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Graham Awards


Warning over reservation fees in the Modern Method of Auction

A member of a prominent legal network is warning buyers and their conveyancers to be ”wary” of the Modern Method of Auction because of the fees attached to the process.

A member of the Bold Legal Group - an information exchange service whose members conduct around a third of all property conveyancing in the UK - has issued the warning.

It says: “We are coming across more and more properties being dealt with in this manner and there are a few well known estate agencies where this is becoming the norm. 


“Clients and their lawyers really need to be wary as buyers pay a non-refundable ‘reservation fee’ – usually a percentage of the purchase price. 

“Many clients do not realise this is an extra payment on top of what they have agreed to pay for the property and I suspect nearly all will not realise that this sum will need to be taken into account in the calculation of the stamp duty payable.”

The warning appears from the unnamed conveyancer in a BLG newsletter to members.

Modern Method of Auction allows buyers to bid on a property online with a long completion timescale - rival purchasers may have up to 30 days before the end of the bidding - giving the eventual buyer time to sort mortgage finance. 

However, once the online hammer falls, the buyer must pay a substantial non-refundable reservation fee: this can be several thousands of pounds and can, depending on the property price, attract stamp duty.

This fee, hitherto attracting little publicity, has prompted a number of concerns from consumer bodies and some agents.

The HomeOwners’ Alliance has written a major report on the process, describes the world of online auctions as “murky” and says the reservation fee - which it claims can be £5,000 - is little-known and “goes straight to the auctioneers and estate agent.”

IAM Sold, the country’s largest MMA operator which works with 1,900 estate agency branches, says the HomeOwners’ Alliance report highlights “confusion from buyers and sellers, and evidently, not enough transparency from some agents.”

Late last year IAMSold revealed that on a £19m turnover in the financial year to the end of October it generated £10.6m for agent partners based on 3,300 completed sales. 

It also said its annual customer survey showed an 87 per cent recommend rating from consumers and an average nine out of 10 in its annual service review by partner estate agents.

Poll: Modern Method of Auction - are the fees clear enough to buyers?


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    Modern Method of Auction is likely keeping a number of High Street agents afloat. Why offer a NSNF full service for a grand when you can get minimum £2500 via auction? Pretty soon most of these auctions will go online only (virtual room auctions), agents should then be asking why the supplier gets £2500 when all they do is stick the property online.

  • Richard Copus

    As I have mentioned before, the TPOS, Powys trading standards and their legal department are currently looking into the so-called modern method. Their main concerns are as follows:
    1. The auctioneers/sub-agents taking instructions, whilst negotiating a low or no vendor's fee are not making it clear that such a high buyer's premium will adversely affect to a material degree the amount a buyer is prepared to pay for the property and they will receive less than they would do with none or a nominal buyer's admin charge payable as is traditionally the case;
    2. The auctioneers/sub agents are not making it clear that some would-be bidders will not participate in auctions with high buyer's fees (see blogs online to see what people really think about this and their reactions) which means that there will often be fewer bidders resulting in a lower price being obtained and that the property is less likely to reach the reserve price.
    3. They are concerned that the non-refundable buyer's fee is extortionate in many cases and is clearly high to pay for the non-auctioneer sub-agents who often carry out all the marketing.
    4. They are concerned that buyers feel forced into paying these high premiums or they will lose the property they have set their hearts on.

    So far, there would appear to be no contractual bar to what "modern" method are doing. However, from a practice viewpoint it is clear that (1) and (2) above are not being complied with in most cases when taking instructions which is a breach of the Provision of Information Regulations and they are looking at whether the amount of the buyer's premiums should be reduced to a more fair and acceptable level.

    If there are any solicitors reading this, please could you get in touch with me via Estate Agent Today.

    PS: Property Pundit: There's nothing wrong with online auctions, we all do it, just the way it is being done. Conditional auctions run alongside Traditional auctions all the time, it is just the way the "modern" method (which should more accurately be called the "alternative" method) runs which is in question. The elephant in the room is: Why do Modern Method auctioneers need to get others to gain their instructions when traditional auctioneers have no problem doing it themselves?


