The number of complaints against estate agents is soaring, according to new figures.
The Ombudsman for Estate Agents received more than 8,000 enquiries from angry customers in 2006 – a year on year increase of more than a third, compared to 6,021 in 2005.
And nearly two thirds of people do not trust estate agents, according to a recent survey.
The findings have been made by ITV’s Tonight With Trevor McDonald, which commissioned a YouGov poll of attitudes towards estate agents.
Of the 64 per cent who do not trust estate agents, 77 per cent thought they were more interested in their profit than the customer and 54 per cent thought they had a reputation for being dishonest.
Estate agent ombudsman Chris Hamer, who offers an independent service dealing with disputes between estate agents belonging to his scheme and residential property buyers or sellers, is due to release his official annual report on 23 May.
The three main sources of complaints he receives are maladministration (such as details of offers not being properly processed), commissions (such as disagreements over fees) and sales particulars (such as disagreements over room measurements).
Mr Hamer explained why he thinks there has been a rise in complaints.
‘I think possibly it’s down to people being less ready to be satisfied with something which they perceived as poor service – given the size of the financial commitment that they’re taking on by buying a house,’ he said.
‘There’s a lot of inherent stress in the process of buying and selling houses and if something goes wrong then they’re actually an easy target for people to say: ‘You’ve disadvantaged me in some way’,’ he added.
In a further setback to the industry, Mr Hamer predicts estate agencies will suffer from the growing popularity of private sale websites which enable people to bypass agents.
But Peter Bolton King, Chief Executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, said the rise in complaints could be attributed to the growing number of agencies belonging to the ombudsman scheme since it was set up in 1998, and the growing public awareness of it.
‘It’s not necessarily a negative thing – it just means more people are being pulled in line,’ he said.
Which? has campaigned for robust regulation of estate agents since our major investigation in 2002.
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