In what is one of the biggest industry scandals to date, thousands of properties have been ‘juggled’ on the portals.
Evidence suggests that somewhere between 200 and 250 properties were ‘juggled’ each month, re-listed at the rate of five per day, and 100 in the two-day period covering the first and last day of every month. Some were ‘juggled’ more than once, with at least two properties being listed no fewer than eight times.
Critics are still asking questions, including whether the portals should have done more and could still have a job to do here.
Until yesterday, when the Ombudsman spoke out, not everyone even accepted the term ‘juggle’, but at least it conveyed ‘trickery’: the constant re-listing of properties as though they were new on the market.
One thing is for sure – the very many honest agents who would never entertain such a practice are much in debt to the industry’s own whistle blowers.
Yesterday, as we reported, TPO is changing its Codes in view of portal juggling. The regulator, NTSEAT, last month drew a line in the sand by describing portal juggling as fraudulent.
But why juggle? Consumers were led to believe that these properties were new to the market.
In fact, some of these properties had repeatedly refused to sell and, presumably, not only needed a ‘boost’ but also inflated the property stocks and market share of some agents in an era of low inventory.
Now, with both the industry regulator NTSEAT and the major redress scheme TPO clamping down, it looks as though portal juggling will have nowhere to go.
But who are these heroes who have uncovered such a scandal, and brought it to heel, and who must be thanked?
We would like to highlight (with apologies for any omissions, which we will put right) the following heroes of our industry:
- Ben Cade of Lovelles in Scunthorpe who discovered the practice in July 2015
- James Monro, of NTSEAT, newish regulator of the agency sector and who has proved without doubt, and earning respect, that he has teeth that will bite. He listened, looked at the evidence, took it seriously – and acted
- PeeBee – who spent long hours into the night investigating juggling and providing the proof
- Chris Wood, who constantly asked the questions
- Robert May who also provided the IT proof
- Eric Walker, another consistent campaigner, and instrumental in the changes to the TPO Code
- Gerry Fitzjohn – the man behind yesterday’s TPO announcement
- Mark Hayward, of the NAEA, who has condemned the practice
- Propcision, which spotted portal juggling on new developments in London, that caught the broadsheets’ attention
- Henry Pryor, who spoke out and provided commentary to the national media
This scandal does have some way to go. We will attempt to keep covering it.
We also hope for more national press coverage.
And we also hope that our heroes will be recognised in at least some of the upcoming industry awards.