Sam Dunn: Estate agents: in need of modernisation

Their public image is worse than that of journalists

I like estate agents for the wrong reason. Their reputation in countless job surveys as grubby charlatans out to turn a fast buck places them a notch below journalists. But providing me with a crumb of professional pride is not enough to overlook accusations of shoddy service.

Many homeowners will have a stack of horror anecdotes, and an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report in 2004 detailed the broad levels of unhappiness with agents. These included poor sales practices; causing unnecessary delays in the sale process; failure to pass offers on to vendors; misleading property descriptions; and lack of competition on fees.

The problems start with a woeful lack of regulation that has led to wild differences in standards between property agents, as well as doing little to protect buyers from rogue traders and conmen.

Over the past two years, the industry has tried to improve customer service, but it has been hampered by a lack of cohesion.

Instead of a single unifying code, the National Association of Estate Agents and the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) - competing professional bodies - run rival rules of conduct for their members.

This is hopelessly confusing for consumers (is one code better than the other?) and since neither code is compulsory, it's easy to overlook both or have no idea whether an agent is a member of either organisation.

I'll bet few buyers know which logo to check for, or even what they look like.

Change for the better can be awfully slow - especially when the industry in question has become fat on its current way of doing things.

But there are hopes that new legislation forcing all agents to sign up to a single trade body could soon be introduced. It's expected that the Queen's Speech in November will include it.

For now, however, we have little choice but to make do with what we've got - and this, happily, is about to improve. From today, a revamped OEA code of practice - approved by the OFT - for member estate agents insists on greater transparency and accountability.

The body, which represents half of all estate agents, says its members must now express their fee as a definite sum and not just as a percentage; put all confirmed offers in writing; and tell any property viewers whether a vendor has already accepted an offer.

It's a shame these measures are being heralded as big improvements when they really should be the bare minimum.

I look forward to the day when estate agents are held in higher esteem.

There's not enough room for all of us at the bottom.

s.dunn@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn