Protecting your interest

12th April 2013

I must admit to having only a little sympathy for this week’s story of the cliff-top house that started to fall into the sea, just eight days after being bought at auction.

If this seems rather cold-hearted, the ‘unlucky’ buyer paid £154,000 for the property in Torquay Devon last Tuesday night, but admits to have never seen the home, or getting a survey done. Surely the person concerned must have understood some of the risks involved when she made the binding offer? The home is now the centre of a legal row.

Frighteningly, a significant percentage of buyers do not undertake a survey before buying a new home. On average, one in five of these uncovered faults later on, costing on average £5,750 to fix – and 17% ended up spending more than £12,000 . A House Buyer’s survey (the middle priced of three options) will normally cost between £500 and £1,000, and should highlight any serious defects in the property which might cost thousands to fix.

So where do estate agents fit in to this, and are they obliged to inform the buyer of potentially serious problems?

Under new rules, (The Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations), vendors and estate agents are bound to inform potential buyers of any ‘material’ factors that might affect their decision to progress with the transaction, with the risk of fines or even criminal prosecution if they don’t. In the case above, ‘being on the edge of a step cliff, which has a potential to collapse due to landslide’ would be just such a factor. However, it is not clear whether auction sites and so called ‘passive intermediaries’ (companies who just pass information on to prospective buyers but are not involved in the marketing and sale) are under a similar obligation.

However, the best, professional estate agents will go much further. They not only value properties, bring them to market, help with negotiations and chase chains through to completion, but also offer timely and informed advice on the area, travel and transport links, local schools, and other relevant factors. They are local experts, with extensive knowledge of the law (sales and lettings), and can help protect your interest by offering informed and intelligent advice, potential remedies for unexpected problems, and ensuring adherence to regulations and helping to police any third parties, such as landlords and solicitors.

Members of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents also take voluntary additional qualifications, creating over 2,000 Associates across the UK who regularly test their knowledge and understanding.

So you should perhaps best think of your Estate Agent as an expert consultant, offering unparalleled local expertise, available to help you every step of the way. Pick a good one, and listening to some free, professional advice might just save you from a lot of stress and unplanned costs, Sadly, in the case above in Torquay, this literally could have helped prevent someone’s dreams crumbling into the dust.

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