    Maybe we should just call it the 'large non-refundable reservation fee method of auction'. Agree 100% with your post.


    Hi Richard,
    I have just posted on this site regarding my experience. Could you look over it please and give me some feedback. I am aware I have uncovered some quite mucky dealings and need to know how to proceed


    Hi Richard

    I have a property to sell, and the Estate agent is guiding me to this modern sale of auction. Reading the comments on this page, is this something I should be wary of



    I AM SOLD have just added a reservation fee to a house i wanted to put an offer on off £12,180 i cannot see how the v endors estate agent/auction House fees can com e to anywhere n ear this amount

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    I tried to buy a property through IAM Sold recently.
    To their credit I knew the fees beforehand, and were non refundable.
    But, the vendor had lied on the form, we asked them to rectify this, which seller eventually did months later. Meanwhile during that time other major issues surfaced.
    We backed out of the deal and tried to get a refund, as we had clearly been mis sold.
    IAM Sold did not want to know. Even though we had tried to accommodate the vendor in the beginning, because of their circumstances.
    I’ve taken legal advice, but it is now weighing up is this worth pursuing? Or would any refund be lost on legal fees?
    So my advice to anyone who is thinking of dealing with them, be careful, do plenty of due diligence on the property before. As it would have been cheaper for me to have done the full search’s on this property, then paid the auction fees.


    They are pushing to get me to sign up on Tuesday i love the property but feel the additional costs are not worth it

  • Richard Copus

    Hello Amanda.
    Please give me a call and I can point you in the right direction for redress. If you contact Estate Agent Today they will give you my contact details.
    Richard Copus

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    I too have had misgivings with regard to the modern auction method. I understand the fee but don’t know how they arrive at a figure. My purchase was with Iamsold for a fee of £5000 plus Vat, the property was under 90k.
    I do not think this is a clear and transparent way to conduct business from a consumers point of view. I was told that the fee included all searches once my Solicitor told me there were two other searches one environmental and another. After confronting Iamsold they said this was not a lenders requirement and was probably at the Solicitor request. This was not the case it was my mortgage lenders requirement and I had to pay £104 extra for the privilege.
    I do think this modern auction practice serves no real benefit to either the purchaser or the seller only lining the pockets of both the Auction House and the Estate Agent?
    Would love to here your views

  • Richard Copus

    Hello Christine,
    Trading Standards and the Property Ombudsman are monitoring this method of sale at the moment. If you feel that you have been misled, I advise you to contact Andrew Coulter or James Munro at Trading Standards in Powys (which covers the whole of England & Wales in this respect) and the deputy ombudsman at The Property Ombudsman in Salisbury.
    Best wishes,

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    I am trying to buy a property with my daughter from Leaders/ IAmSOLD.
    I paid £6000 reservation fee but gave been unable to complete as
    1. The tenant refused to vacate so the sellers are pursuing possession via the courts
    2. My solicitor identifies an undisclosed land charge and have had no replies from sellers solicitors re getting it removed prior to purchase
    3. The searches in the pack was out of date and more were required ( and I paid for them).
    4. Our mortgage offer has now expired after 6 months due to delay not of our making .
    I have asked for a refund but had no reply . Previous conversations keep stating due diligence and payment to reserve the property. However the property is not sellable atm to me or anyone else and meanwhile IAmSOLD have had my £6000 and the interest it could have earned for 6 months. What can I do ?

  • Richard Copus

    Hello Julie,

    Ask I Am Sold or Leaders (whichever company signed the contract) in writing what their complaints procedure is. They will have to meet and listen to your complaint. If you are not satisfied, check what redress scheme they belong to (probably The Property Ombudsman) and make a complaint to them. You can also complain to Trading Standards at Powys who oversee the industry in England & Wales and go to the press. I don't know the full facts of your case, I Am Sold may well be within the terms of your contract with them and this is the main problem with this new method of sale. It needs more complaints from people like you to stamp out the iniquitous practice of high buyers' premiums.

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    Thank you , my complaint/ request for a refund has gone to the regional manager so I await the decision . I will keep the forum informed . Thank you for your advice.

