Online agent’s TV ad which quoted ‘misleading’ £495 fee is banned

An advertisement for an online estate agent which quoted £495 as the fee has been banned because it was incumbent on sellers using the agent’s conveyancing and mortgage services.

If they did not, they would have to pay extra.

The ruling, which could affect other agents, is made public this morning by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The advertisement for HouseSimple was shown on television last July and August.

A voice-over stated: “Sell your home for just £495 upfront or choose ‘no sale, no fee’. How simple is that?”

A complainant said they were told they would have to pay additional charges unless they used HouseSimple’s conveyancing and mortgage service, and challenged whether the claim “just £495” was misleading.

HouseSimple told the ASA that it could offer the lower price of £495 because it earned a commission from the conveyancers and mortgage brokers, and could pass on the savings to the customer.

Clearcast – which clears adverts for broadcasting on TV – said that it had received substantiation from HouseSimple at script clearance stage which stated that customers could receive all the necessary services required to sell their property online for the featured price of £495 upfront.

The ASA said that a “significant limitation” had been left out of the advert, and that qualifying information was absent. The claim that consumers could sell their home for “just £495” was misleading.

The ASA has told HouseSimple not to use the advertisement again and to make clear in future that the advertised price was only applicable to customers using their recommended conveyancing and mortgage services.

The same TV advert also drew another complaint, this time because of its reference to “professional photos and floor plans”.

The complainant said that the person who took photos of their property told them they were not a professional photographer, and challenged whether the claim “professional” was misleading.

HouseSimple stated that their agents undertook home visits where they would take a full set of pictures on a professional standard camera and complete the floor plans to make sure that the valuation produced was accurate. They considered their agents’ photos were of a standard that could be described as “professional photos”.

Clearcast stated they had received confirmation from the advertiser that the photographs were of a high quality and professional standard, and were used online to sell the property, as would be seen on other online estate agent websites.

They considered that the average consumer would interpret the claim “professional photos” to mean the type of photos provided and that the agents and surveyors taking the photos would have the proficiency to take high-quality photos as part of their job, rather than that HouseSimple specifically employed professional photographers to take photos of properties.

The complaint was not upheld.

HouseSimple – backed to the tune of £5m by Carphone Warehouse founder Sir Charles Dunstone and his partner Roger Taylor is now quoting £595 including VAT as an upfront fee. A telephone enquiry told us that the fee is reduced to £545 if the seller uses conveyancing services, quoted over the phone at £595 plus VAT. The agent also offers a deferred payment fee, at £695 including VAT, and and no sale, no fee at £995, again including VAT.

Although there is a set-up cost of £195 for sellers wanting no sale, no fee, HouseSimple says this is refundable if the property fails to sell.

https://www.housesimple.com/#advert

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34 Comments

  1. sb007ck

    So to clarify, Clearcast, approve adverts for TV based solely on the word of the person producing the advert that it is accurate? No background research or checks? I would see based purely on this example they are as much to blame as house simple.

    Time for the ASA to have a poke around ‘bricks adverts me thinks

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    1. PMPremier79

      It’s not quite that simple, Clearcast are pretty thorough (a complete pain in the a**s) about the checks they do, at times its a lengthy battle to get an advert over the line and cleared but when you aim to mislead then its pretty simple to find a work around, especially with stuff like hidden charges.

      The ASA need to take a good look at all these online agents and ensure that things are as transparent  as they should be. I am all for a bit of guerilla marketing but when the playing field is clearly not level then someone should step in and sort it out.

      The financial sector could be a good place to model things on with people having to clarify things aren’t quite as “simple” as they seem so the public can make an informed choice.

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  2. AgentV

    But they sell houses for free, according to their adverts, don’t they? That’s what most of the people I have met, who have also seen the advert, believe anyway.

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    1. AgentV

      PB TV adverts, I mean

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      1. Property Paddy

        Yes I’m sure PB are using a similar approach on their fees too.

         

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  3. StatementOfFact

    I like the “there is no commission to pay” I have been told twice by PurpleBricks clients this month. “No commission to pay, just a fee when we complete”.

    Yeah, that fee is a commission you plank.

