An advertisement for an online estate agent which quoted £495 as the fee has been banned because it was incumbent on sellers using the agent’s conveyancing and mortgage services.
If they did not, they would have to pay extra.
The ruling, which could affect other agents, is made public this morning by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The advertisement for HouseSimple was shown on television last July and August.
A voice-over stated: “Sell your home for just £495 upfront or choose ‘no sale, no fee’. How simple is that?”
A complainant said they were told they would have to pay additional charges unless they used HouseSimple’s conveyancing and mortgage service, and challenged whether the claim “just £495” was misleading.
HouseSimple told the ASA that it could offer the lower price of £495 because it earned a commission from the conveyancers and mortgage brokers, and could pass on the savings to the customer.
Clearcast – which clears adverts for broadcasting on TV – said that it had received substantiation from HouseSimple at script clearance stage which stated that customers could receive all the necessary services required to sell their property online for the featured price of £495 upfront.
The ASA said that a “significant limitation” had been left out of the advert, and that qualifying information was absent. The claim that consumers could sell their home for “just £495” was misleading.
The ASA has told HouseSimple not to use the advertisement again and to make clear in future that the advertised price was only applicable to customers using their recommended conveyancing and mortgage services.
The same TV advert also drew another complaint, this time because of its reference to “professional photos and floor plans”.
The complainant said that the person who took photos of their property told them they were not a professional photographer, and challenged whether the claim “professional” was misleading.
HouseSimple stated that their agents undertook home visits where they would take a full set of pictures on a professional standard camera and complete the floor plans to make sure that the valuation produced was accurate. They considered their agents’ photos were of a standard that could be described as “professional photos”.
Clearcast stated they had received confirmation from the advertiser that the photographs were of a high quality and professional standard, and were used online to sell the property, as would be seen on other online estate agent websites.
They considered that the average consumer would interpret the claim “professional photos” to mean the type of photos provided and that the agents and surveyors taking the photos would have the proficiency to take high-quality photos as part of their job, rather than that HouseSimple specifically employed professional photographers to take photos of properties.
The complaint was not upheld.
Yesterday, on its website, HouseSimple – backed to the tune of £5m by Carphone Warehouse founder Sir Charles Dunstone and his partner Roger Taylor – had clearly taken action after the ASA ruling. It has also put up its price.
It is now quoting £595 including VAT as an upfront fee. A telephone enquiry told us that the fee is reduced to £545 if the seller uses conveyancing services, quoted over the phone at £595 plus VAT. The agent also offers a deferred payment fee, at £695 including VAT, and and no sale, no fee at £995, again including VAT.
Although there is a set-up cost of £195 for sellers wanting no sale, no fee, HouseSimple says this is refundable if the property fails to sell.