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    Please can someone advise asap?
    I paid £5000 deposit to Purple Bricks for online auction, but, received Surveyors Report after deposit paid, Surveyors Report has stated that many Specialists will need to be employed for many varying degrees of problems, some crucial to standard. In order for me to now afford all of this work, am I still able to ask seller to drop price/am I now tied? For me to afford the changes, I need the price to drop/I will have to walk away and loose my deposit, can anyone help me please, many thanks, Giselle


    Hi Giselle, did you ever get a resolution? I'm about to enter an agreement with them and I want to make sure my offer has appropriate caveats such as coronavirus delays and building surveys.

    My estate agents response to whether it's refundable is "I'm sure it is if there's significant issues" which doesn't really provide me with anything to go back on.

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    Hi I have one of these cases against a MMOA going to court. Any testimonials will be appreciated and anyone else I should complain to. I took it to TPOS but they can not say the terms of the auction are unfair. This is clearly a one sided contract.

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    Hi! I've just try to get back my reservation fee from I AM SOLD, of course they don't want to refund it back. We bid for a property and we had problem with the valuation, the seller needed to remove the second d kitchen and it took couple of weeks to convince him to do it so basically we were out of the 28.days to sign the contract and we were advice not to do it until we don't know we can get 100% sure a mortgage for the property. We couldn't get mortgage within the 56 days, we got 2X extension on the completion day as the seller was abroad until mid Feb so he was quite generous with the extension. Our latest reservation period ended on 29th of February, on 24th of February we got a new application, that was very promising, and on 26th of February we had finally a successful valuation. I wrote an email to the seller about the successful valuation and ensure him from now 100% we will get the mortgage and the broker at the bank told us we will get the mortgage offer on 28th of February or at latest 2ND or 3RE of March, on 28th of February I let also I AM SOLD knows that we had finally a successful valuation and we need just wait for the mortgage offer in writing. On 26th of February the seller replied to my email as he need to know as soo .as possible we can get 100% the mortgage or not because he paid the fee for Purple Brick for an advertisement, what going online on Monday 02/03, after our reservation period finished (29/02) but it will not keep us to purchase the property.
    On 03/03 we got the mortgage offer from the bank and I wrote to the seller that we have it and he said he sorry but he got much higher offer already on the property and if we can't offer more money (£18000 more on a property what we bid and accepted the offer before ended the bidding on
    Period for £207000).
    So I've checked zoopla, right move and Purple Bricks and the advertising went online on 26th of February, I have print screen about these , which was within our reservation period which is a breach for our reservation period contract with I am Sold me and the seller as there is a point between the seller's obligation not advertising, showing nor negotiate about the property just with the buyer within the reservation period.
    Yesterday the seller told me he is willing to go through with the purchase with me if I pay 250000 for the house instead of 207000.
    So I told I am sold I wish to go with my purchase on the agreed price, I have finance in place , if the seller doesn't honour it, just pay back the reservation fee as when he started to advertise property however he knew finally we had successful valuation, he broke the contract and basically withdrawn from selling his property to me. And the reservation fee is refundable when the seller is withdrawn. I told them to refund d and chase the seller for any loss, as he was he broke the contract.
    They refuse to pay back the money and their answer: it doesn't matter the seller broke the contract, I wouldn't made the payment on time.
    Please let me know what do you think about our case, where we could get help to get back at least our almost £10000 reservation fee.

    Thank you

  • Richard Copus

    Hello Timea,
    These contracts are draconian. On the face of it, there is probably nothing you can do if the wording was clear in the contract and you caused the delay. This is simple law of contract and is why Trading Standards and The Property Ombudsman cannot do anything about the basic contracts. However, there are lots of cases where the "auctioneer" or agent are glossing over the terms to encourage buyers who have had no experience of this novel method of auction to sign up and this is what will probably be the next PPI scandal in a few years time.
    But, if the agents breached the terms of your contract by advertising the house for sale again BEFORE the end of your exclusivity term, they are probably in breach of contract and you may have a case. It is irrelevant that they thought you "might not have made the payment on time". You might have made it on time. If this is correct, simply write to them pointing out this fact and stating that is a breach of the contract they had with you and on this basis you would like the return of your reservation fee or you will take legal action against them. If you would like any advice, please contact me via Estate Agent Today.

