Buying a property – understand the legal position with estate agents

I work with lots of estate agents very closely and have excellent relationships with them and we get a lot of our work via recommendations from them. As in any area of business, estate agents role is to make money. They also are well advised to ensure they keep a good reputation. However, with property

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I work with lots of estate agents very closely and have excellent relationships with them and we get a lot of our work via recommendations from them.

As in any area of business, estate agents role is to make money. They also are well advised to ensure they keep a good reputation. However, with property sales, estate agents make money from fees paid by sellers, so their primary motivation is to get a sale at the best price as fast as possible. Keeping buyers happy is a secondary consideration.

It’s important for buyers to recognise and understand the above, because many form the view that the estate agent is on their side or owes them some kind of duty. That simply isn’t the case.

In legal terms, the estate agent will have a contract with the seller only. If a sale does not happen, and you are a buyer, you have no contractual claims against the estate agent, who also owes you no duty of care in negligence. If you have spent money on a valuation, survey and legal fees and the seller accepts another offer, either prompted by the agent or otherwise, if you have not reached formal exchange of contracts or agreed a lock in agreement, you will have no redress.

As a buyer, the only legal redress you may have, against an estate agent, is if there is a property misdescription.

Finally, I would also add that, whilst there are still some conveyancing solicitors out there who don’t understand or are unwilling to adapt to the reality that clients need and expect proactive service and good communication from their lawyers, they are rapidly becoming fewer in number, as clients are more aware of this, estate agents won’t recommend such lawyers and they are unlikely to be accredited under the Conveyancing quality Scheme. Clients get frustrated by any delays in conveyancing transactions, even more so in a highly competitive sellers market, but there are many reasons, not least chain transactions, where delays are wholly outside the lawyers control. Some estate agents will advise buyers to pressure their lawyer to do something which is not possible legally or to overlook something which they can’t. Bearing in mind that the buyer will no have redress against the agent, buyers should be aware of this possible dynamic and, having chosen a conveyancer,except when receiving obviously bad service or inexplicable advice, to trust and rely on the conveyancer above all else.

This article is also useful and touches on some of the points made above.

Jonathan Green - property solicitor
Jonathan Green – property solicitor

If you need conveyancing or property law advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Conveyancing • Jonathan Green

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