Letter: End of estate agents?

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The Independent Online
ONE MUST welcome your leading article (5 March) on the need for reform of buying and selling houses, but shoring up a basically unsound system with rules and regulations is unlikely to provide a solution. There is a straightforward way of putting things to rights.

Estate agents are about the only middle-men in the market who don't hold their own stock - because, they say, they can't afford to - and their clients therefore have to borrow heavily to cover the transfers over which they preside. Agents also have a vested interest in holding out for high prices, thus forcing them up; since they charge a percentage for their "services".

Why not empower local authorities to buy and sell houses at rateable value or the equivalent? They could afford to hold their stock; they would have every incentive to sell quickly at the best price within the range since their income depends on a levy on occupied premises; buyers would immediately know what was available to suit them in the locality; and home owners would become more mobile as a result of a diminishment of the hassle of moving.

Astute authorities, perhaps with the advice of estate agents employed as public servants, might in fact legitimately make quite a lot of money on the side.

JOHN A DAVIS

Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire

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