Sex, drug taking and discrimination against women are ‘rife’ in estate agency, claim

A former estate agent has made lurid claims about the “sordid, sexist and seedy” world of selling houses.

A story in The Sun alleges that drug taking, casual sex and shoddy treatment of women are the norm in the industry.

The story says that in a “shocking expose”, Caroline Rose has detailed her “appalling treatment in branches of several well-known high street firms”.

Rose, 28, who left the industry three months ago, said: “Estate agency is like something out of a 1980s time warp. It’s incredibly sexist and belittling towards women.

“It still goes by the attitude that sex sells.”

She said that the salary is often below minimum wage, with “brutal hours” and staff expected to work on Saturdays without complaint.

She said: “Women are made to wear make-up and high heels. Low-cut tops are encouraged to persuade men to sign on the dotted line. It’s also incredibly pressurised, with unrealistic ­targets that have to be met.”

Rose also complained that cocaine use is rife in estate agency, claiming that those in the ‘in-crowd’ who used it were promoted and those who abstained were not.

She also said that the levels of sexism she encountered were “staggering”.

One south-west London firm told her it was mandatory for women to wear high heels, with skirts preferred. On one occasion she wore no make-up to work and was told in front of the office to put some on.

One woman was told to wear low-cut dresses to reel in the punters.

She said that adultery and sex were everywhere, with male managers indulging in affairs with female negotiators: “Sadly it is the norm in estate agency.”

She claimed that she saw “countless” unfair dismissals of women of child-bearing age.

Rose also told of “underhand tricks” including fake viewings, imaginary offers and mandatory cold calling.

She told The Sun: “My days consisted of cold-calling applicants for hours each day. An applicant list was presented and we aimed to call 50 a day. To reach our targets, we had to book 35 ­viewings a week and receive one offer.

“Fake viewings were seen as a necessity to maintain client confidence, and clients were targeted for price reductions every week based on false feedback from made-up ‘buyers’. On one occasion, an imaginary low offer was put to the client to demonstrate there was activity on the property.”

Surprisingly, the low offer was accepted – and the agency said the buyer had had a terrible accident and the offer had been withdrawn.

Rose continued: “On another occasion, a client came in to say his mother had died. My boss looked sombre, speaking to him in hushed tones. As soon as the client left, the manager started shrieking euphorically across the office, ‘She’s finally died! We can flog her house! It’s worth £5m’.

“The entire office gave victorious yelps. I understand that much of the income from an estate agency is based on others’ misfortune but the whole industry is utterly lacking in morals. The whole thing is disgusting.”

Rose, whose experiences appear to relate to the London market only, is calling for a change in estate agency.

Some readers commenting on the Sun story have said she has a book to promote.

The full story is here:

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  1. JamesB

    Never heard of any of this going on … ever !
    If you ask me this is just a bitter ex employee, probably sacked, trying to tar the industry

    1. NewsBoy

      I seem to have missed out on all this fun. If it’s in the Sun it must be true!

  2. surrey1

    I note the word “story” as opposed to article. Dont read The Sun.

  3. Ric

    I hope she writes a book…. sounds fascinating…

    Then I hope she turns the book into a Film… (Rated 18 by the sounds of it, sort of Wolf Of Wall Street vibe)

    Boris Johnson as the lead role…

    (Serious note; not great if true)

  4. EAMD172

    Unfortunately getting something like this in the tabloid press generally means it is unlikely to be wholeheartedly true. Certainly not rife in our business as I’ve been in it 37 years and not experienced pressure on collleagues to do anything like that. People in many industries choose to take drugs. Women and men need to be smart, perhaps there’s more to the comments than just high heels and make up, perhaps not. If this young lady’s experience of a firm is like that then she should really take it up with them rather than tarnish the whole industry. The firm in question is breaking the law as well as being misogynistic. Sensationalist articles are never a good way to get your problems out there.

  5. leelee30

    As an estate agent of 25 years,  and a Female, I believe in “Smart Dress Code” Your customers will more likely speak to you if your in a suite and look the part of a professional that knows what they are talking about.

    So does that mean allowing your staff to come to work in trainers, leggings ( where you can see through) knee high boots that laces up the back, vest tops, showing the bra, hair not washed, jumpers that have holes in and look like your doing the gardening.

    NO… Gosh well that what I have had to deal with…

    I would not dream of leaving home like that,  I was brought up to respect your boss, the companies policy, for they are the hand that feeds you.

    New law changes make you feel that your not allowed to tell your staff that the should come to work as if on an interview.