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    1. revilo

      I feel a new nickname coming on – purple planks! 😉

       

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      1. PeeBee

        Cleaner than the current ones…

        ;o)

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    2. sb007ck

      “a fee to pay WHETHER YOU COMPLETE OR NOT!”

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  4. Philosopher2467

    Smoke and mirrors. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure that this information is available for vendors to make an informed decision based on honest representations of service and the cost of it. Also to be transparent of any ‘add ons’. This type of negative publicity just goes to reinforce negative stereo typing of the profession. Being competitive is one thing; misleading intentionally is quite another. Shame on you House Simple, management and backers!!!!

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  5. Manganese06

    Having worked in a ‘traditional’ estate agency for two years now, I am now looking to leave my role and join an online agent. Why? Because I’m from generation Z, having been brought up with the internet since birth and I accept the fact that as new technologies emerge, those unable to keep up will get left behind. Those who feel most threatened it seems are the 40/50 year old men, still living in the ‘phone age’ unable to accept the fact that they’ve been lucky to come this far and be the last industry to not have its decades-old business model being shredded by the advent of the internet. If traditional agents believe that their service is worth the extra thousands in fees, why is it all I see on these websites is the need for portals which won’t allow online agents or constant claims against online agents to the ASA? If traditional agents didn’t feel so threatened by their new competitors, instead of trying to shut them down perhaps they’d try and compete. Ultimately we know how far these efforts will come based on every other technological advancement in history which manages to reduce cost and increase efficiency. Agents in today’s highly advanced world either need to modernise and compete with those who embrace new technologies or find themselves left behind.

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    1. Manganese06

      Just to add: Countrywide have made enormous investments in to hybrid and online agents because they appreciate the fact that their existing business model is about to be rendered obsolete. Since joining the industry all I’ve heard from fellow agents is moaning about the market and online agents while online agents laugh at us in their TV adverts as they watch their share prices rocket. Which side would I rather be on? The threat or the threatened? I’m fed up of hearing agents moan about how they’re victims of the Internet rather than use it to gain a competitive edge.

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      1. BrandNew

        Ahhh…. the optimism of youth. Two years experience!

        I’m sure you’ll make a fine Local Property Expert.

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        1. Manganese06

          Excellent rebuttal, my point has been completely shut down.

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      2. AgencyInsider

        Dear Manganese06. A well argued posting. However I must alert you to the existence of this site of a chap called PeeBee who will probably be along any time soon to give you a verbal Chinese burn. That’s if he is feeling in a good mood. If he’s been riled by the latest shenanigans of certain online/disrupting agents you may find yourself in need of some armoured underwear…Good luck.

        Come what may, do keep posting. You’ve probably decreased the average age on this site by about 50%.

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        1. Manganese06

          Thank you, AgencyInsider. I am glad to see someone decides to respond to the point I make rather than dismiss it because of my youth.

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          1. PeeBee

            AHHHHH… Good evening, Manganese06 – and welcome to EYE!

            Bear with me – I’m a bit tied up at the minute but I’ll be back sometime (hopefully) before midnight and have a proper shufty at your posts.

            From a quick glance – this should be fun!

            Laters, young Sir!

            ;o)

             

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        2. PeeBee

          Hi, AgencyInsider – I just noticed your post.

          Am I really so predictable? ;o)

          I was too busy venting my spleen at the reality of the article and its’ outcome (as seen below) to concentrate on yon whippersnapper’s postings, to be honest… but I suppose it would be rude not to have a proper butchers at his typographical shot across the bows of us dinosaurs, and give him a feel of the tail of the diplodocus across his soft, fleshy buttocks – in the spirit of how any Jurassic period parent would react to its’ unruly child’s behaviour.

          Unfortunately it’ll have to wait a while – busy squeezing what I’ve bet my vendor will be the last grand out of his purchaser – so dependent on how that pans out depends on whether Manganese06 (strange combination of word and number – maybe he’s not worth the full 25 stated on the Periodic Table…?) gets it light or I take out my frustrations on him.

          One way or another it’ll be past his bed-time so let’s see how he responds in the morning after his beauty sleep.

