Keeping to our word – and hoping clients do the same
By Colin Shairp, director, Town and Country Southern and Fine and Country Southern
Contracts can be difficult things – everyone likes them so they know where they are, but you always come up against people who then try to get round them.
My firms belong to The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme which has strict rules about contracts with residential property vendors being clear and concise in explaining the services to be provided and their cost so each party can be clear about the commitment made.
One of them in most circumstances is that businesses like mine charge no fees until a sale is successful.
Unlike online agents who charge a fee upfront that’s paid whether or not they succeed in selling, the traditional estate agent has always borne the brunt of photography costs, advertising and publicity, and guiding the deal to a successful conclusion.
So it can be galling when vendors suddenly renege on the deal.
Another agent might sweet talk them to transfer allegiance, but doesn’t always explain that if the property sells within a reasonable time to a buyer first introduced by the original estate agent then that first agent is entitled to their fee or commission.
This happened recently when we were contacted by the property vendor who said they were retaining ownership to let the property.
Having succumbed to the persuasive argument that there would be no sale, I found within two days that another agent’s ‘For Sale’ board was outside the house.
I did as the TPO demands, and sent the owner a list of all the names of people we had introduced over the time the property was with us, only to get an abusive response about ‘money grabbing estate agents’.
There was no reasoning when I explained that I was required by industry rules to send that list to avoid future confusion.
Another client rang to say they were withdrawing from the market and we agreed to end their contract early.
But they had forgotten that good practice among estate agents is to keep in contact with prospective buyers to establish if they are still searching and how we might help them.
Maintaining a list of keen potential buyers helps sell properties more quickly.
On this occasion, we rang the potential buyer only to find they had moved two weeks before into their new home – the one to which we had introduced them and had then been withdrawn.
The owner had persuaded them to buy through another agent and you can understand that buyers don’t mind how they buy as long as they get the house.
Our contract is always with the seller, who duly got a solicitor’s letter and an invoice for our fee. We had, after all, done the legwork.
He wasn’t happy, but needless to say his cheque arrived pretty quickly and went straight into the bank!
Remember when you sign a contract with an estate agent that it’s founded on trust and that both parties are bound by it.
If the estate agent has done the work, don’t expect him or her to walk away without charging the fee that’s been earned.
We take the risk, but we also like the reward!