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Estate Agents’ Tricks

On the whole, estate agents do a good job at helping you buy and sell houses. But they are also geniuses at squeezing every possible penny from you or making you settle for the sale that's best for them - keep your cards close to your chest and learn to spot their tricks before they pull them.

Selling home estate agent tricks

Whipping you into a frenzy

It’s the estate agents’ job to create a buzz around a property. They might try to do this by giving the impression lots of people are viewing the property and by arranging appointments close together. Rather than working through offers one at a time, they might try to introduce  “sealed bids”, which pits you against other buyers without you knowing how much they are willing to offer. Open days can also work to encourage buyers to act quickly and get into a bidding war.

If you are buying, stay focused and try not to be influenced. All of this is aimed to get the best price for the seller – that’s their job.  So keep in mind what you can pay and stick to this – there’s no point in getting your dream home if you are then impoverished for the rest of your life. Find out the best questions to ask an estate agent.

Talking you out of the best deal

Never let them know your bottom line (if you’re selling) or your maximum budget (if you’re buying). Otherwise the chances are you’ll end up having to settle for it.

If you’re selling, it’s important you’re on the same page. Is your priority getting maximum price or sell as quickly as possible? Avoid letting an agents’ agenda eclipse your own by shopping around to find the right agent for you. Getting the right valuation and a sales strategy that suits you will be key. Find and compare the performance of local estate agents in your postcode using our free estateagent4me service — compare the success rates, average days to sell, % achieving asking price and typical fees of estate agents in your area.

Inventing phantom offers to drive up your offer 

Your below-asking-price offer has been accepted, the property you are buying is off the market, and it’s all steam ahead towards completion. Then the next week, the estate agent calls to say that someone who viewed the property previously has put in an offer a few thousand pounds above yours.  If you suspect this is a false bid, challenge the estate agent and ask to see proof that this third party exists and they are willing to make a higher offer. Read what one of our members did in this situation.

Whether real or hoax, being gazumped is depressing and can cost you money. There are a few options for reducing the chance of being gazumped but they cost – see Gazumping: what is it and how to avoid it.  

Some estate agents have introduced a “Good Will Charter”. Both parties pay a deposit which they will lose if they don’t go through with the sale. It’s not fail safe but it might help you weed out people who aren’t serious about the deal.

Another option is a lock-out agreement whereby the seller has to take the property off the market for a limited amount of time while the deal is being completed. You will have to move quickly to get everything done before the time period is up. Discuss the pros and cons with your solicitor.

The HomeOwners Alliance is working with the government on it’s proposal for a reservation agreement to put an end to the home buying and selling chaos. You can read more about our campaign here.

Pressuring you to use their mortgage brokers 

Some estate agents have been reported putting pressure on people to use their mortgage service, saying they will get preferential treatment or, worse, claiming they are unwilling to work with them unless they do. Putting undue pressure on you in this way is illegal. By all means, get a quote from the estate agent’s mortgage adviser before shopping around, but bear in mind that:

  • they may have a far narrower selection of mortgages than if you look further afield
  • there may be an upfront charge for their advice whereas some mortgage brokers and banks can give you mortgage advice for free

Also be aware there have been accusations of mortgage brokers and estate agents working closely together, openly discussing potential buyers’ budgets in order to get as much money out of the buyer as possible. So again, find out what deal they can offer while remembering that you are under no obligation to accept their mortgage offers.

For more on this read our guide “Why you should avoid estate agent in-house services”

Selling you extra advertising

If your house isn’t selling maybe you need to think about changing your tactics. Your estate agent might tell you they can do more to advertise your property if you pay them more.

Think hard about this: why haven’t they done everything they can to market your property already? And is the extra money refundable if you still don’t get an offer?

 

HomeOwners Alliance membership service provides independent advice on all aspects of selling your home including estate agent issues and agreements. Find out more about becoming a member.


