The Government’s proposed amendments to the Estate Agents Act, that will do away with restrictions on websites used by sellers to market their homes to the public, has created quite a stir among estate agents.
The Department for Business, Innovations and Skills supports scaling down the restrictions on online intermediaries who have been obligated to verify the accuracy and authenticity of all advertised properties under the Property Misdescriptions Act (PMA). “Reducing the regulations for these businesses will open up the market and increase choices for consumers looking to save costs when buying or selling a property,” says Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson.
Estate agents, however, beg to differ. They feel the PMA was instituted to safeguard buyers from being hoodwinked by underhanded agents who misrepresent property. Says Jonathan Hudson of Hudsons Property: “To allow non-industry experts to come into the market unregulated is potentially catastrophic. There is potential here for people to mis-sell properties or provide the wrong information, so buyers incur unnecessary expense in mortgage arrangement and survey fees, before errors of information are spotted by their conveyancers.”
Consumers may see this as a golden opportunity that will enable them to sell their property without an agent’s hefty commission. But, little do they realise that they will be walking into a sale completely unprepared, with no professional guidance during sales negotiations. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) warns that this could potentially lead to delays in transaction, increased costs and the falling through of many a sale, not to mention the consumer’s vulnerability to rogue agents.
These amendments, however, have no bearing on Consumer Protection Regulations and Business Protection Regulations. Estate agents and online intermediaries have to strictly abide by the CPR and BPR.
Regardless, if a consumer is looking for a hassle-free straightforward deal, a licensed estate agent is the way to go, as their services are much more comprehensive and professional than passive intermediaries.