Beware a hasty house sale… Tempting offers to sell your home in a hurry can be a quick route to very big losses
- Homeowners being warned of a rise in rogue estate agents exploiting families
- They risk being tied into expensive long-term contracts with ‘quick sale’ firms
- Some cash home-buying firms offer a legitimate service to those in a rush to sell
- But others merely list the property with online portals such as Rightmove
- Sellers can agree to drop price without realising there is no guarantee of a sale
Homeowners are being warned of a rise in rogue estate agents exploiting desperate families who need a quick sale during the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts say they have seen a surge in misleading advertising from agents who promise to sell properties within weeks.
In reality, homeowners face losing tens of thousands of pounds from the sale of their home or being tied into expensive long-term contracts with ‘quick sale’ firms.
There are fears more could be caught out as market turmoil pushes those who need to sell their home because of debt or ill health into the hands of unscrupulous agents.
Experts say they have seen a surge in misleading advertising from estate agents who promise to sell properties within weeks
Residential property transactions were down 53 per cent in April compared with last year, according to HMRC.
But Gavin Brazg, founder of property website TheAdvisory, says there has been a 22 per cent increase in visitors to the firm’s ‘how to sell fast’ guide compared with its standard ‘how to sell’ guides since the housing market reopened.
Some cash home-buying companies offer a legitimate service to those in a rush to sell.
But investigators at National Trading Standards say others pose as buyers but merely list the property with online portals such as Rightmove.
The seller agrees to a reduced price without realising there is no guarantee of a sale.
Other sellers agree to a significant discount before finding their property has in fact been advertised at full market value so the agent can pocket the difference.
Families have even been made to sign a power of attorney, giving the agent the right to spend money upgrading a property by using the funds the seller received from the sale of their home.
A quick sale? Not for us
A couple trying to sell their farmhouse because of ill health say they have been ‘left in limbo’ after being targeted by a ‘quick-sale’ estate agent.
Sharon, 58, and Mark Batchelor, 60, had spent more than £250,000 renovating their home in Ystalyfera, South Wales.
They needed a quick sale after Mark’s multiple sclerosis began to worsen and the property became unmanageable.
No sale yet: Sharon, 58, and Mark Batchelor, 60, had spent more than £250,000 renovating their home in Ystalyfera, South Wales
Last August, they listed it with Purplebricks at £539,000. But after a few weeks they received a letter from Sell Quick, which Sharon says claimed the firm could buy the property at market value.
But she says when she called Sell Quick, they told her they could only buy it for £480,000, but she could get a better price from Express Estate Agency (EEA), which is run by the same family, who would market the property.
Sharon says an EEA sales representative told them he could sell it for £525,000 within 30 days.
But the retired safety officer says the firm uploaded poor-quality photographs and failed to mention the property was a smallholding with facilities for livestock.
The couple asked for the advert to be removed on December 10 but it remained live until February 27.
They couldn’t use another agent during that time because of a 24-week exclusivity clause in their contract, and have been unable to sell since due to Covid-19. Sharon says: ‘It’s a case of them making all these promises and then you’re left in limbo.’
Mark Brogan, of Manchester-based EEA, says it was clear the Batchelors were entering into a 24-week agreement and that EEA’s ‘sole selling’ agreement has been approved by The Property Ombudsman.
He says EEA aims to sell in 30 days but is ‘very confident’ it never guaranteed this to the Batchelors.
He says he is ‘satisfied’ the firm ‘reacted swiftly’ to Sharon’s complaints about the advert and all fees have been refunded.
There is no suggestion either firm acted illegally.
One homeowner, who didn’t want to be named, tried to sell their father’s bungalow through a quick-sale estate agent because they needed the cash to pay care home fees.
But the agent reduced the asking price from £210,000 to £195,000 without their knowledge, while charging £8,000 in fees.
The property was listed in August last year but has still not been sold, despite the agent promising to secure a deal within four weeks.
To make matters worse, the seller could not pursue alternatives because until recently they had been tied into a nine-month contract with the agent.
Residential property transactions were down 53 per cent in April compared with last year, according to HMRC
Mark Hayward, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), says he has seen a rise in online quick-sale adverts since the housing market reopened.
He adds: ‘If house sales are difficult, some people will find themselves in situations that prompt them to look at quick-sale options.
But there are many pitfalls.’ He says customers should check whether agents are signed up to redress schemes such as The Property Ombudsman, or are members of the NAEA.
Alison Farrar, operations manager at the National Trading Standards Lettings & Estate Agency Team, warns against ‘agents who break the law and deliberately mislead sellers’.
She says: ‘The reopening of the housing market and changes to people’s circumstances mean we expect to see more people looking to sell their property quickly — and more turning to specialist ‘quick-sale’ estate agents to help expedite the process.
‘National Trading Standards is warning anyone considering using a quick-sale agent to get an independent solicitor to look at the paperwork and explain the implications of any agreement.’