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    • 16 March 2020 09:39 AM

    Hi Richard Copus & all on this forum. I'd just like to say a massive thanks for the superb, accurate & concise information listed. Everyone involved in a property purchase, either for business or domestic, should know about this. The misery of individuals listed here is such a profound warning to the rest of us. I have for some time thought that there's a very nasty smell attached to the MMOA practice & that it is wholly unnecessary, unfair & immoral & as Richards says may well be the next 'PPI style' scandal. The sooner the law & trading standards outlaw this underhanded business practice, the better. I certainly have not bid on any properties being sold in this manner & this therefore has a negative impact to vendors, limiting bids & therefore final sums achieved. Thanks again for your clarity & reports & I hope that all who are living the stress from this nightmare can find resolution at the cost to the operators of MMOA.

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    Dear All,
    I am sorry to read this conversation so late and have also been a "victim" to the auction house IAMSOLD which echos a few of the above stories. Has anyone successfully claimed back their non-refundable reservation fee? Is there a process to go to a small claims court for being missold and misrepresented property?
    Thank-you so much for your help,


    My son was looking at a property as yet he has not signed the reservation form and paid the amount of£12,180 which is 4.2% of the offer price the agent from 1AMSOLD assured him and ev en sent him an email to say if the sale on his house fell through he would get his money back

  • icon

    Hi Ly
    No - you would probably not gain anything by going to a small claims court because it was an auction. sold as seen so to speak. I think the only way is to log your complaint as advise in these comments

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    I was buying a property through MMOA and lost over £10000 due to very unlawful practices by not just the vendor and real estate in question but via many other parties attached. The property was sold as having had a new extension area underpinned and the Certificate of adequacy current and unclaimed on. On this merit, I entered the auction. It transpired that the whole of the property had been underpinned, the certificate of adequacy claimed on. The whole house was a disaster. There were no records of any building regulations etc in the town hall, their insurance company claimed on would give me no information. I even employed an independent civil engineer (who knew the real estates well, collected the keys from them and told me I did not need to be there for the inspection). The report came back glowing, no subsidence issues etc. The way I obtained this independent report was through the real estate! I was still very concerned as during the time between auction and exchange of contract, none of the doors in the property would either, open or close, salts were coming through new plasterer works (works both the real estate and vendor denied were recent), cracks appearing in windows, a huge crack I could put my hand in in a cupboard not replastered, but above the new plaster works. I informed my solicitor (who was completely incompetent) of my concerns stating I was going to employ an out of town surveyor. She informed the real estate and both my solicitor and real estate would not grant me access to the property to do another survay until I exchanged contracts. However, through sheer luck, I was able to gain access and then I let the surveyed in. The house was basically falling down. I have since obtained documents of the underpinning and have been collating lots of evidence. At the time I confronted the real estate but they shut me down, declaring exchange of contracts due and I failed to pay so lost my deposit. I was in the process of changing the use of the building from commercial to residential via the town hall and several months later,under a different alias, when the real estate had the same property for at auction again, asking why full council tax was being paid on a derilict property and why was there no record of building regulations etc. Immediately, I receive back monies paid for the change of use from the Town Hall, which I found interesting considering I had contacted them under an alias not disclosing any knowledge of events prior. I am now in a position to pursue this but aside trading standards and the property ombudsman, are there any other channels I can pursue as this is a very large real estates in the south west and their undertaking seem to spread much deeper than non disclosure of information on their part?

