For a while now buyers have been expressing their frustration at the fact that the national property portals and websites are cluttered with listings that are not for sale.
With decreasing stock levels the problem has worsened. Estate agents usually advertise property for sale on the Internet by uploading listings to their own company website, their franchise website (if they are a franchise), and then a host of other property websites of which the main ones are Private Property and Property24.
Most estate agencies are carrying fewer listings at the moment. In order to give some bulk to their websites, and in the hope of attracting buyer enquiries, some agents are resorting to listing other estate agencies’ mandates on different websites.
If this is done without the consent of the sole mandate agency this is a breach of the Estate Agents Code of Conduct. It amounts to “highjacking” another estate agency’s listing and then unethically benefitting from buyer enquiry that should have gone to the mandate holder.
But what really frustrates buyers is when they enquire on a load of listings, only to be told by the agent that the properties are sold or actually listed at a different price. It’s really unprofessional conduct by an agent to advertise properties for sale that are sold (unless they’ve just sold in the last day or so or are under offer).
At Harcourts we’ve even seen other agencies download our professional photo’s and use them when listing our mandates.
The concept of a sole mandate is that one agency (or in the case of a joint mandate perhaps 2 agencies) invests money in marketing a property using a variety of different effective marketing methods. Other estate agencies don’t have the right to list another company’s sole mandate.
Clogging up property websites with hundreds of listings of properties that have already sold frustrates a buyer. It also means that the properties that are actually on the market get lost amidst those that aren’t.
If you are a buyer and you are enquire on properties with an agent through a website, first ask if the property is on sole mandate with another agency. If it is, you are better off viewing the listing through the listing agent who can negotiate directly with you and the seller should you want to make an offer.
If an agent blatantly engages in this practice the best way to sensor them is simply not to work with them. After all, if an agent doesn’t have the ability to secure sole mandates do you really want to work with them? Sellers select their listing agent taking into consideration their skill levels, reputation, ability to market their property, and competency. It’s in your interest as a buyer to work with such an agent. Don’t get stuck with someone who doesn’t measure up and just happens to get their claws stuck into you because you responded on their website listing for a property that they don’t even have the right to advertise. The consumer is powerful today – so don’t tolerate unethical practice.
Principal of Harcourts Platinum, and Director of Harcourts South Africa
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