‘It’s time we fought back!’ Agent blows his top about ‘pay-to list/pay-anyway’ agencies

The steam is still rising from an estate agent’s email that EYE received yesterday morning.

Frustrated by the imminent collapse of a chain the agent took to his keyboard to vent his anger and we rather expect that many others will recognise his experiences.

It wasn’t something the agent expected to have published but when we asked for permission the author readily agreed, and said:

‘Come on agents, it’s time we fought back. I know the logistics of actually doing something together would be very difficult but if somebody was willing to take it on there’s £1000 in the pot from me.’

The author asked that we do not reveal their identity. We have verified that they and their company are bona fide.


Estate agent’s email sent to EYE: 

I’m sitting here in my agency with my blood boiling.

We have a big chain at the point of collapse due to the conveyancer appointed by a national ‘pay-to list/pay-anyway’ type agency. They just do not care and we’re doing all their work. Happens all the time.

Firms like these have chains go through mainly because of the work done by traditional agents and local solictors in the those chains.

Compared to the ‘pay-to list/pay-anyway’ brigade, good traditional agents and local solicitors are worth every penny, and a lot more, for the work we and they do – we go above and beyond.

We don’t just sell our clients’ houses, we help them buy their next one, and we assist the whole chain to get it to completion. Doesn’t matter for the pay-to-list/pay-anyway brigade as they’re getting paid regardless, or they’re getting referral commissions from awful conveyancers.

The ‘Commisery’ advert is a disgrace.

We don’t charge unless we get a success.  If a transaction falls through after months of work we charge nothing.  If it happens again we charge nothing again. If a client changes their mind after dozens of viewings and removes the property from the market we charge nothing.  A sale falls through and the client decides they’re going to stay where they are – we charge nothing.

We go out on numerous valuations just to give advice and even if we know we’re not getting an instruction we charge nothing. What other industry does that?

The only time we charge? When we’re successful.

We have chocolates, champagne, flowers, cards and lots of 5 star reviews for all the work we do. In 16 years of running this company I have never once had a client complain about paying our bill on completion, not once.

Wouldn’t it be great if the good, full-service, no-sale, no-fee estate agents in this country could create a huge campaign to let the public know what we do.  And get them to read the reviews of the pay-to list/pay-anyway brigade! That alone should stop anybody using them!

As the market gets tougher and properties take longer to sell (I was running this company through the last recession and know what’s coming), will we charge more for the extra time it takes, the fall-throughs, the extra viewings etc? Of course we won’t.

The pay-to-list brigade will make more for less because of those vendors that, after several low ball offers, say the time isn’t right and remove their properties from the market. Those unlucky punters will have to pay anyway, whereas our type of agency will swallow the cost and our clients will not be charged a fee.

I’d love to see the stats on the success of chains that only have pay-to list/pay-anyway type companies in it. Pretty rare I’d say.

Rant over.


Purplebricks returns to ‘commisery’ as share price plunges 17% in a week



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  1. Rob Hailstone

    Playing Devil’s Advocate here, maybe all agents should charge something up front, so the seller has some skin in the game? It happens in other countries I believe, and with the imminent arrival of Material Information phases B & C, agents could end up having more work to do at the outset than they do now. Just a thought.

    1. Ric

      I have to agree with Rob, I was saying only yesterday, we need to seriously consider an upfront admin fee or putting a withdrawal fee back in our contract as standard.

      It doesn’t need to be a daft amount, £99 to £250.

      If you choose the “Not fussed about Rightmove” marketing, the withdrawal fee is cheaper, but you can add RM down the line understanding, the withdrawal fee reverts to the higher amount. (Sorry Rightmove!)

      So many areas a charge would be warranted and accepted. I hear more and more public members say “I’m surprised you don’t charge for doing a valuations”… promoting a Free Valuation has become our core marketing message though. Odd really, when you think about it.

      1. LetsGo

        I charge an upfront marketing fee of £200 + vat.

        It covers the cost of pro photos, floorplan and video. Not lost an instruction because of it and it means the upfront marketing costs are covered.