    What is Smart Dress Code, it’s Not Jeans, It’s Not Leggings, It’s Not Vests ect.

    i have never heard anyone say to staff “ comments like that” it’s applauding and that person has no respect for the life or effects of others.

    If they are a franchise then it should be reported and all disciplined.

    But what about what your staff say when your out of the office, swearing, banter, Joking around, you all do it..

    We know while the boss is away the mice will play, Yes they do….

    Sex sells, “No” good communication sells, making the customer feel relaxed and able to discuss the personal affects, finances, helping them make a choice, giving guidance and support in there hours of need.

    It’s so easy to up see one side of a coin these days, but reality is people do not work like they use too, people work less, chat more, people have changed towards the employers, as soon as you stand up and confront them for the mistakes, ask they finish  work tasks then it all  changes.. “ no longer get away with doing nothing all day.

    I am so sorry Rant Over …

    this is nothing personal It is the truth..



    1. CountryLass

      I’d disagree with the knee boots that lace up the back, if they fit in with the outfit and look professional then that’s ok.

      But the ‘professional’ bit is key there! I had a colleague who showed up in a backless/halter-neck style top with a hot-pink bra underneath and could not see why I (a female only a few years older than her) told her it was inappropriate!

      Although my dress keeps riding up slightly, I keep pulling it back down to just above my knees, but it is my choice to wear this dress today, and certainly not something I have been forced to wear!

  6. Eyereaderturnedposter12

    “It still goes by the attitude that sex sells…”

    …says an article in the Sun, the purveyors of “big jugs” and wholesome family content since 1964…

  7. TOZ4

    I owned a London based estate agency for 15 years. I didn’t employ female sales staff.


    1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

      The majority of my best Negs (and all other staff for that matter) have been women…

      1. CountryLass

        When I worked at Your Move, an area manager told he that he found women actually made the best valuers and listers, as it was normally the woman in the relationship who made the decision, and they were more likely to list the property with another woman…

        1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

          I find that women make the best…well, almost everything!

  8. Woodentop

    “…… are the norm in the industry”.


    Whenever has anyone believed anything your read in the newspaper, particularly The Sun.


    Ludicrous claims, does nothing more than belittle the industry in the eyes of the public, who are being misinformed. Sounds very bitter and stoking up out of all proportion any goings on.

  9. MrIndependent

    As someone who these days works in a village focused smal independent firm, there is absolutely none of this behaviour in my day to day working life! However I have seen it when working for a corporate agent and I would be willing to bet life in a London based Foxtons office is exactly as this lady describes!!!

    1. lucyr

      MrIndependent – Yes London-based, but the more apparently “wholesome” brands also participate in this behaviour.

    2. letstalk

      I would agree. I have spent the last 20 years of my working life in this industry, was lucky enough to work for a small independent for most of that, but when they sold out to a vast corporate and women were subject to this type of treatment and some underhand behaviours to get business done were encouraged. Luckily I didn’t have to stay with the company for long, but some of their corporate parties were eye opening!
      That being said I dont think thats necesarily the ‘norm’ for our industry and I dare say that estate agency isnt the only field that what is described above happens in.

      1. CountryLass

        I hated the your move christmas paries. At my last one there, two male employees basically sat me in a chair with one having his hands on my shoulders whilst the other did some weird version of a lap dance on me… I escaped and told my male office-mates (one of whom taught boxing part-time) and the two of them refused to leave my side for the rest of the evening, and even tried to find the two blokes to ‘have a chat’ with them, but I couldn’t find them.

        1. smile please

          I don’t want to trivialize how you felt (or the lady in the story) as obviously made you uncomfortable which no one should ever feel.

          BUT this is not just estate agents, this happens in all industries (no i am not condoning it!).

          Also i have been at work parties / events where women have got very vulgar and ‘hands on’ it’s not acceptable for a male or female to feel uncomfortable.

          1. CountryLass

            That’s very true. This was just my only similar experience. Unless you count the time my (very old-school and bad) manager asked the men in the office if they were really going to let the little ***** beat them in a contest, whilst pointing at me… I set him straight VERY quickly and then reported it to my Area Manager.


            But that manager never liked me; he didn’t like or trust women, and he admitted he was threatened as I was younger than him and felt I wanted his job. Which I did, to be fair, but still…

            1. smile please

              Please tell me you got his job!

              1. CountryLass

                No, but he did get fired!

                Part of the reason he didn’t like me MAY have been because about a week after he started, he asked me what I thought of him, and I asked him if he wanted me to be honest? He said yes, so I told him I thought he was an arrogant little (poop). On his first day, he walked past my desk, stood next to my bin and dropped his rubbish into my lap and told me to throw it away for him as he walked off…

                My family inform me that I have the tact of a wrecking ball. I say why ask me to be honest if you don’t want to hear honesty? I try and be kind if it is someone I like. But especially if I am bored or drunk, never ask me for my honest opinion!