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39 Comments

  1. Dear Susannah – Sorry to hear of this. I would suggest that you should put in a complaint to the Estate Agency, using their complaints process and outline the concerns you have. https://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-selling/how-to-resolve-disputes-with-estate-agents-a-guide-for-sellers

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — September 25, 2019 @ 3:23 pm

  2. Hi, me and my two sisters inherited my parents property. After two chains clasped we have secured a neighbouring buyer who has a house on the terrace two doors down with no mortgage on it.
    He already has a mortgage secured and upon valuation survey the lenders pull out due to timbre infestation in the roof rafter, isolated damp caused we think by a missing roof tile and trees to the rear of the property which are mature and have not had any affect on the property structure.
    The property is old (not listed) so we are expecting some issues with valuation. Since then the estate agent has said the property is unmortgageable, she has asked of we want to readvertise the property as a cash buy only. And her in house broker who has been helping the buyer said it was pointless continuing without a proper house survey. Historically the buyer wasn’t interested in a survey as he just wanted to buy the property whatever state it was in as loves the terrace it was on. The buyer hasnprivately got in touch with me to say he still wants the property and will go halves for a proper structural survey with me to support any future mortgage applications. When I sent her a quote I received for a survey over a week ago she replied that the buyer is not interested in getting one done. This was after the valuation came back to say there were a few issues.
    I feel like she is out of her depth here it just cannot be bothered anymore.
    Me and the buyer are at a loss to know how to proceed

    Comment by Susannah — September 24, 2019 @ 10:18 pm

  3. Hi Sally, this is certainly something we could advise you on, but we’d need a bit more information from you and our advice would take more than a paragraph replying here. Please consider becoming a member, we’d be delighted to help you with this issue.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — August 6, 2019 @ 9:57 am

  4. I am selling a property, client A made an off we that I accepted,I engaged solicitor and so did she, I have since heard next to nothing since May, buyer B who wasn’t in a pose to buy but now is, made an offer 10 days ago via the estate agents but that offer was not passed on to me ( I found this out from buyer B who managed to get my number) I also found out that the estate agents haven’t been letting people view the property despite the fact I asked them to put it back on the market over 6 weeks ago. I am now engaging with Buyer B to by privately I am out of the six month period with estate agents and don’t want to pay them any commission. I don’t feel they have been, open, honest or timely. Can you advise please?

    Comment by Sally — August 5, 2019 @ 9:01 pm

  5. Thanks Richard. You do need to get your conveyancer to look into this for you rather than the Estate Agent confirming this

    Comment by Marianne Cole — July 18, 2019 @ 9:09 am

  6. Hi There. Can you help. I’m buying a property and have been issued a “Notification of Sale” On this notification it states a price but does not state (anywhere) what the tenure is. It’s advertised FREEHOLD but the agent won’t in issue a “Notification of Sale with this fact written in. Is this normal?

    Comment by Richard Winkworth — July 17, 2019 @ 4:06 pm

  7. My daughter is trying to buy a house. Theirs is sold and there is no chain above or below.
    They have offered the asking price for a property.
    The Estate agent says that the vendor will only sell to a purchaser who has had taken mortgage advice from their own mortgage advisor.
    My daughter has a mortgage organised already.
    What can she do?
    The house is still for sale.

    Comment by Kate — April 29, 2019 @ 11:11 am

  8. What is the difference between a property being ‘sold subject to contract’ and to being ‘sold reserved’?

    Comment by SDT — September 15, 2018 @ 10:24 am

  9. I feel we should have had some form of compensation ,th current system just doesn’t seem fair.

    Comment by Anna Kieu — August 24, 2018 @ 4:32 am

  10. Hi Terry. If the vendor is an agent then they’ll know of lots of sales tactics. It’s quite common for vendors (whether they’re employees of an Estate Agent or not) to want to wait to see if more offers will come in. If you’d like to talk this through, please consider becoming a member where you’ll have access to the Home Helpline team who can chat through tactics with you. Best of luck in your hunt for a new home.

    Comment by Sara Hind — July 4, 2018 @ 3:29 pm

  11. We’ve been house hunting for a while and finally came across a house that seems just right for us., the agents have a disclaimer that the house belongs to a member of staff.
    We were the first to view it and immediately offered the full asking price and at the agents request supplied them with proof of deposit and agreement in principle
    Yet the “vendor” (a member of staff) has yet to accept our offer, they apparently insisted on allowing everyone who wanted to to view it and we were told the vendor will make a decision at the end of the week.
    Well the end of the week came and went and still no decision, we had contacted the agent via email and was told “a decision will be made tomorrow”, of course tomorrow came and went and still no decision.
    I strongly suspect they are holding out for someone to make a higher than advertised offer and push the price up, the house was not advertised as “offers over” or “offers in region of”
    Is this practice common or even legitimate, I’m reluctant to entertain such skulldugery marketing tactics especially from an employee at the agents

    Comment by Terry Brooks — July 3, 2018 @ 5:09 pm

  12. Hello Frank. Estate agents shouldn’t accept an offer without confirmation that the prospective buyer has their finances in place.

