A response to Andrew Ellson’s ignorant and insulting article about Estate Agents in The Times
Andrew Ellson, Consumer Affairs Correspondent at The Times, and a man who (on his Twitter profile) imaginatively lists his own talents as including “sleeping, eating and making excuses”. This is a telling sign of the quality of journalism you can expect in his articles. (And sleeping and eating do not require any talent, Andrew).
What’s your excuse for the complete lack of research you did for this article? Professional journalists are supposed to separate themselves from the monkeys-with-typewriters by NOT using anecdotes as the basis for informed articles.
This uninformed article, under the banner of a respected publication, is a shining example of how the media continues to damage our industry. We must put a stop to it.
It is the ignorant yet widespread perspectives such as Andrew Ellson’s that are most harmful to the uninitiated consumers themselves.
His article begins: “No one in their right mind would consider paying anyone thousands of pounds to sell their car yet in the property market, this remains a reasonable suggestion.”
Are you suggesting that people in their right minds should pay non-refundable money up front merely for a listing on the internet and the chance of selling, with no guarantees?
Commissions are paid only if and when a home is sold, which means the seller was happy with the result. Literally, no sale, no fee.
No one puts a gun to the heads of the 90%+ of home sellers who actively choose not to foolishly gamble their money on an online, pay-now-maybe-you’ll-sell-later, agent.
Traditional agents do not earn until they sell a home, and they generate a higher income when the sale price is higher; thus, high street agents’ financial incentives are 100% in line with those of a seller.
Further, the un-verified example he cites is for a property worth around double the national average, for a fee that is certainly double the average percentage fee of the ordinary agent. In doing so, he perpetuates the myth that agents are greedy, money-grabbing hustlers, rather than hard working, often for nothing, selling average-priced houses at £275,000, for around 1.25% plus VAT, or about £3,450 after they have paid HMRC their share, which is about a quarter of his version. If he were to research the work and costs involved of valuing, marketing, showing, negotiating, salvaging sales when people pull out and progressing a sale through to completion, he’d realise that that is the best value for money home selling service in most of the world, in percentage terms. The USA charges 6%, and France around the same, and no one complains.
Listing services of online-only agents, on the other hand, lose all financial incentive after the initial publication.
Ellson appears shocked by a 1.9% fee, but there is a great deal of work and expertise required to sell a home at a higher price. That 1.9% fee (or whatever the commission rate is) almost always means a greater bottom line for the seller.
Ironically, Ellson’s ignorant rally-cry most hurts the people he purports to inform and protect. Any company could set up a website and charge a few pounds to list an instruction. In fact, aside from the initial setup and ongoing maintenance, there are nearly no required manhours or effort in generating such a site.
What an obnoxious cost Ellson is normalising and advocating that any property owner must incur, and for nothing except listing it online. Don’t high street agents already pay a high subscription rate on the appropriate portals in order to advertise your home for you? Why would Ellson ask me to take that on? And then, I have to handle the viewings, buyers and take care of all the paperwork.
Comparing an estate agent’s work structure to that of a solicitor’s is utterly nonsensical.
But then again, it’s no surprise, really. Sensationalist journalists are not professionals — they are not legally required to do a day of training or pass a single exam before setting up shop.
As one commentator mused, I wonder how many online agents advertise in the Times? Doubtful you get an advert in there for £495.