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Estate agents accused of profiteering from in-house services

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Estate agents accused of profiteering from in-house services

Following studies from the Office of Fair Trading and an investigation by The Times newspaper, it has been found that a large number of estate agents are forcing customers into using their in-house mortgage services rather than independent brokers.

As these additional services enable estate agency staff to earn extra commission, home-buyers are often pressured into arranging a mortgage through them. Some are even told that their offers will only be accepted if they apply for mortgages in-house.

However, estate agents – often sourcing mortgages from panels – can fail to offer the most competitive deal and consumers are usually unaware that they don’t have access to all the deals in the market.

Brokers have described these unfair practices as “an industry wide problem”, with mortgage broker Aaron Strutt telling The Times: “In-house mortgage advisers may not be independent or whole-of-market so they only have a limited number of deals, potentially leaving buyers worse off.”

Although estate agents maintain that they are acting on behalf of the seller – as record numbers of mortgage applications are declined and those selling their homes become anxious of the buyer’s ability to secure a mortgage – complaints about estate agents have risen substantially in recent months.

Consumer advice service, Consumer Direct, claims that between January and October of this year it has received 3,565 complaints about estate agents, marking a 10% rise on the same period in 2008.

Additionally, studies conducted for the OFT have revealed that one in 20 homebuyers who had taken out a mortgage from an estate agent has been told that it had to be done in order to secure the purchase of the property.

It is illegal for estate agents to block buyers who refuse to take out a mortgage through them, and brokers have warned consumers to not fall for “bullying tactics”, advising them to go to an independent broker to check if there is a better deal for them.

 





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