An estate agent which advertised homes for sale at under market value has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog.
Manchester-based Sell Quick, trading as Express Estate Agency, was the subject of four complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority after its ‘misleading’ advertising on websites.
The adverts were for apparently low-priced property, but would-be purchasers found that more was in fact being asked.
One advert stated that a two-bed terrace was for sale at offers over £49,950, which it claimed was a £22,500 discount.
The advert said: “The Express Estate Agency offers this attractively priced property to buyers who are in a position to buy relatively swiftly. This property is priced low to encourage a quicker than normal sale.”
A three-bed terrace was offered for sale at offers over £74,950. It claimed this was a 21% discount, and that an independent RICS value had valued it at £95,000.
The advert said: “The property is offered significantly below market value … These genuine discounts are offered based upon the property’s independently verified market value. All of our surveyed properties have been valued by an independent Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Valuer in order to confirm that all of our properties are offered with true discounts.”
On another website, a three-bedroom terrace home was advertised as for sale at £69,950. The advert said the property had last been for sale at £99,950 in April 2005.
On Express Estate Agency’s own website it stated that offers over £64,950 were sought for one property. The advert said it was priced low to encourage a quicker than normal sale.
Another agent, SB property, plus three members of public, challenged whether the advertised prices and discounts featured in the ads were misleading.
Express Estate Agency told the ASA that their properties were offered at marketing prices and not asking prices. They said that they aimed to sell the properties at a higher price than the ‘Offers in excess of’ or ‘Offers over’ marketing prices shown in the ads.
They said that when dealing with consumers’ inquiries, their representatives explained their pricing policy and that they valued the properties above the marketing price listed in the ad. They also said the price a vendor may initially seek and the offer which they eventually accept were often very different.
Express said said of a property referred to as having a ‘£22,500 discount from previous agents marketing price’ that it was clear that offers were invited in excess of £49,950. A complainant had made an offer over £49,950 which had been rejected. Express said it was the vendors’ prerogative to accept or reject an offer.
Express also referred to Scottish Home Report valuations which they said were often very optimistic, especially in the current climate.
Express also explained that the property in one advert was marketed at offers in excess of £64,950. They said they received several offers in excess of that value and that the property was sold for a value significantly in excess of £64,950.
The complaints were upheld. The ASA said that advertised prices should be an accurate reflection of the prices sought for the property.
While properties had been described as priced low to attract a quick sale, in fact three of the complainants said that Express informed them that the vendor sought an offer which was significantly in excess of the advertised price.
The ASA also noted the ad invited ‘Offers in excess of £74,950’ and that genuine discounts were offered based upon the property’s independently verified market value. However, the vendor said that the property had been valued at a much higher value within the Home Report valuation and that the minimum offer they were prepared to accept was significantly greater than £74,950, which had been made clear to Express.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. The ASA has told Express to ensure that, in all future ads, the prices listed are an accurate reflection of the price sought for the property and are capable of robust substantiation.