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    I may also add, when I confronted the real estate with my finding, I was directed almost immediately to one of the owners of the real estate, who manages complaints. To me, this indicated very clearly that management were and are complicit in these practices so I don’t expect to get any joy there. I may also add that prior to me gaining knowledge of the whole situation, I was very clear that I couldn’t complete till I had full insurance in place that covered subsidence. The real estate seemed to go beyond their duties providing quotes and documentation from various insurance agents that seemed to cover subsidence, all documentation stated so. When I independently phoned and followed up on these quotes, the insurance provider who I was speaking with presumed incorrectly that I was part of the team at the real estates and told me that the original subsidence claim was for over £450000, subsidence would definitely NOT be included. This was the point alarm bells stated ringing. The real estate had simply added a few pages onto the policy to ok as if subsidence was covered.


    Dear Katie, I am so sorry to hear about this happening to you too. It is heart breaking that this is happening to others too. I have lost around £8,000 and have written a complaint, waiting to hear back from the complaints team. I'm keen to hear from anyone who has had success in their complaints. Maybe we may have to work in numbers in the future- a large group of us making a formal court case together for being mis-sold, mis-led and mis-represented properties. Good luck with it all, Ly anh

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    I completely agree, strength in numbers. From what I can work out via all the information I’ve amassed is that real estates are off loading properties where settlements for claims on Certificate of Structural Adequacy have already been agreed. In other words, the vendor, insurance company and real estate are all cashing in on this system and dubbing unawares buyers like us. If I had exchanged contracts I would have lost everything. In my case, what they are doing is not just immoral, it’s illigal.

  • nick chapman

    My property was for sale with online agent YOPA when a potential buyer registered with YOPA and viewed the house in March. He didn’t have the funds yet and made no offer. In April I was approached by GOTO online auctions and I agreed to a 90 day MMA auction period. During this period, the buyer who had viewed in March made an offer via YOPA, which I ignored as GOTO had sole selling rights. The offer was below the reserve price and I knew he didn’t have the funds to buy within the auction timeframe. After the 90 day auction period ended, he made another offer through YOPA which I accepted. He is now being hounded by GOTO for a “buyers fee” of £6300 despite the fact that GOTO did not introduce him, he made no auction bid and his offer was not accepted during the auction period. GOTO are claiming that my buyer “had dealings” with them during the auction period because they had a telephone conversation with him. He never signed a contract with GOTO. They cold-called him (using his number supplied in breach of their privacy policy by YOPA) to try to persuade him to make a bid. GOTO regard this cold-call as evidence of a relationship that entitles them to the buyer’s fee. GOTO bungled the entire auction process from the start, they even used the “register of title” and the “title plan” from a completely different property in the auction documents! Their behavior has been disgraceful.

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    I wished i saw this article before now i could have saved myself over 4000 pounds. I fell for
    barnard marcus auctions legal pack trap and this appears to be common in auctions nowadays.

    I recently won a small price of land in an auction . The guide price of the land was £2000 and I won it at £3000. We read the legal pack and we have only just discovered that it state in the pack disguised that in addition to the £650 for disbursement we have to pay extra £3000 for legal fees. We have already paid the auctioneer fee of £1150 and the reservation fee of £3000 which happen to be the price we won it and hence land purchase price.

    We think this legal fee of £3000 is unfair and constitute an unfair contract terms . Most properties selling up to £5000 pays legal fees of between £650-800. We have complained to the auction house and they have refused to help us. We have then asked for refund because it does not make sense to continue with the purchase.They said no refund and no more reply with us. So bassically they want us to buy a land worth £3000 and pay legal fees of £4650. i just cannot afford that and the land itself is not even worth anything. I am currently pusing all means to retrive my reservation fee . if anyone has a way pls advise. The auction house is not willing to tallk to me. This is really bad experience for anyone


    Theo - totally emphasise with your situation. You need to contact the complaints department to investigate and you need to look at at any point before the sale was the extra legal fees missed -ie was it missold to you? If there was anything that was improper you may have a case to fight but if it is simply you didn't read the terms and conditions -it may be harder to fight. I would also recommend legal review. Best of luck!

