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Wednesday Sep 22, 2010

Online estate agents 'need to clean up their act'

The internet, says Lanice Steward, Managing Director of the Cape Peninsula estate agency, Anne Porter Knight Frank, has become a powerful marketing tool for the residential property sector - but, she warns, it is being abused and real estate people need to clean up their act here and put a stop to certain far from honest practices.

The main abuse to which Steward was objecting is that of listing on their websites as recent sales successes homes that have, in fact, been sold 12, 18 or even 24 months ago - at prices that are no longer relevant and are misleading to the viewer.

Worse still, says Steward, some homes are listed that have not been sold by the agency in question.

"It is not actually stated that these homes were sold by themselves, but the average surfer of the net will get this impression," she says.

Agencies indulging in these and similar 'tricks', says Steward, are likely also to list properties at good prices for which they have no mandate at all and which in some cases may not even be for sale.

"When the enquirer contacts the agency he will probably be told that the home has recently been sold but that they have another which is as suitable. In this way they draw the client into their net."

Some of the agencies indulging in these malpractices, says Steward, will go so far as to list properties of other agencies - without their permission - in the hope, presumably, of being able to refer an enquirer to the appointed agency and share the commission if a sale results.

One such agency that listed Anne Porter Knight Frank stock, Steward discovered, was not registered and was, therefore, acting illegally.

These fudges of the basic rules of real estate marketing, says Steward, go a long way to explaining why some clients have become disillusioned with estate agents and are inclined to run down the profession.

"The surest way to check on an agency's standing and validity," she says, "is to find out if they are registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board and have Fidelity Fund Certificates. If they do not comply in this way they have no legal right to be selling property on commission."

It will be interesting to see, adds Steward, if once the new educational qualifications are completed by the majority of practising agents whether these 'second and third class' agencies are able to survive.

"By the end of 2011," she says, "I suspect that an increasingly well informed public will be far quicker and more efficient at checking on their agent's credentials - which is just as it should be."

Anne Porter Knight Frank Press Release


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