          Bless…

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          1. Manganese06

            Not sure if immature or just rubbish banter… Anyway I’m glad to hear your rebuttals against my points (oh wait…) and if you must know my username was meant to be Manganese after the element but for some reason the website added 06 at the end?! I didn’t type that! Maybe I’m the one who should just stick to good ol’ fashioned telephones…

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            1. revilo

              Good old internet eh?

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            2. PeeBee

              Awwww, whassup – you feeling a tad touchy, Manganese06?  A smidgen vulnerable?

              Welcome to the wonderful world of EYE!

              I’m messing – but looks like you’re not ‘into’ immaturity or rubbish banter so maybe we’re destined to go to DEFCON 4 mode sooner than I would like.  We’ll see when I come back later.

              When you start getting your ankles chewed a la Hendry, Mealham, etc you’ll know about it…

              …trust me – I’m an Estate Agent.

              £500 down… £500 to go…

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              1. Manganese06

                I’m also an estate agent! I very much look forward to your nuclear bomb being dropped on my broadband this evening.

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                1. PeeBee

                  Nuclear bomb? Not at DEFCON 4 – you need to brush up on your tactical awareness, matey!

                  So… negotiations done… sale agreed… one very happy vendor later – I’m getting round to having a butchers at your posts.

                  And, if I may, ask a few questions.

                  (I only dish out Chinese burns/ankle gnawings if and when I know why I’m doing it and who to…)

                  You’ve gone from 0-60 in a very short timeframe here on EYE, young(?) Sir.  There’s nowt like making a grand entrance… somersaulting in with drums a-rolling in true Big Top style as you have done – and in fairness you could have come a cropper and skidded to a halt on your @r$e like Coco the Clown… but you haven’t.  Trouble is, however, the crowd’s not applauding.  Yet.  They’re waiting to see what your next trick is.

                  You say you’re two years into the job.  That’s fine – but I sense Agency isn’t your first step on the employment ladder.  May I ask, at what level do you currently sit within your current company; what previous employment experience do you have behind you, as I sincerely doubt that two-and-a-half years ago you were sitting in class daydreaming about Miss Smithers’ out-of-school exploits – and how/why did you choose to become an Estate Agent of all things (although I sense the clue to the answer to that question may well lie in your response to ‘Phil’ below…)?

                  And why, in those two long years, has your opinion of the job as you currently undertake it changed so dramatically?

                  Have you been sitting on the sidelines, watching and waiting for this opportunity to wind up the codgers sat sipping pale ale in the snug – or is ‘Manganese6’ a new name for a regular who has designs to disrupt the drinking habits of the old guard?

                  I would respectfully suggest that your apparent belief that the comments posted here by ‘traditional’ Agents are borne of fear of change or the ability to compete with online/hybrid offerings is pretty well off-mark – at least with many of those who post regularly.  In fact, you will find the reverse to be the case – and that the ‘new breed’ are the ones who need to stir the detritus in the pond in order to muddy the waters in order to allow them a rat’s chance to dip their toes in without being drowned instantly.

                  There is one constant in life – and that is change.

                  I won’t bore or patronise you with the amount of ‘change’ in the role that those “40/50 year old men” you referred to above have accepted (I can’t stand the phrase “embraced” – just as “consumer” boils my water good and proper…) – but trust me it’s a 5h!tpile more than I reckon you’ll see in your career in Agency, and maybe even more than in your whole working life.  The BIG changes have been made,  The wheel is there – now it’s just a case of polishing spokes for the sake of it… a bit like those numpties whose sole purpose in life is to redesign Tescos shelves every three months – pointless to the majority of customers and staff, but keeps them in a job with a big title and commensurate salary.

                  I’m not saying that two years on-the-job experience isn’t enough – far from it.  According to recent Tweets advertising roles in a particular agency, you’re probably far too qualified already to become a Local Expert and they’d want to knock out of you all you’ve already learned of the job.

                  That could actually be your downfall if you really are thinking of going over to The Dark Side.

                  I’d stick it out where you are if I were you.  The ‘growth’ you crave will happen naturally, organically – if you are right for the job.  Success seen breeds success.

                  You can’t ‘grow’ digitally or inorganically without added investment – meaning less income/profit without more business… requiring increased investment – and once on that hamster wheel you’re simply busting your ‘nads to make someone else considerably richer than you – or die trying.