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    • C E
    • 06 February 2021 15:41 PM

    Afternoon all. So I was advised not to bid online as a couple of documents were missing from the pack ( inc. Lease agreement) also auction house said it was vacant yet agent said their was a tennant so needed confirmation it would be vacant
    It had been unsold on auction style since August
    Once the auction house agreed special terms - inc. to reimburse fees if I wasn't happy once missing documents handed over I was guided over the phone to bid up to meet reserve. They then contacted the seller to tell them it would now sell who then decided to withdraw the property from auction saying he needed more money to pay his motgage debt off after speaking to his solicitor & then the auction company updated the listing whilst I was talking to them. They removed the auction wording and added 35k on to the advertised price!
    I'm now told that I'd also have to pay £5745 if I tried to buy it & so would anyone that had viewed or booked to view etc

    The agent was aghast that the seller has done this due to the fact its not sold in all this time.

    First listed Dec 2019 £170k
    Reduced 10k Jan 2020
    Reduced 10k Aug 2020
    Reduced 20k Sept 2020 & put to modern auction with start @ £130k and within 10% reserve so up to £143k

    Two other properties have recently sold @ 147 & 140
    Foolishly I'd still like to purchase but hitting a brick wall

    Is it worth me phoning the agency head office as the extra 5745 fees I'd have to pay even though I was unable to buy auction style put me in a disadvantaged position now over a newbie to the advert
    Hope this makes sense
    Guidance please

  • Samantha Sullivan

    Febuary 2019 this article was posted. Now that people are realising the complete con MMA is and being caught up in it all, simply proves this is the next PPI scandal.

    Stay away from MMA.

  • Tomasz Dudziak

    DANGER! Doing business with IAM Sold will cost you time, money and nerves!

    They were one of the least professional and most expensive firms I have ever dealt with. I wonder if they secretly want transactions to fall through to cash in reservation fees and recycle the properties over and over again.

    - auction reservation fee was a whopping £6,000

    - took 293 days to buy a house through them

    - they will not let you pull out and have your reservation fee refunded even if the seller through her tardiness delays the sale by over 0.5 year

    - they accept documents from the seller, which later get rejected by her own solicitor due to containing some weird drawings around her signature

    - very negligent in their chasing of the seller

    - they lie in an email sent to you after the Reservation Period expired that if the seller pulls out, then your £6,000 will be refunded, but when it comes close to that they say they wouldn't refund you

    - they will require you to change your lender if it simply asks that the seller has her identity verified by her solicitor in person (if you don't change your lender, they say the seller will resign and you can say goodbye to your £6000)

    - suspiciously keen to try to break down your transaction after giving you a deadline to change your lender while the estate agent is attempting to contact them with your updated cash offer

    - often unavailable to talk and regularly breaking their 2-day reply policy, but they dare to say they are critical of you if you cannot reply immediately - their idea of a £6,000 service probably...

    - they repetitively make false promises they will call you back or write to you by end of day, but that never happens

    - the sales progressor assigned to you can change 3 times throughout your transaction

    - if the sales progressor gets sick, there is no one covering for them, you are on your own

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    I AM SOLD told me that the reservation fee was refundable and on e of their team members even sent me any email Reservation fee was a whooping £12,180

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    I will be warning as man y as i can about this company IAMSOLD

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    i was succesful in bidding on a property through i am sold and have paid the reservation fee. however the property has some issues and i wish to not proceed. i understand i will lose my resetrvation fee but is there anything else the sellers can do...am i legally bound to buy. i have not yet exchanged contract

  • icon

    Well, I have learned something today! this all sounds as if some people have had some pretty horrible experiences. I was curious about this after looking at a property with a guide of 35,000 and read that it was going to sale under the MMA - which I had never heard of. So I read the terms and was pretty surprised to find I would need to pay a reservation fee of 4.2% and not less than £6,000 which was ALL fees. Assuming that the hammer on this house falls around 40,000, this is a 15% fee on a low priced property - hugely more than the more reasonable sounding 4.2% If that was the only fee to pay on a low priced property, I would probably consider it reasonable - especially if the house goes well above the guide price but this fee seems to be nothing more than a fee for service charged by the auctioneers and estate agency. I can see that there might be some advantages in buying via MMA but reading the comments here, there seem to be far too many contractual traps for the inexperienced buyer. I will be steering clear personally but watching with interest where this goes.


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