Complaints about estate agents buck falling sales
The Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) has reported that last year’s decline in house sales was not reflected in his caseload.
According to Christopher Hamer, sales activity plummeted by up to 60% in 2008, however, the volume of sales disputes dealt with by his office fell by just 3%.
By way of explanation, Mr Hamer suggests that buyers and sellers “have still higher expectations of agents’ service” during the property market downturn.
The OEA receive 1,043 new cases last year: 743 for sales and 300 for lettings. The total was up 20% on 2007 and 78% on 2006.
Complaints were upheld in 65% of cases and the majority of compensation awards were between £100 and £499.
However, 2008 saw the highest ever award to a complainant in the 20 year history of the OEA.
An estate agent was ordered to pay out £23,880 after conflicting advice had been given by staff and the agent had failed to act in the best interests of the client or negotiate effectively.
In 2009, the Ombudsman expects the bulk of his work to shift to the rental market as the profile of the UK housing sector continues to charge.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents has already warned that the rise in both tenant demand and properties to let means unqualified lettings agents are entering the market.
In addition, some established estate agents have been moving towards the rental sector to survive the market downturn.
Finally, Mr Hamer reported that confusion over this role continues, with many people mistakenly regard the OEA as a regulator of estate agents rather than someone who resolves disputes between agents and consumers.