  10. GPL

    Provide evidence, until then it’s just allegations/a story.

    Newspapers sell stories, Estate Agents sell homes.


    1. GPL

      … me old-fashioned however “evidence” is required to establish facts and support the Lady’s allegations.
      If anyone is found guilty of crimes/misdemeanours then deal with them appropriately.
      Drugs? No thanks, much prefer a good pudding!
      Women/Men? – no excuse not to be treated equally.  

  11. Ryan Baker

    The reason why she’s an ex employee…

  12. Stuartb

    The Sun…. the newspaper they give away free at my local petrol station…

  13. lucyr

    Unfortunately, an article in The Sun lends Caroline little credibility. The sad fact of the matter is, that what she claims about, sex, cocaine and dress code (minimum wage and unattainable targets were not my personal experience) are frighteningly correct.

    At 29, a male Director in one of the largest and most reputable international estate agencies whispered in my ear before he left me on my own at 2am with a developer we were ´entertaining´.. “Whatever the client wants”…

    This was my first major business trip, in Hong Kong, I didn´t know the city, and I didn´t have any friends or family there.. I was alone and terrified that if I didn´t deliver to a satisfactory level, my job would be at risk. I felt pressured into a situation out of my control, and out of my comfort zone, with a man old enough to be my father, and it turns out, I was right to be concerned.

    This is one of the more extreme examples, but many, many micro examples of this happened on a weekly basis. Despite my generous paychecks, I left the company after only 2 years, and never returned to Estate Agency.

    1. J1

      A succinct and honest post amongst otherwise derogatory or childish posts.

      I am sure things like this do happen; I have seen it often, but also in the company of other professionals such as solicitors and FS people.

      There are rules around dignity at work which can get employers into an awful lot of bother if they fail to observe them.  Perhaps this topic could be an article tomorrow?

      1. Woodentop

        You missed out politicians and Presidents!

  14. AgencyInsider

    Sex and drugs. Well, they sure do lighten things up after a dull valuation on a wet Friday evening.

    1. spin2009

      ….to make it effective you need to add ”Rock & Roll…

  15. Property Poke In The Eye

    Unhappy employee who couldn’t hit her targets blames ‘others’


  16. brokerofexcellence

    Blimey, I’ve missed all of this fun. Which agency is it? I’ll forward my CV immediately!

  17. KByfield04

    We have to be careful not to quickly dismiss her claims as they are likely a true representation of her personal experience. What is most troubling is that she does not, at any time, feel empowered or supported by those around her to take the necessary action. Of course, ‘culture’ at a company is one thing but distinctly sexist nonsense has no place in ours or any other industry. However, the experience of a single person portrayed as a representation of an entire profession (they don’t even single out London as being this- simply ‘agency’) is, indeed, very lazy journalism but, as many have already commented, it is The Sun so that’s not their core focus.

  18. International

    Well, well, that’s “The Sun” for you. Had it been exposed in the Daily Mail we might have believed it ! The one think missing these days in offices is “Banter” and I suspect this person was either too young and nieve to recognise it or too much of a feminist, all coupled with this over-egged thing call PC compliment. Women in front of house should be well dressed and there is nothing wrong with having a dress code to to reflect. Let’s not forget that our industry is fair game for the gutter press (well probably all press as little advertising revenue is received from EA’s these days) and with the arrival if dysfunctional staff in the workplace in the absence of being able to attract professionally minded individuals, I suspect we will see more of this in times ahead.    

  19. DASH94

    She’s 28 – how does she know what it was like in the ’80s?     I had a pretty good time throughout most of those – I’m a female. Knew where you stood in those days 🙂

  20. watchdog13

    Next week


    ” I worked in a veterinary clinic…they were animals!”

  21. Hillofwad71

    Always  remember one of the senior  female admin staff told me her 1st  job in estate agency was at 18 in the late 60s   having been to secretarial college  and she was a PA to one of the partners

    At the end of her first day he presented her with a box with a fur jacket  . He said that  he hoped she would settle in and would she mind putting the odd extra half hour  one or 2 nights a month   .

    She said certainly  no problem  only to find out when it came to it  he was looking for  a little more than dictation  and expecting it

    Apparentally he was most put out  when she wasn’t  having any of it   saying he never had a problem before

    Couldn’t resist saying to her I now see where the phrase “fur coat and no knickers “comes from !!!

  22. padymagic

    Did Caroline Rose plan to write a book called 50 shades of estate agency?


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