With few exceptions, estate agents tie their clients in to lengthy sole agency agreements which are designed to stop you from going elsewhere. A four month ‘lock in’ is not untypical then followed by an ‘adding insult to injury’ 14 day notice period thereafter.

In ye olden days when estate agents were honourable (yes, a long, long time ago) multiple agency was the norm. Sole agency agreements were granted as a concession and at a discount. Standard fees would be cut from 3% to 2% or thereabouts.

But in recent years, sole agency has become a tool to hoodwink the public into a lengthy agreement that prohibits a competitor from being involved with the marketing of your property for many weeks. It’s an exclusivity period that allows agents to overvalue your home to win your business and then wait in the wings, goal hanging until reality dawns and you reduce your asking price, so selling your home eventually despite the obstacle of an inflated price tag as orchestrated by Julian & Co.

Those that do not sell within their sole agency contract will be tempted to dump their agent and go elsewhere. Apart from the real danger of ending up in the same position all over again with a new firm, many sellers are hesitant if not frightened to change their agent. With a few viewers having come and gone, some who showed interest but had properties themselves unsold, you may well be concerned that if one was to come back via your newly appointed company, the threat of paying BOTH agents becomes a real prospect. So, best to stay with your first lot and grin and to bear it.

There are very many estate agency branch managers that will blindly advise former clients that ‘a viewing constitutes an introduction so triggering commission being due’. They will passionately explain that ‘this is the way it has always been’. The norm.

You’ll need to read the small print of your agency contract carefully for the varying terms and language used however, despite the protestations of many property firms to the contrary when in dispute, you may well find that in the event of a ‘double introduction’ you will not owe a penny to the first agent at all.

Step forward Foxton vs Bicknell. http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/419.html

This is a Court of Appeal case from 2008, still little known in estate agency circles and which states, in essence, that subject to the exact wording of a particular contract in question, the agent that qualifies for the commission payable by a property seller is not simply that which arranged the first viewing but is the firm that made the most effort to negotiate and arrange a sale. Simply picking up the ‘phone to make a viewing appointment is not enough.

The crux of this precedent hinges on the word ‘purchaser’.

‘…commission is due if a sale is agreed that proceeds to an exchange of contractswith a purchaser introduced by us’. Purchase, according to the judiciary in the Foxton case above, means exactly that. A purchase. A deal. A sale. If the first agent did not arrange the sale by way of negotiating price, qualifying the buyer’s position, writing to conveyancers with details etc, then it is unlikely that any fee is due.

We’re not lawyers of course. We are mere fixed fee, low cost estate agents so if you have an issue where an agent is threatening to sue your for a commission that you don’t think is due, do consult a solicitor that specialises in litigation (this will not necessarily be your conveyancer).

On the other hand, if you don’t want the hassle of proving in court that you should not have to pay two massive selling fees, turn to eMoov.co.uk. Then you won’t even have to pay one unjustifiable amount, let alone two.

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