveyor did not pick up on the issue and the agent did not disclose it to the new owners.
Consequently, the buyer sued them both and then resold the house at a financial loss.
“This is a classic example of what can go wrong. If the estate agent had disclosed the hidden tube from the outset, his business would not have suffered the financial nor reputational loss” she says.