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When estate agents subside to even lower levels…

It’s traditional for estate agents to support each other when they come under attack from the press or public. After all, we are an easy target for all and sundry when it’s time to give politicians and journalists a day off from the firing line.

But sometimes fellow agents do things that are just indefensible and it’s time for other agents to take a pop at them, too.

We put a house on the market through one of my agencies and a rival firm rang the vendor after two or three days and said they had a potential buyer. Could they bring the person round for a “one-off” viewing?

Sensibly, the vendor realised there could be a double fee liability coming their way, never mind a question of both their integrity and that of my rival agent if the viewing went ahead. So they told the rival that my agency had the business and if their client, who had already sold through them, was that keen they should be sent along to me to make an appointment.

That duly happened, and the potential buyer came along. But out in the garden, away from the vendor’s earshot, they said they had a delicate question to ask. Was it true that the house not only had suffered subsidence but that it was severe enough to require the property to need underpinning.

The response was that we were not aware of any problems with that property or the wider area. However, the surest way to establish the truth initially was to ask the owner, which I did in the potential buyer’s presence. The subsidence and underpinning was vehemently denied, and rightly so.

But the big question that concerns me is why another agent would go to such lengths to scupper a potential sale because they were not involved in it. There was a risk that their lies would be quickly uncovered by the vendor’s denial and a subsequent full structural survey and that could have caused the buyer to call into question whether or not an honest agent was handling their own sale. Ultimately, their client could have walked away from them completely.

I realise that some agents are now desperate to get properties on their books, but downright lies that can be easily found out (or, come to that, those that can’t) is pushing things just a bit too far.

The amount of touting we get is bad enough, but handling this type of dishonest activity is beyond the pale.

*Colin Shairp is Director of Fine and Country Southern Hampshire

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