Estate Agents Tricks - What to Watch Out for When Buying or Selling a House

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Estate Agents - Don't Trust Them?

This might be quite a controversial statement to make, and it’s certainly not my intention to suggest that they are dishonest. They just have they put their own interests first (who doesn’t?), and then their client, the seller. So, if you are the buyer you are on the bottom rung and even if you are a seller, you have to consider when estate agents are putting their own interests ahead of yours. There’s quite a lot of tricks they may play to get the most out of you, and the aim of this article is to make you aware of some of them so you can better look out for your own interests.

Selling a House

What the estate agent wants is for you to sign up exclusively with them to sell your house, then they want to sell your house quickly so they can get their commission with minimum time and effort expended on their part. After all the longer it is on the market the more they will spend in showing people round and promoting it. It is suggested by many that both the agent and the seller want to sell the property for the best price, as the agents commission will be higher. This isn’t necessarily the case however, as agents will often accept a slightly lower offer to sell quicker. Let’s face it, on a £200,000 house, with a 2% commission, they will get £4,000. Now selling it for £205,000 will mean £5,000 more for the seller, but only an extra £100 for the agent. It just isn’t worth it for them to hang on and try to sell it for a bit more. In fact, studies have shown that when estate agents sell their own houses, they get several percent more than when they are selling other people’s houses. So don’t think the seller and the agent’s interests always coincide.

So estate agents will put a quick sale over a higher sale price. They might do this in one of two ways. They may value your house low to get a quick sale, particularly if you’ve already decided to go with them. If however they know you are getting quotes from several agents, they may initially value your house high to get you to go with them, then put you under pressure later to reduce the price, or accept an unreasonably low offer.

So that’s a pretty standard box of tricks. Some of the darker arts practised by some- but obviously not all- estate agents include:

  • Not passing on details of all offers.
  • Fake bookings/viewings to make it look like they are doing a good job
  • Making up really low offers that they know you won’t accept, so you think the house is worth less than it is and will be more likely to accept a slightly higher (but still low) offer when it comes.
  • Giving you the cold shoulder if the house doesn’t sell after an initial period of activity – they won’t actively promote your house or even offer you advice on how to improve your chances

Estate agents may also decide at some point that they want to get rid of you. Perhaps your property has been on with them for ages and it dragging down their portfolio in their eyes- whatever, the 'honeymoon' period is off! They may simply do all they can to get rid of you- not turn up to viewings, not do any promotion or be unpleasant about your property. This is definitely the time to swap agents!

Buying a House

The tricks estate agents sometimes employ with sellers is nothing compared to the lengths they will go to try and get as much as they can out of potential buyers. Here are some of the tricks they may employ:

  • Lying! Many estate agents will tell you anything to get a sale.
  • Withholding important details re the house until you make an offer – such as if the house is a repossession, or if it is made of non-standard materials (such as concrete – this happened to us).
  • Assume all first offers are opening bids and that you are willing to go higher
  • Exaggerate interest in the property by others so you will bid higher
  • Make up fake offers to try and get you to bid higher (illegal in many countries including the UK, but is still widespread).
  • Keep promoting property after they’ve accepted an offer

It really is buyer beware and estate agents will tell you anything to get you to buy and will confuse and hassle you as much as they can.

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Your own Experiences

Have you experienced any of these estate agents tricks, or been the victim of any we've not mentioned? If so, tell us your experiences by leaving a comment below.

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Comments 9 comments

Miss G 4 years ago

Iv'e been asked by an estate agent to sell my house at a higher price but only of I agree to give the buyer £5,000 cash back. I would do this by meeting him in a pub or a public place (estate agents advice) and handing over the £5,000 cash and when the deal was done. My lawyer was shocked by this stating it was illegal practice and obviously advised me against this. The estate agent said deals like this happen all the time (he was obviously getting a back-hander). I did sell the house to the same buyer but at the lower price which is what I would've got anyway minus the £5,000 cash back! I am not afraid to to name and shame the estate agents who were Neilsons in Edinburgh. I did report the estate agent in question to the managing director who basically said it was my word against his ( why would I have made this up?). Needless to say the Estate Agent in question left Neilsons shortly after is. This is one of many bad experience's I've had with estate agents, in fact I've not had a good experience and I've used a few in Glasgow and Edinburgh, frankly I would cut them out of the buying and selling house equation altogether - they are absolutely useless, causing untold stress and in many cases losing money for the client. It's about time we stood up to them and implemented some sort of system where you where we deal solely with lawyers and surveyors. For most people it is the biggest purchase/sale of their life and it's left in the hands of absolute amateurs. Something needs to be done.


nakmeister profile image

nakmeister 4 years ago from Lancaster, UK Author

Wow, that's is one very dodgy estate agent. Anything involving handing over a bag of cash in a pub has got to be steered well clear of! Thanks for sharing.


