August 15, 2019   |   Jack Taylor

Beware Online Agents Warns Watchdog

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Online agents have again come under criticism this month from the Committee of Advertising Practice and have been told that they must forewarn the public of upfront charges which they apply regardless of whether the property sells or not.

The CAP issued new guidance via the Advertising Standards Authority website, with the heading “Get what you pay for”.

They say: “Property is big business and whilst these services have grown over the past few years, so has the number of complaints to the ASA about ads for them.”

They go on to tell online agents that they must be careful about claiming ‘local’ expert knowledge – although it does say that Local Property Experts only need local knowledge, rather than be based locally.

Additionally, the new CAP advice says that online agents who claim to offer savings over fees charged by traditional firms must offer proof that they really are cheaper.

The new advice says: “Adequate evidence must be held to support any comparison. Savings claims must be supported with comprehensive documentary evidence.”

The new advice also says that consumers must also be told of any “significant limitations”, such as being charged an extra fee to use their own conveyancer, or being charged extra for accompanied viewings.

On ‘local property experts’, the new CAP advice says: “It’s not uncommon for online estate agents to make claims about the ‘local’ knowledge and expertise of their staff, despite being an online company that might not be based in or around a particular location, care must be taken not to imply the existence of physical branches or being based in particular locations, when that is not the case.”

When it comes to selling your property local knowledge of the market and its customers is vital to securing not only a quick sale but also the right sale at the right price.

Ian Bythell our residential director said “Local knowledge is one of the advantages of a traditional high street estate agent, we know what sells in your area, what the pricing should be, and may know potential buyers looking for what you have to sell.”

Ian added: “It’s also important that customers know what they’re paying for. Moving home is costly and Petty has always been open and transparent about what we offer. The customer’s needs and requirements have always been central to what we do. We pride ourselves on our local knowledge and understanding of the market in our area. Helping people move house is a complicated, emotional gauntlet that affects people’s lives. It needs the human touch, in person, to help people through what can often be a complicated and sometimes traumatic process and the fact we’ve been around for so long means perhaps we understand that better than most.”

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