    Comment by Sara Hind — March 19, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

  13. My daughter has made an offer on a property and the estate agent has asked for proof of deposit, it is being gifted by me, and mortgage in principle before the vendor will take it off the market. I can understand a lender and solicitor asking for this but an EA, is this correct? They have claimed it is law.
    Does an EA have the right to ask for these. My belief is they are holding out/ delaying for a better offer
    Many thanks
    Frank

    Comment by Frank — March 14, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

  14. Hi Danny, we’ll need to take a look at your contract to advise on the options available. Do consider becoming a member and we’d be happy to assist you further! https://hoa.org.uk/services/join/
    Angela

    Comment by AKerr — March 6, 2018 @ 2:05 pm

  15. I had 2 estate agents selling my property. For arguments sake Agent no.1 client put an offer in which I accepted. I was then informed by Agent no.2 that the same person who offered on the property had first viewed the house with them and as such they (Agent no.2) are legally entitled to the estate agents fee and not Agent no.1 because its all about first viewing and not who does the offer ? The sale has gone through and I haven’t paid either as neither can agree on who should be paid. Both advised me to withhold payment originally until dispute is resolved but I am now getting pressure to pay them. I have tried to do some research on this, but I have found nothing – anyone aware of this rule or can point me in the right direction.

    Comment by Danny Payne — March 6, 2018 @ 11:46 am

  16. I am a first time buyer and trying to get on to property ladder to have a home for family of 4 in west Yorkshire area. My elder daughter 5 year old goes to reception school locally, so looking for houses around the school, over a year now. There is a high street sales agent who is very aggressive in selling properties, prefer buyers to sign up for surveying, mortgage adviser. If you do not opt, then you are not a preferred buyer irrespective of your financial eligibility. There are few instances where my self and my friend’s higher offers were not considered, eventually properties were sold for slightly lesser than what we offered. Its quite strange.
    Example:
    Asking price 280,000£, My friend offered 283,000£ and sold at 282,000£
    Asking price 330,000£, I was pushed to offer 345,000£ and sold for 342,000£

    Also, they always lie to you and push you offer higher price, by saying ‘there is a higher offer than asking price, would you like offer higher’. I did speak to my friends who own homes across north, south and midlands, they say its not ethical on sales agent’s part to push buyers to pitch higher price than the asking price. Well buyer would not like to pay more if there is work required in the property, if not straight away. I would not mind paying more if the property is immaculate and does not need any work for next 10 years.
    This agent does not like if a buyer has good knowledge of the area and has done good analysis before putting an offer. Its a digital age information is readily available on internet.
    As a buyer its your right to challenge the asking price and reason behind the arriving at that figure.
    If a vendor is expecting higher price is understandable, but sales agent has to be reasonable in admitting that and not pushing buyers to quote higher.
    Such actions of agents are pushing the property prices up.

    Comment by KP — December 1, 2017 @ 10:08 am

  17. Sam, if no contract signed contact Trading Standards. If an estate agent comes to your home and you sign a contract you have 7 days before they can advertise unless you waive your right to 7 days to change your mind. I had this with an estate agent, although the price they sold it for was for a lot less.

    Comment by Mary — June 4, 2017 @ 8:41 am

  18. This may already mentioned this somewhere on here, but there was article on MSN recently that people were buying new houses and being told by the companies selling (and their solicitors) that they could in a few years buy the leasehold for a couple of thousand pounds. Buyers, however, found that the companies who built the houses had sold the leasehold so when they came to buy the leasehold they were being asked for vast sums. The couple in the article were asked for £44,000.

    Comment by Mary — June 4, 2017 @ 8:38 am

  19. Had estate agent round for a valuation. She gave a price, said she might know someone interested, arranged viewing next day. Told the buyers £25k more than she had told us. They came, then back again next day, put in offer of full asking price.
    No paperwork received at all from estate agent. No contract received – nothing.
    No photographs/ no measurements taken/ no advertising/ no marketing.
    Not prepared to pay £8750 for her making one phonecall – where do I stand/ what can I do?

