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The Skewed World of Estate Agency

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme recently banned the malpractice of ‘portal juggling’. For those of you who don’t know, this is the re-leasing of a property listing by an agency on one or more portals, of a property the’re already listing. It’s a way of trying to dupe the public and make a property look like it’s a new instruction. ¬†Zoopla Property Group has also come out and said that they will ban agents who continue to do this on their portals.

Since inception, such portals have been awash with such deceptions an it is about time TPO clamped down on them. It is important that the new shop windows paint an honest and transparent view of the property market, as this information is vital to the consumer. The standard and quality of instructions that are listed are the responsibility of the agencies who are selling those properties.

There is always frustration when a new instruction (if it is new) is listed on a portal and shows a photograph of a street, but none of the exterior or interior of the property. Sometimes not even a floor plan. TPO in essence should go further to prevent listing of properties that sometimes don’t even exist.

Much property research is based on what the listings on the portals say. If the statistics are false the market can become heavily skewed. A particular weakness is the further undermining of statistics due to the constant over-valuation of property by agents for the sole purpose of winning instructions, with the constant subsequent price reductions, often over many months and sometimes years.

Within the new paradigm of a transparent online marketplace, property appears to be in a constant state of flux, in a general downward pattern of price reduction upon price reduction. These are highlighted on the sites every time it happens to each property. It looks poor and down-values their worth.

I’m not saying that price reductions are avoidable. Of course they’re not. Agents have to respond to the vicissitudes of the market, particularly in recent years where the constant stream of taxes and regulations have thwarted it. What I am talking about is the cynical over-valuation of property by agents to win instructions, which in my view is the worst offence and the largest single contributor to the skewed property market.

In future I hope that TPO looks at this false market and the negative effects it has for both agents and consumers.