The top ten dodgy estate agent tricks

Close up of keys and miniature house being held by male estate agent against snow falling

In survey after survey, estate agents are revealed as one of the most-loathed professions in the UK.

Mostly, of course, their reputation for being lazy crooks is undeserved.

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However, estate agent Lee from James Pendleton says the industry still has a long way to go to clean up its act, and that over the years he and his team have come across some truly unethical behaviour.

Topping the list is the cheeky trick of putting up 'for sale' signs outside properties they haven't even been asked to sell. The aim is to give potential buyers and sellers the impression they are the most popular local firm.

Another common con is to invent buyers making low offers - to make it look as if they are generating interest in the property - before advising clients to stick out for a higher price.

Agents have also been known to keep a vendor in the dark about a sale falling through, while they frantically try to find another buyer in case they take their instruction elsewhere.

Pendleton, founder director of James Pendleton, is calling for more regulation in the industry.

"We have a situation in Britain where someone with £5,000 in a savings account is protected by the full force of proper financial regulation, but those selling their biggest financial asset can only escalate a complaint to an ombudsman," he says.

"The sums changing hands in property transactions can dwarf those in banking, insurance and investing. The risk of serious loss to the consumer due to wrongdoing is therefore magnified."

When it comes to choosing an estate agent, research has shown that most vendors go largely on price. But while this is important, there are more important considerations. Will the agent market your property professionally and enthusiastically, or leave it languishing on the shelf?

"Don't fall into the trap of assuming all estate agencies are born equal - far from it," says Pendleton. "It's vital consumers realise this and shop around."

A useful first point of call is the Homeowners Alliance's agent-finding tool - particularly if you're house-hunting in an unfamiliar area. Input the postcode and type of property you're looking for, and it will list the available agents.

It can also tell you the average time they take to sell a property like yours and how close they get to the asking price.

And if you can, ask around: word of mouth recommendations can be worth their weight in gold.

"As with most services, a firm recommendation from a family member or friend can be helpful, advises property website PrimeLocation.

"It does not always mean that their experience will necessarily be replicated in yours, but it should be an indication of the professionalism and performance of an estate agents."

But if you do find you're flying blind, just remember the ten dodgy tactics below, and make sure you call your agent out on it if you have any suspicions.

Top ten dodgy estate agent tricks

1. Putting boards up on properties they haven't been asked to sell or let, in order to make themselves look more popular.

2. Advising clients on offers from fictional buyers - which always fall through - in order to make you think success is just around the corner.

3. Not revealing to a seller that a deal has fallen through, while scrambling to find another buyer before they lose the instruction.

4. Dreaming up fictional offers from non-existent viewings to push buyers into raising their offer.

5. Refusing to hand over the keys to rival firms when a property is being marketed by more than one agent.

6. Refusing to pass on an acceptable offer to the vendor knowing the buyer will go higher and boost their commission.

7. Competing with their own co-workers by deleting applicants and their offers from the firm's database, so buyers registered with colleagues are out of the running.

8. Gazumping their own buyers with a better offer from another customer, again to bump up their commission.

9. Under-valuing a property in order to sell or let it to a developer or friend - sometimes, even to buy it themselves.

10. Recommending offers from buyers simply because they are signed up to their own partner solicitors and brokers.

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10 most viewed homes

This five-bedroom, £4.5 million property was built in 2009, and designed to impress - with an indoor pool, sweeping staircase, a state of the art kitchen, feature fireplaces, a gym, and a bathroom for each of the five bedrooms. It seems to have worked, as the property had 14,000 views in a month.

Did someone say footballer?
 

At the other end of the affordability spectrum, there’s a good chance that the attention this two-bedroom flat is getting (17,000 views in a month) has something to do with the fact that it costs just £113,000. In Newport that buys you two double bedrooms and an allocated parking space near the city centre.

This is a stunning home in Padstow, boasting six bedrooms, an impressive vaulted entrance hall, open-plan living, and an outdoor pool.

However, the most striking aspect of the property has to be the incredible views all around.

It'll set you back £2.25 million, but that hasn't put 20,000 people off viewing the property in a month.

This stunning eight bedroom property is set on an estate owned by the Crown in Oxshott in Surrey.

For your £5.5 million, you get an impressive indoor gym and pool, plenty of entertaining space, a master bedroom suite complete with mirrored dressing room, and separate staff accommodation. The grounds are fitted with extensive security and CCTV, so nobody will ever get inside. While it's on the market, of course, we all get a chance to have a look around, and in one month 34,000 people have.

This beautiful four-bedroom house on the Isle of Skye is just £100,000, which makes it a reasonable proposition as a holiday cottage or bed and breakfast.

It has been recently renovated too, so you won't have a maintenance mountain to climb before you start. It’s a great place to view while you dream of a remote island life - which may be one of the reasons why 41,000 people have viewed it in a month

This six-bedroom newbuild looks fairly traditional from the outside, but inside has opted for a sea of shiny white flooring, a shiny white kitchen, and a master suite that comes with its own (shiny white) dressing room.

It’s well worth a look - after all 42,000 people have viewed it in a month - but if you want to move in, it’ll set you back £2.65 million.

This four bedroom detached new build in Grimsby comes with some footballer essentials - including a shiny white kitchen, Bi-fold doors onto the terrace, master bedroom suite with dressing room and a free-standing bath in the family bathroom.

And because it’s in Grimsby, all this comes with a very reasonable price tag of £379,000. It’s such a good deal that 58,000 people have viewed it in a month.

This new build in Cheam, in Surrey, is advertised without a price. But given it has six bedrooms, a swanky kitchen and bathrooms, a games room, several sitting rooms, and Bi-fold doors onto an impressive garden (built for entertaining ), you can safely assume you’re looking at several million pounds. You can have a look yourself, and decide what it’s worth, after-all, 92,000 people already have in the past month.

Tucked into a cul de sac in Gerrards Cross, this five bedroom detached home (built in 2011) comes with an imposing triple garage.

For the petrol head who moves in, there are also three reception rooms, five double bedrooms (four of which are en-suite and one of which comes with a dressing room). It’ll cost you £2 million, so take your time having a look first - joining 150,000 people who have nosed around in the past month.

This five bedroom detached home in Lanark is the most viewed property in the country, with 212,000 views in a month.

Clearly people are intrigued as to how they can get an immaculate detached five bedroom home for less than £200,000 - over £500,000 less than the average asking price for a five bed house in the UK. The answer is, of course, that Lanark is home to some incredibly affordable property - so this constitutes a pricey property for the area.

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