    Comment by Sam — May 12, 2017 @ 4:04 pm

  20. My house is being advertised on Rightmove. By chance,because I’d emailed the link to family members, I found out that my property’s URL had been changed. This meant that anyone who had seen and liked the property and saved the original URL, would be taken back to a page which says the property has been removed by the agent and may no longer be for sale.

    I complained and they said it was likely to be Rightmove’s fault, that Rightmove were very slow to answer emails and phone calls and that it was probably a glitch.

    The next day the URL had been changed again. As far as I know it may have been changed every day, making it impossible for people who ‘like’ the property to return via the old link. This would severely hamper follow-up enquiries.

    This would seem counter-productive for the agent, except that just two weeks before, I had a flurry of low offers from one person who was keen to seal a deal before it went online. The agent who acted on the potential buyer’s behalf put quite a lot of pressure on me to accept or divulge what would be my lowest acceptable price. When I told him I wanted the house to exposed to the wider market the offer was immediately withdrawn – odd behaviour as the buyer had been so keen and could have left the offer on the table to see if anyone else wanted it.

    I suspect that at least one of the agents is acting in the interest of the buyer, or worse, they could be involved in a property-buying consortium together.

    I’d like to know if anyone else knows of similar experiences, and if there was any investigation into these peculiar happenings on Rightmove. Also any advice would be very welcome indeed!

    Comment by Anne M — January 24, 2017 @ 7:40 pm

  21. Dear Christine,

    Thank you for your query. This would appear to be a breach of The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice for residential estate agents (a copy of which I have attached for your further reading by email), as such you may wish to raise a direct complaint. Do also have a look at the following reading from our website which you may find useful:
    Estate Agents’ Tricks
    How to complain about your estate agent: A guide for sellers

    I do hope this is helpful and I wish you the very best in taking this forward.

    Kind regards,

    Sophie
    HomeOwners Alliance Team

    Comment by Sophie Khan — October 13, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

  22. My daughter and partner wanted to book a viewing on a house for sale. The estate agents have told them that they will have to have a appointment with their mortgage advisor cost £500 my daughter already has a mortgage in place and a certificate to prove it !! They only want to view the property there’s no saying they will like it this doesn’t sound right to me and the agent got a bit rude and said it’s what the vendor wants is this right ??

    Comment by Christine Connolly — October 11, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

  23. Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous agents out there,
    However please do not tar us all with the same brush.
    We work extremely hard in a very competitive market and on a lot of of occasions people do genuinely get out bid.
    Make sure you speak to your agent and don’t contact dozens of them, just choose a couple of agents you get on with and who seem helpful then let them know what you need.
    If I don’t have what a client requires I will get off my backside and go and try to find it for them.
    Most of all stay focussed and make sure you are prompt for viewings then the agent will try their best for you.

    Greg

    Comment by Greg Antioch — April 26, 2016 @ 4:37 pm

  24. We made an offer on a place we liked, at asking price (we didn’t want to mess around with haggling and it was cheaper than others we’d seen). We were told we were in top position as not many offer asking price… Next day the estate agent called to say they’d had lots of offers and what was the best we could do? Could we go a little higher? We withdrew our offer as we smelt a rat, we’d been unimpressed with this agency previously anyway. What do you know, 10 minutes later ‘oh the seller was disappointed, they wanted you to buy it’. Pfft

    Comment by Erin — April 16, 2016 @ 9:42 am

  25. I viewed a house and decided to put an offer in. The house needs work that I am happy to do, I actually offered more than the askink price. Next day, the agent calls to ask what is my top offer in case somebody makes an offer too. I mean what is that, are they not supposed to relay the offer to the seller, this is not an auction… So disappointed in some ppl and their approach

    Comment by Cristian P Frasina — March 28, 2016 @ 4:43 pm

  26. I’ve been told that my offer won’t be put to the vendor unless I see their broker to qualify that I have an agreement in place (which I do). The agent insists that I won’t be sold a mortgage but I have to bring id to show the broker. Is this right? It sounds ridiculous to me.

    Comment by Matt — February 29, 2016 @ 5:30 pm

  27. You are offering excellent advice and I am glad you make clear that not all estate agents get up to these tricks!

    My own estate agents are nothing like what you describe. Our first attempt to sell failed (not at all the agents’ fault – we all believed that the buyers were as keen as mustard and were good for it, but circumstances overtook them and they had to withdraw). As a result I lost my perfect flat.

