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Industry veteran calls for code of practice for sole agency agreements

Former agency founder and property marketing veteran John Durrant has challenged Propertymark and RICS to take a leadership on the contentious issue of sole agency agreements.

Durrant has suggested the long-term sole agency agreements, such as 28-week contracts, encourage some agents to overvalue to win business and then gradually chip away at the price.

He warned that agents, vendors and the wider property market all suffer as a result of this.


Durrant, a founding partner of Woking and West Byfleet estate agency Waterfall and now the owner of agency picture supplier Doctor-Photo, has suggested the property trade bodies should agree on a code of practice relating to sole agency agreements. 

He said: “At least, with a framework for what measure would benefit everyone concerned, agents who do their best to advise clients would have a point of reference to discuss in their communications and media output. 

“More agents play with a straight bat than those who game the system. Propertymark and RICS will find considerable support from their membership if they act. Professional agents are otherwise at the mercy of bucket-shop cowboys who appeal to the baser instincts of human behaviour.

“Leaving the public, those blinded by fool’s gold, to go through a certain amount of pain until the penny drops that they’ve been had.”

Another suggestion, Durrant said, would be for the professional bodies to lobby for legislation requiring agents to include a large-print sub-heading at the top of their terms of business, saying something along the lines of “”if this sole agency agreement is for a term longer than x weeks, please enquire why the agent thinks your property will not be sold sooner.”

He added: “The point would be to encourage discussion around the vendor’s commitment to their agent. The purpose would be like that of the health warning on cigarette packets. The benefit would be that agents would become much more circumspect with their price advice; vendors would be alerted to ask the right question, resulting in agents moderating their advice so that a level playing field is created and vendors select the agent for good reasons rather than spurious ones. There would be no upside for the agent in knowingly overvaluing a property to win instructions on a property it knows won’t sell in a reasonable time.

Durrant said it should be possible to create an industry that can always be trusted to give its best advice, to put clients first, and to find better ways for agents to impress “than peddling false hopes of stupidly high prices.”

He said: “To the few agents who deliberately overprice, I say, test the market if you want to, but if you believe what you tell clients, have the courage of your convictions and do not tie people in for an eternity.”

  • Charlie Lamdin

    Also, link fee reduction to price reduction to stop overvaluing.

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    As an independent agent we offer our clients a Sole Agency contract period with zero weeks, a no 'stings approach' which our clients appreciate, especially when some corporate agents want 20 plus weeks. An honest and open approach at the start of a business arrangement is good for the client and equally good for the agent.

    • S S
    • 25 January 2024 13:43 PM

    Andy Parsons - we are the same - Sole Agency with zero weeks tie in. We believe in our service and our capabilities to do the job. But we come up against so many agents who pressure the client to sign the deal (client doesn't realise that they can actually cancel within the first 14 days) overvalue the property and then eventually when the property finally reaches the "correct" price 12 weeks later - it's the price we recommended on day 1 and we could have sold within the first 2 weeks.
    We have a 4.9* star rating on Google with fabulous reviews - I just dont get how someone would choose an agent with a much lower review rating, with higher tie-ins and usually comparable fees!
    Not that he is competition but the PB agent for the area runs a pub! Why on earth would anyone go to a publican to sell their house paying the fee upfront! But someone does!


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