LifeCharge profile image

LifeCharge 4 years ago from Oregon

I am a real estate agent, in business going on 13 years. I am proud to be a broker, and proud to work hard for my clients. Dare I say, I add value to the equation of buying or selling a home.

I am sorry your experience was so horrible that you feel it justified to slander an entire profession! I would like to suggest that your shocking list of offenses are FAR from the norm.

Making up showings, making up offers, making up lowball offers. The statute of frauds requires that all real estate offers be in writing, and responded to in writing. If it is not in writing, there is no offer.

As far as your commenter, Miss G, your story is NOT that of a "useless" agent, it is that of a "criminal" individual. What your agent suggested in considered enticement, and is a fraud that would not be tolerated by the judicial system. Agents like that don't last, they end up swindling people in another way, that doesn't require a license. Thank goodness you had the smarts to object, or you could have been joining your agent in crowbar hotel.

A lot of us (Agents) work really hard to make our clients money and to offer solid advice. By the way, an agent is actually required to consider his/her client needs above of their own, as part of their fiduciary responsibility. While it is true we all have our individual motives, our goal is often clear, to close a sale for a Buyer or Seller with the best terms possible.

FYI, the condition and building materials in a home are evaluated by a licensed home inspector, also representing the purchaser. Agents should not be pretending to be a home inspectors.


Majestic Prop profile image

Majestic Prop 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

Definitely run into a few of those agents over the years. They give the entire industry a bad name.


moverevolution 3 years ago from Reigate

Giselenmendez wrote a nice article on this too "Why UK estate agents have a bad rep" http://hubpages.com/living/Why-do-UK-Estate-Agents... . Whilst it's true that UK estate agents can employ unscrupulous activities these are in the minority.

Barry, http://www.moverevolution.com/


JasonRandall2 profile image

JasonRandall2 3 years ago

Buying a house is so difficult!!!!!


Caitlyn Ramos profile image

Caitlyn Ramos 2 years ago from Albany, New York

Thanks for this, it gives me some things to look out for. Luckily my mother was a real estate agent and she will be helping me and meeting my agent with me. I hope I'm lucky and don't get someone who does any one of the things above.


Steve 21 months ago

Hi Lindsay and Amy,I really hope you reply even tuhgoh it has been 2 years since you\’ve posted on here… I\’m so glad to have found this site. My name is Nichole and I am almost 23 years old, I have suffered with NDPH since I was 16. I was a Sophomore in high school, it was near the end of 2006 when I got sick with bronchitis and the flu and coughed and coughed and noticed I had a really terrible headache with it. Once the sickness went away I noticed that the migraine, that pain in my head that had been so foreign to me prior to this, had not gone away, and still has not to this day… I had to be home schooled and quit all of my sports I was a part of… My \”friends\” went on with their lives and forgot about me while I had a constant 24/7 pain that I could not get rid of no matter how hard I tried or how much it killed me, physically and mentally. We began with Chiropractors, decompression machines, adjustments, etc. I traveled hours to probably 20 different Chiropractors that all said that they knew what I had and exactly how to treat it. I\’ve tried natural supplements, over the counter medications, 6 Occipital nerve blocks in the back of my head, massage, diets of no wheat, no gluten, no sugar, vegan only, all with no progress. My family understands the pain and how I can be \”ok\” one minute but then pick up something slightly too heavy, walk a little too fast, sit down a little too hard and I will have to be in my room with blankets over my windows and absolutely no sound because the pain is so unbearable. It is so frustrating because I too feel like a burden, like ok you have a headache so what? Why can\’t you stay out late or get up early or work long shifts or run around and be active? But it is so much more than a headache… It\’s become a way of life and although I think I handle it well I know that deep down I am depressed and deeply saddened by it because anytime I stop to think about it or talk to anyone about it I cry instantly. Lindsay, I too have tried the things you have with no help and at Cleveland Clinic where they did my nerve blocks they told me about the program where you stay there for an amount of time. My option they told me about when staying there was a few weeks, they would put me on all these medications and steroid medications, have physical therapy and counseling as well. They also said the FDA would soon be approving the Botox injections, I\’m sorry those did not help you either… NDPH has altered my life drastically, I can\’t work as much, I can\’t run around and just be free, I can\’t take a full load of classes at a time… Basically I just want to thank you for having this site Amy, it is really more helpful than you know, just knowing that I\’m not the only one to suffer from this and that I\’m not the only one that has this pain to think about every single second of every day…Bless you and bless all your readers, may you all find relief from the pain -Nichole


james 21 months ago

only had property on the market for 2weeks.6viewings in first 3 days,since then nothing.beginning to wonder if all those viewings were quite what they seem especially as agent wants me out of the house when they occur.when the next one occurs will go next door for cuppa with neighbour and see if anyone actually turns up.will keep you posted.

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