Beware the tricks of the online only estate agency trade

06/03/2020 12:05:36

Just as there are times in life when you’ll need a good lawyer and a good priest, there are also occasions when you’ll need a good estate agent.

Whether you’re buying or selling a property, an estate agent can be your adviser, your advocate and even your confessor.

In the Scottish system, estate agents’ fees are paid by the seller but that doesn’t mean they’re not required to act in the best interests of potential buyers.

They owe a duty of care to everyone involved in the process and, even from a commercial point of view, it pays to treat everyone fairly because buyers who have a good experience with an estate agency are more likely to use them when they come to sell.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller the estate agent’s job is to put your mind at ease and help you with a smooth transition from one property to another.

The days when all estate agents had an office in the local high street and their very existence was dependent on their reputation are long gone, however.

The ability of property sales companies to operate solely from a website has seen the arrival of an online wild west.

Alongside traditional and dependable high street agencies, there is now a parallel market of fly-by-night, here-today-gone-tomorrow operators many of whom act in no-one’s interest but their own.

Typically, they will charge a fixed fee, no matter the value of your property, and they will promise to do everything that a high street agency does but for a fraction of the price.

It can sound too good to be true and that’s because, in most cases, it is. Many online agencies will simply post the details of your property on portals like Rightmove or Zoolpa and leave you to it.

In some cases, they will even ask you to take your own photographs and write your own property description.

Even with those that promise a full service, including conducting viewings, these additional provisions often fail to materialise.

There is no guarantee they’ll do their best to ensure you get the best deal for your property because they have an agenda too, making the most money that they can out of you.

We’ve heard reports of estate agents using unscrupulous methods to increase the commission they make on the sale.

The HomeOwners Alliance (HOA) has warned about one specific trick where an estate agent will invent a ‘ghost buyer’ to try and increase the value of the property.

They will tell a prospective buyer that another viewer is willing to pay more for the property with the hope that he or she will increase their bid.

By using this trick not only does it increase what sellers will get, but also the commission estate agents will pocket.

Another trick involves making sure you don’t reveal the minimum you’re willing to accept for selling your home.

While estate agents want to get good prices for the properties they sell, they also don’t want to work too many hours to get their commission, especially if they’re on a fixed fee.

Most online agencies demand payment upfront so there’s no incentive for them to get the best price possible and in many cases will convince sellers to accept a lesser offer than they want.

The HOA said: “Never let them know your bottom line (if you’re selling) or your maximum price (if you’re buying). Otherwise the chances are you’ll end up having to settle for it.”

To ensure you’re getting the best advice about selling or buying a property call your local Scottish Property Centre branch or visit

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