  2. Anonymous Agent

    I feel for the agent concerned and would support a campaign to reflect the value that full service agents provide, however I think one of the main problems is contained within their email.

    Why do we as a industry charge nothing if a vendor changes their mind about moving after we have agreed a sale?

    Well we don’t anymore, and neither should anyone else, as an industry we’re just running scared that other agents will use that against us but if we all did the same we’d all be better off and have nothing to worry about.

  3. jeremy1960

    Dealing with 1 such solicitor at the moment,  doesn’t answer calls, doesn’t respond to calls,  doesn’t reply to emails. When the client asks questions they are directed to their portal which hasn’t been updated for over 2 weeks. Haven’t replied to buyer’s solicitor, not even a confirmation email when contract paperwork was sent to them?!

  4. AndSotheStoryBegan

    [LINK REMOVED – PROPERTY INDUSTRY EYE TERMS & CONDITIONS #6. Users posting comments on the site may not post direct hyperlinks to other websites and especially may not do so by use of their username. Users may not use comments to promote a service or business.]

    When all the parties work together on one platform, communication and efficiency significantly improves.

  5. Another Agent

    I put almost 90% of the blame on the appalling conveyancing system. It is archaic, glacial and 100% inefficient, with levels of service that are criminal and do end up with lost sales and purchases, but with zero accountability. These parties have a vested interest in keeping it complex and lengthy so let’s not rely on them to promote change. I have rarely met a conveyancing provider that I would give more than 2 stars to. Insofar as the ‘churn and burn’ online/pay up front agents go, here in the UK, estate agency services are price driven, not value driven and the agents have generally failed massively in their ability to communicate value to the vendor, who is willing to negligently abdicate, not delegate the sale of their most valuable asset to snake oil ‘commisery’ messaging and agents who may have been a tinker, tailor, candlestick maker only hours before. Mandatory, minimal qualifications, annual mandatory CPD training and annual licensing will be the only way to rid the market of the pay up front or even ‘sell for free’ end of town as the cost, in terms of time and money will weed out the good from the bad and create tangible value in the vendors mind (that part not befuddled by netflix marathons, reality TV, and social media addiction);-)

    1. Rob Hailstone

      “These parties have a vested interest in keeping it complex and lengthy ”

      No, they don’t.

  6. SKG

    I’m in a very similar situation.

    Same agent at the bottom of the chain and it’s impossible to get any kind of update.  When I do manage to get hold of the progression team they volunteer the fact that they are ‘reactive not proactive’ and so put me on hold whilst they ring their buyer and solicitors to try and get an update – invariably they just come back with ‘they’ve left a message’ or ‘the buyer’s chasing’.  This has been months now!

    When I do get an update its contradictory to the last one.

    Most recently when I called they informed me they could no longer speak to the buyer as they hadn’t completed their AML!

    Both their client and the buyer are using their recommended conveyancers who have never once returned a call on this chain.  We have multiple families reliant on this part of the chain and it’s such a dereliction of duty to the moving process to have such a poor approach to the impact they have on others.

    In the past when I’ve been negotiating offers or speaking to buyers registering that were selling with this agent I’d advise them that they needed full facts on their buyer, their position and their financials as it’s impossible to get that for chain checks too – if they couldn’t provide it I simply couldn’t recommend them as a buyer that my clients should move forward with.

  7. GreenBay

    Quite simple. The conveyancing ‘process’ is not fit for purpose.

    Lets stop pointing fingers and as agents put pressure on our MP’s and industry bodies to get it changed.
    The basic processes are from the Victorian times.
    Just by doing away with the adversarial concept we would create a system that would be there to make transactions happen, rather than create a legal argument.

    For agents this should mean a faster point to exchange, meaning far less time for people who for various reasons, can just change their minds and pull out of the transaction.

    This would also nearly double the capacity in the industry.

    So conveyancers who read this, please tell me why this is not a good idea?

