Estate Agents no longer the most hated!

I had to check the date when I saw the list of the top three most reviled professions. It must be April 1st because although as expected there were the trendy hate figures in the form of bankers along with the expected traffic wardens, no where could I see estate agents.

In a survey earlier in October by the Co-operative I just assumed that agents would be trying to elbow out journalists and MP’s for the top spot. Call centre staff, footballers and tax men all tried to take on the famous three that have topped these polls all my working life but estate agents seemed to have cleaned up their act and had climbed to number six! Could it be possible that one day people will actually aspire to be an agent?

Seriously, part of the reason for this apparent triumph of PR is that so few people these days actually come across an estate agent. It’s hard to find a time when fewer homes were selling and with less than 2,300 a day its hard to recall a time when few homes were coming onto the market. Top this up with the fact that the housing crash has resulted in around 3,000 fewer agents actually working and the public really are seeing fewer agents!

In fact, this idea is borne out by the numbers of complaints reported to The Property Ombudsman who has just published his latest quarterly report. If you have cause to complain about a breach of the Ombudsman’s’ code – either as a buyer, seller, landlord or a tenant then the Property Ombudsman is where you can go. The Ombudsman received a host of complaints in the last quarter, many he says from other agents alleging dirty tricks!

Luckily, Christopher Hamer’s remit doesn’t cover squabbling agents. He is concerned with complaints by the general public. Looking back at the last four quarters, it’s clear he has had a busy time. Problems with charges for Home Information Packs, an increase in problems with lettings as the rentals market has picked up and the usual spread of people who frankly need saving from themselves!

Over 12,000 people contacted his office for advice over the past year. Of these, 911 went on to make a formal complaint to him on either a sales or lettings issue. Over this period he found in favour of 359 sales complainants and 281 lettings complainants. In 346 cases he found in favour of the agent.

All these, in particular the 640 who were let down by their agent are to be regretted but some context might be helpful. When compared to the number of houses offered for sale in the year to September the number of complaints upheld against sales agents represents just 0.04% of the total. Indeed, the number of enquiries made for either sales or lettings over the year represented just 1% of all the homes offered for sale. If you remember that buyers and tenants as well as sellers and landlords can seek redress via the Ombudsman the total number shrinks to around 0.001% of all those who come into contact with an agent.

I’m sure that when the market returns that agents will once again regain their position in the publics’ esteem but for now the official figures suggest that they have at least started to put their house in order.