                  You know it makes sense…

                  Now – give me the answers and risk a Chinese burn!

                  ;o)

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                  1. Manganese06

                    I left school and became an estate agent which has been my first real job. I’d be interested to know what led you to believe I had experience in other sectors. I’ve not grown disillusioned with the role, but until recently I dismissed online agents as offering an experimental service which will prove itself unable to compete, but in recent months I’ve noticed not a day goes by when I don’t see or hear anything about online agents mentioned and maybe that’s because I’ve recently started reading this website which seems to post a new article about online agents on a daily basis and the threat is so apparent. I recently asked myself what I will do when I come to sell my home, and it made me think I’m not going to pay 1% of my sale price for something I am able to do myself which may be due to the fact I am slightly more qualified (I hope) than the average vendor.

                     

                    Maybe I am too hasty jumping in to a company like Purplebricks, but I am certainly interested in working for a truly hybrid agency. I can’t see big corporates falling due to the new competition, but they surely do feel some threat posed by the huge difference in fees, hence why they proceeded to set up Agents’ Mutual. Independents I’m sad to say are probably the most threatened due to fewer resources, meaning less investment in order to compete, but I can see the playing field leveling out to enable traditional agents to maintain healthy competition, although I can’t help but feel high street agents will have to lower their fees to remain competitive long term.

                     

                    Of course agents have adapted to new technologies as they emerged. Every desk in any agency will have a computer. It would also be crazy to imagine any agent who was not listing on a portal. I wasn’t around back when portals came along, but I imagine many agents would have been upset that they felt they’d have to spend hundreds of pounds every month to stay afloat, before they realised they’d start saving from ‘traditional’ advertising media such as newspapers. And this is the natural progression. Online agents have been an inevitable step forward ever since portals came along. However, do you think that the portals will allow the vast majority of their income slip away because of their own creation; the online agents? No, of course not, the portals will create an environment which allows traditional agents to remain competitive.

                     

                    I understand Purplebricks and Yopa have come out with aggressive advertising campaigns attacking my industry. They had to. I understand that high street agents had to fight back. However the attitude held by most agents which is to try and divert popular attention away from them by taking down their advertising campaigns or by creating a new portal which won’t include them is a bad attitude and won’t work. Everyone knows Purplebricks now. Every agent gets asked on a weekly basis by friends and family if they feel threatened now. Why? Because these people are also starting to consider if they should save thousands on fees when they sell their home. I wish to work for a company which can combine the expertise and methodology of a traditional agent with a modern approach to technology while maintaining competitive fees because I believe this is what your average vendor is looking for. And I believe traditional estate agency is being rendered obsolete. Phil, below, commented saying this is an interesting take on a service industry. But this happened to travel agencies, recruitment agencies. It’s now about adapting to remain competitive in a digital world.

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                    1. PeeBee

                      Blimey, sunshine – you didn’t have to stay up half the night waiting for a chance to reply – this morning would have done! ;o)

                      With regard to why I queried your previous experience, let’s just say that I would have put money on your not being a school-leaver in 2014-5.  You’ve got what was always described as ‘an old head on young shoulders’ if that is the case – and I’m not doubting you for a minute.

                      You didn’t answer the most important question – which was why/how Estate Agency became your path into the working world but I will guess that you’re either in the family firm or have followed a parent or other close relative into the industry?

                      You hit the nail on the head with one phrase above: “Phil, below, commented saying this is an interesting take on a service industry.”

                      Ours IS a ‘service industry’.  Probably the single most important one there is.  The others that you mention – travel, recruitment – can be and are handled differently.  Certainly with recruitment the need for a swishy office is hugely diminished; holidays are ‘bought’ online without too much hesitation simply because it’s a few days out of your life that you hand back the keys at the end of.

                      But ESTATE Agency should be a true service to all.  Not just those who feel confident on a PC or tablet/smartphone.

                      You can’t ‘service’ a potential customer if they aren’t online, Manganese06.

                      Having an office provides a true service to EVERYONE – and is surely the only way that can demonstrate the Agent be doing the best for their client, as is the requirement of TEAA 1979.

