Martin Lewis warns that estate agents ‘skirts edge of law’ with conditional selling

Martin Lewis

TV presenter and money saving specialist Martin Lewis has issued a warning to anybody who has appointed an estate agent.

He warns that the unlawful practice of conditional selling by estate agents is getting worse and harming customers.

Conditional selling, as most of you will know, is when an estate agent tells a prospective buyer that they must use the agent’s in-house broker in order for their offer to be put forward on a property, and Lewis says there is growing evidence to suggest that more agents are “hard selling” mortgage brokers to renters and mortgage customers.

“New. Is your estate agent hard selling its mortgage broker or solicitor? Too many do, skirting the edge of the law, it’s known as ‘conditional selling’. Your rights and what you need to know,” Lewis said on a fresh post on X, formerly Twitter.

The Money Saving Expert continued: “Buying a property can be stressful, and isn’t made easier by an estate agent saying you MUST use its recommended solicitor or mortgage broker. This dodgy practice is known as ‘conditional selling’ – it’s against the law, can cost you more and even risk sales falling through, yet it’s widespread.”

One such type of pressure could be estate agents saying: “We need to make sure you’re financially qualified so we can put your offer to the seller – speak to our mortgage broker so they can carry out financial qualification.” Or they could say: “The only way I am able to show you properties before they come on to the market is if you come in for a chat with our mortgage broker.”

“For example, if there ends up being two offers on a property both at £190,000, but one buyer has their own broker and the other buyer is using out broker, the vendor will go with the £190,000 offer that is using our broker because they are keeping it on-house so we are able to get the sale through more quickly.”

Another example could be: “We’ve got exclusive mortgage rates for you from these banks and building societies”

A recent survey found that conditional selling is becoming a growing problem.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of Access Financial Services mortgage advisers surveyed said that their clients have experienced conditional selling  in the six months from November 2023 to May 2024. Of that group, 100% of advisers said it caused their client harm such as stress, hassle or confusion.

A third (33%) of advisers surveyed believe that conditional selling has got worse in the past six months until May. The same proportion (33%) think the problem is about the same. 30% don’t know, and 4% think it’s getting better.

Perhaps most concerning for the property industry, is that more than four out of five (83%) of mortgage advisers feel like there are some estate agencies where conditional selling is almost standard practice.

Karl Wilkinson, CEO of Access Financial Services, said: “Something is broken in the property industry when this practice continues after 20 months of our campaigning against conditional selling, and developing tools and processes to protect advisers and their clients.

“A significant minority of estate agents are being allowed to continue to negatively impact our industry. This has to stop.”

Wilkinson continued: “Conditional selling is morally wrong and a clear breach of Consumer Duty as well as The Property Ombudsman’s Code of Practice and the Estate Agents Act 1979. What other industry puts up with this kind of harmful behaviour? We can do better.”



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  1. Agent008

    In other news Mercedes make slanderous unsubstantiated claims about BMW and Tesco’s badmouth Sainsbury’s.. Noise on this matter continues to come from brokers trying to protect themselves from competition rather than customers that never seem to want to go on record!

  2. ColinMcWilliams

    And National Trading Standards say that can do nothing about it, whilst funnelling cash into the ridiculous HIPS 2.0 project ‘Material Information’.

  3. Hit Man

    Prior qualification prevents fictitious offers, which can slow down the sales process and potentially cause the loss of genuine buyers. Additionally, anti-money laundering (AML) compliance is now part of an estate agent’s responsibilities, so using in-house services ensures adherence to these regulations.

    1. jan-byers

      how many more times


      But that doesn’t explain not putting all offers to a Seller and letting them decide. Too often the only offer put to a seller is the conditional selling one which may not be the best one.

      There may well be excuses/justification for this conduct but it’s illegal IF the seller isn’t fully informed.

  4. Jazz1971

    There are huge problems in this sector and the main reason is the market is littered with cowboys.
    Much bigger fines, and penalties for firms found guilty.
    You should a license to become an estate agent/buildingmanagement etc.
    Anyone found to be flaunting the rules should lose their license for good and banned for life.
    Building Management firms are the main reason we have a housing crisis. Unregulated and run by crooks who are causing misery for thousands.

  5. htsnom79

    Ye Gods

    I am so sick of this echo chamber 🙁

  6. Anonymous Coward

    The problem is not with the good estate agents out there who absolutely do not conditionally sell anything, ever.

    In ALL industries there will always be a tiny minority of bad actors who will do anything and everything to maximise the benefits for themselves rather than customers. These can be individuals or entire organisations.

    Over the years I worked for companies that were conditional sellers. I have no idea if they still are doing it now but they certainly were then.

    As an example, one very big named corporate brand that I worked for in 2004-2006 would only pay full sales commissions if the number of mortgage leads/ sign ups were above certain levels. The company was KPI insane.

    You could have the worst of take home pay months even if the sales commission was above target because the “in-branch” mortgage advisor couldn’t get hold of one of your leads properly.

    As I say, I have no idea if it is still going on, but it certainly was back then…

    Somehow, given the reduction in real-terms take home pay for negotiators, I would guess the pressure within some companies is stronger than ever.


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