A magazine which earlier this year claimed that two big corporates pressured customers to use their preferred mortgage brokers has now published comments alleging that the problem is widespread across many agencies.
In March we published allegations made in Mortgage Strategy that some Countrywide and Connells branches had been identified as engaging in the practice, which the magazine said was “harming consumers, stopping them from getting the best deals and even causing house sales to collapse.”
Mortgage Strategy published clear details of an incident involving a customer in the Taunton branch of a Countrywide brand, Palmer Snell.
In statements to EAT at the time both agency groups said they supported buyers through transactions but did not press them to use preferred brokers.
However, Mortgage Strategy’s letters on the issue - published over the weekend - suggest many agencies are doing similar things.
One reader of the publication, Chris Hulme, wrote: “Countrywide is not alone in this practice of refusing to forward offers until such demands are met. It is rife in the industry, and seemingly without any check mechanism.”
Another correspondent, Tom Marcer, claimed: “From my experience, this practice is more widespread than just one branch.
“Some of my clients have had extreme pressure put on them to use the in-house adviser, and have been in fear of losing the property they want if they do not use their financial services.”
Nicky Young contacted the magazine to say: “Unfortunately this behaviour is not just limited to Countrywide and not just to Taunton.
“I have been a mortgage adviser for more than 20 years and I have heard this and other stories from many of the estate agents in the areas that I have covered over this period. It is a lot more common than this article would suggest.”
Yet another correspondent, David Mallett, wrote: “Yes, it seems pretty widespread and is getting worse. I thought there was a legal obligation for estate agents to put forward all offers to vendors, regardless.”
And a final contributor, Martin Fairchild, made a more sweeping criticism of agents: “Estate agents’ financial advisers are trained in the dark art of commission and bonus earning, just like their estate agency homies are.
“They should be hauled over the coals, fined very heavily and be unauthorised from the industry in my mind. Estate agents are the least qualified in the whole process and yet earn more than brokers and solicitors.”
At the time of the original allegations in Mortgage Strategy 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 said the firm vets buyers to make sure they are able to buy the houses they show interest in.
A Connells spokeswoman told EAT at the time: “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.”