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                    2. PeeBee

                      I like you already, by the way.

                      Don’t spoil that opinion! ;o)

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    2. growingstock76

      very good reply, I totally agree! But the other 99% of people on this forum are about to shoot you down!

      enjoy your new venture.

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  6. Philosopher2467

    An interesting ‘take’ on a service industry. Had the comments been made about ‘retail’ I would be in complete agreement. However, you do not get advice and guidance from a computer and as ‘artificial intelligence’ seems a way off, I wouldn’t rely on an algorithm to sell anything for me. I still believe that those that are the property owners of the moment and for the foreseeable may try an online platform (supported by living breathing people), but those that want to be certain of achieving the best price are still highly likely to require the intervention of an agent with requisite knowledge, experience etc. So; if I we’re you my metal friend, I’d learn about what the majority of the industry is now before leaping into a future that may not exist quite yet, in this dimension at least.

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    1. Manganese06

      I completely agree with you, sir. I maintain a lot of respect for my friends, family and colleagues in the industry, however the fact that all I see on this website is agents trying to shut down their new competitors rather than actually compete is evidence that agents feel like they are becoming obsolete which I disagree with and why I believe a hybrid model will emerge as the dominant force in the future. I don’t need to tell my fellow agents here that the market will always dictate whether or not something is good value, and if agents genuinely believe that they are offering better value for money than their competitors then they have nothing to worry about. However the fact that I see so much evidence of agents being worried tells me that instead of adapting, they feel like they aren’t offering great value for money anymore.

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      1. Philosopher2467

        I concur. If you are good at what you do; provide good service and care about your client, you will survive. If you do the above and work hard; you will thrive. Anyone who doesn’t adapt is going to become irrelevant. What I read from the posts is that there is a feeling of inequality. In this instance the ASA has reprimanded an organisation for intentionally misleading the client. As a local agent for all of my career, this is something that would not cross my mind as to do so would damage my reputation. The online people don’t have that concern in my opinion. Faceless and impervious. The hybrid as it appears to have been christened, is the way forward as it has been for sometime. I prefer to call it ‘agility’. You move with the times, embrace change  whether you like it or not and get on with it! When you reach my age though, you too will probably like to have a good moan about stuff and the things the ‘youngsters’ are doing. That is human nature. I like your enthusiasm and directness. I’m not patronising you I can assure you. Keep it up!

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        1. Manganese06

          Thank you, Phil! You see I’d love to continue working for a traditional estate agent, but at this early stage in my career I want to grow. When I think of big companies, I think of Google, Apple, Facebook. Companies which embraced new technology. Purplebricks was founded in 2014 and they are already a multi-million pound company with high profile TV campaigns. That’s what I call growth. Am I really going to grow working at a company who feels that joining Rightmove and Zoopla is as far as they’re prepared to go in terms of embracing new technology while just sitting there moaning that new companies are able to steal their instructions by doing things different? And that’s the key thing: the service offered is different. Sure, you’d very much hope your local high street agent would do a better job considering you’ll be paying thousands of pounds more in the same way I’d expect to receive a far better service if I choose to sit first class when I fly. However, my fellow agents don’t view this as healthy competition, they view the existence of online agent as a threat to their very existence which tells me that the whole industry needs to adapt. Of course things are going to change with the times. I will be very surprised if I recognise the estate agency world when I reach the average age of users on this website. The fact is you can sit there and fight it with your aging business models or you can choose to adapt with it to offer the best possible service to your clients at a very competitive price. I know which one I choose.

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      2. Philosopher2467

        Im yet to be Knighted so just call me Phil.

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  7. PeeBee

    Erm… HANG THE CHUFF ON A MINUTE!

    Am I wrong – or isn’t all they’ve done is to reverse the figures?

    Originally it was ‘Pay £495’ – but the calculator added £50 each time you opted out of their valuation and legal ‘extras’.

    NOW – it’s “Pay £595” – which comes DOWN £50 for each of the add-ons you opt IN TO.

    THIS IS RIDICULOUS.

    @ASA_UK has finally revealed the entire length and breadth of its utter uselessness.

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  8. PropExpertWM

    Quite simply, the ASA are a pointless organisation

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