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Proposed minimum qualifications could lead to ‘draining the swamp’, says leading estate agent

Land Insight to 17 April NS

A well-known agent says that the proposals announced early yesterday could ‘drain the swamp’.

Peter Wetherell, chief executive of Wetherell in central London, welcomed the future need for estate agents to have a recognised qualification.

He said: “It’s the estate agency version of draining the swamp.

“It is amazing that you now have regulated bouncers for nightclubs, but you can be a window cleaner one day and then an estate agent the next.”

Another agent reacting to yesterday’s announcements queried whether voluntary tie-ins to transactions are really worth it, but said he would welcome standardisation.

Christian Warman’s firm, Tedworth Properties, had a case of gazumping just days ago, on a property that had been on the market a year. As a result, his agency endured a “volley of verbal excuse”.

He said: “Voluntary deposits to prevent gazumping are always a source of debate.

“They are sometimes used nowadays but often an inordinate amount of time can be spent determining the terms of the initial deposit, so it would be good to have this standardised.

“People often associate gazumping with a seller’s market. However, it also happens in a buyer’s market as we experienced last week.

“We agreed a sale at a price more favourable to the buyer than the seller but the former took his time providing solicitor’s details, getting his survey booked in, and providing details of his mortgage broker.

“Lo and behold, another buyer who had seen the flat beforehand submitted an offer at a higher amount as he had the confidence that someone else wanted to buy the property, making it more desirable in his eyes – two offers in ten days on a property that had been on the market for almost a year.

“Ultimately, the first buyer should have taken note of the phrase: if you snooze you lose.

“If he had provided the necessary information he had been repeatedly asked for in a timely fashion, rather than taking over a week to provide the most basic details, he would not have been gazumped and we wouldn’t have been subjected to the volley of verbal abuse.”

He added: “People often associate sales fall-throughs with poor estate agency practice but it is refreshing that at last focus being pointed at freeholders and managing agents as well as the searches that local authorities provide.

“Managing agents acting for freeholders can often take an inordinate amount of time to provide information about how a building is managed and financed, and setting compulsory service standards on their response time will be a big help.

“And all too often the last piece of the conveyancing jigsaw is the local authority search despite often being the first thing applied for, so setting a maximum time permitted to provide a search will help too.”

Warman said he welcomed openness about referral fees, but said this should already be the case.

Also commenting yesterday was the HomeOwners Alliance, 35% of which is owned by conveyancing panel management firm ULS.

HOA chief executive Paula Higgins said: “These reforms – which the HOA called for – will go a long way to bring more certainty for home owners and help stop sales falling through. In an industry tarnished by Wild West attitudes, these reforms will send the cowboys packing.”

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Source:: Proposed minimum qualifications could lead to ‘draining the swamp’, says leading estate agent