    1. Rob Hailstone

      Isn’t part of the problem caused by agents taking a referral fee only to recommend a less than efficient conveyancing firm?
      I replied to a similar post of yours in yesterday’s article GreenBay:
      Significantly more property sales falling through amid uncertain market
      “We do want change. Less red tape and bureaucracy, PII issues, lender issues, quicker HMLR registrations. A more straightforward SDLT system. Better fees, lower referral fees. To name only a few reasons.
      We need two conveyancers because it is, at times confrontational, and because of possible conflicts of interest. Some sellers have been known to mislead, re neighbour disputes, Japanese Knotweed, second charges (they probably didn’t know exist). In fact, a whole host of reasons.
      I’ll leave you to sort HMLR:)”

  8. WiltsAgent

    If it’s a leasehold sale I now charge a minimum fee which with flats in my area is often equal to between 2 and 2.5%.

    The sale of leaseholds is no longer viable at any lower fee given that once agreed it often takes 4 or 5 months to get through due to endless delays with both management companies and solicitors. One very large Management Company are quoting a minimum of 30 days to produce a sales pack which is plainly hopeless. Too much flexible working or more accurately sat at home in front of the TV.

  9. GreenBay

    Hi Rob

    Sorry, phone will not let me directly reply!

    Thanks for your thoughts, but I do not see how having two solicitors solves the issues you state. You are correct, vendors do lie, but I have not had a purchasers solicitor ever discover this except where boundaries  are in dispute, or planning permissions, building regs and similar. These could all be found if there was only one solicitor.

    The other issues, such as Japanese Knotweed are found by surveyors.

    If we put in place a legal responsibility for vendors to disclose  known facts and be legally responsible for their submissions, as in other  countries, that would seriously reduce the number of issues and still not require an adversarial relationship between buyer and seller.

    I am not here to throw rocks, but sales take longer to go through now than they did twenty years ago when I first became an agent.

    Many more rules and procedures have been added without really taking an overall look at what is best for both buyer and seller.

    1. Rob Hailstone

      It is a tricky area GreenBay. The legal regulators would need to agree, the lenders would need to agree and, possibly the hardest of all, the Professional Indemnity Insures would need to agree not to increase premiums even further than they have already!

      I’m all for improving, and it takes even longer than when I stared 48 years ago, when we had unregistered land, no internet, no emails, snail mail and personal completions!

  10. GreenBay

    You are correct Rob.

    But, surely tinkering with the edges of the current stem is not going to improve it for the people who pay, the buyers and the sellers.

    How about when a sale completes, the conveyancer uploads a standardised file to a central repository, the land registry seems logical, but others could work. Then when the house is sold again, thisfile can be retrieved and the whole process doesn’t have to start from scratch.

    I am thinking of all the standard requests, such as 106 agreements, planning, building regs and many more that you would know, that can sometimes hold up a transaction for weeks, but have been looked at and used previously by a conveyancer in a previous transaction.

    We could even include photos, which could help a conveyancer check for unreported changes.

    Interested in your thoughts.

    1. LogDon

      Just read your comments GreenBay.
      You may be interested to know that Property Logbooks perform this role. The Residential Logbook Association (RLBA) has worked with various stakeholders including Estate Agency and Conveyancing representative bodies and HM Land Registry a to establish a core set of property data at completion of a transaction. This creates a secure, certified and audited repository of sustainable information which can be updated during ownership and available for the next significant transaction.
      Furthermore, the RLBA has developed a central Register of Property Logbooks. Announcement to follow soon

  11. Another Agent

    Here’s a live example of the absolute **** show that is involved in the system for something that should in fact take a matter of minutes or a day at the most but which will, due to the conveyancer take days, only to wait weeks for the pack. This is after waiting two weeks+ to hear from Conveyancer. Time to pull down the old order and get with the 21st Century. All the talk of tech is BS as once it meets a human touch it disintegrates.

    Please arrange for your solicitors to email us on (name removed) to request the pack. To make this as efficient as possible, the solicitor should attach a copy of the property Title and Lease/Transfer; quote your customer reference number and property address; and confirm that they would like an invoice to order a sales pack. We will then open a sales file and raise an invoice in the solicitor’s name. Payment must be made by way of a bank transfer, and the reference on the invoice must be quoted on the payment. Although the invoice will be in the solicitor’s name, we can accept payment from the vendors directly if this is more convenient.


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