Have you ever been caught out by estate agent fees?

Estate agents are cashing in on the increasing demand for residential property by forcing buyers to pay thousands of pounds in fees they don’t need to, the HomeOwners Alliance says in a new report.

The study identified a general lack of transparency by many estate agents who charge house hunters between 1% and 2.5% (plus VAT) for a sole-agency contract. Dispute with agents is at present the primary reason behind complaints filed with the HomeOwners Alliance, the organisation said.

Just 2% of agents communicate clearly the levies they impose on their websites, with the vast majority (82%) not mentioning fees at all, the report found. Many agents even failed to say whether VAT was calculated in their fees, even though they are legally bound to do so.

Around a third of estate agents are also unwilling to provide information about their fees to home owners over the phone, and two-thirds insist on doing an in-home valuation before even coming clean about their fees.

Many independent estate agents now charge sellers upfront fees, which usually include £99 for registration, £200 in the form of a marketing incentive levy and non-refundable deposits of up to £500 if the home-seller decides not to proceed with the transaction.

The organisation also pointed to cases where estate agents claim they had the right to charge commission even after the expiry of the contract with the seller, charging fees even if the sale falls through upon completion.

The findings point to some “murky” practices on the house-buying front, the organisation’s chief executive Paula Higgins stated. Estate agents appear to be far too reticent about fees and often their terms are unfair for sellers and buyers, leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket, she continued.

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