    The agents have sold my house again just over two weeks after it went back onto the market and for the price I wanted.

    I am a complete novice at this, and they seem willing to be a resource for all sorts of advice about house buying and selling. At present I am not optimistic about being able to find the flat I want, but they are optimistic enough on my behalf for that not to matter.

    (And yes, now and again the cynic in me whispers that that’s because they want their money…..)

    Comment by Sue Vogel — February 24, 2016 @ 6:29 pm

  28. We agreed a sale and 3 days before completion the potential buyers pulled out citing tax problems and the severing of their relationship.We had in the meantime had a survey on a property we intended to buy and instructed a solicitor as well as having an asbestos survey on our own property done (at the request of the buyers who wanted a certificate indicating that no harmful asbestos was present .As you can imagine we were £1500 down at the end of th aborted sale .I feel we should have had some form of compensation ,th current system just doesn’t seem fair.

    Comment by JENNIFER SISWICK — January 27, 2016 @ 4:27 pm

  29. Trust in your own instincts when selling your property. Have three estate agents round to value your house before putting it on the market. Have a look on Zoopla, (achieved prices for houses in your postcode). Do a bit of homework, research your area and look for the benefits, for example, good schools, access to local shops, bus, trains and airports. This type of information can be invaluable when selling a property.

    Comment by ‘Glen at AP lawyers’. — January 12, 2016 @ 10:58 am

  30. I have been accepted an offer of 51k on a flat of offers over 50k. It was originally offers over 55k but it was reduced. It went up on right move as under offer. Now over Christmas it’s been put back on the market for offers over £55k again. Can this be done??

    I feel like I’m being really messed around!

    I

    Comment by Sarah — December 26, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

  31. I have just received a bill from a estate agents asking for £720.00 before I have signed a contract with them.
    They are coming to take phot’s on Monday,is this normal proctice.
    They say it is a marketing fee.

    Comment by Smjames — November 11, 2015 @ 2:12 pm

  32. Hi emi,

    You might find it useful to check out one of our expert’s answers to a member’s question similar to yours.

    “How do I know the third party offer is real and not the estate agent trying it on?”

    Good luck,

    Annie
    HomeOwners Alliance Team

    Comment by Annie — September 24, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  33. I am very interested in buying a property through an agent the asking price for the property was around 500K after I made my offer the agent came back to me to say they had an offer for £530,000 then I upped my offer by maximum of 540k and then now the agent has come back to say they have an offer for £580,000 is there any way for me to ask the agent for proof of other persons offer because I do not believe that the other person actually exists and perhaps maybe it’s a trick to get me to increase my offer. do I have a legal right to ask the agent for proof of other buyers offers

    Comment by emi — September 23, 2015 @ 11:04 pm

  34. We agreed terms with a landlord ‘in writing’ to take the lease of a commercial building and then the file was taken over by another estate agent, who then started to invite offers from other parties, knowing full well we’d agreed terms. We were then pitched into a competition with other people and lost the property as a result. Is this legal??

    Comment by steve — September 9, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

  35. read the small print in the contract with the estate agent since there can be many items which require further explanation and may involve more costs where these items are considered to be needed What you are not told is often as important to you as what you are told

    Comment by david davies — September 7, 2015 @ 10:29 am

  36. Buying a property right now and finding that we are being pressured to speak to the agents mortgage advisor all the time. We have a mortgage in principle from our building society. I have no reason to get another quote. I don’t trust that the in house mortgage advisor and the agent aren’t in cahoots and it’s just a ruse to get as much money out of us as they can.

    Comment by Steve — July 7, 2015 @ 4:25 pm

  37. my buyer turned out to be a phantom to boost the estate agents property sold image.

    Comment by steve munt — June 29, 2015 @ 8:45 am

  38. Agents are actually responsible on settling for a price that is best for the vendor as they are the people paying our commission.

    Our duty to any potential buyers is to be polite, honest and as helpful as we can. However it is often the buyers who present the myriad of problems surrounding house sales.

    Sorry but it’s the truth.

    Comment by Pat — April 10, 2015 @ 10:55 am

  39. A tremendously helpful website! thank you.

    Comment by Clare Menzies — August 3, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

 
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