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My article about the obnoxious gloating in much of the media about estate agents laying off staff brought a strong reaction from readers, writes Rosalind Renshaw.
Noel Kaganagh, sales manager of Morgan Randall, in Wanstead, London, wrote:  “I think that the main reason why the public have a lack of sympathy for the plight of estate agents who are made redundant, is that they simply do not understand the value that we add to the sale process.

“Joe Public thinks that we simply match one of our hundreds of desperate applicants to a property and then sit on our hands for three months, waiting for our outrageously high commission cheque to land on our doormat. They think that our job is simplicity itself and that we all wear flash suits, drive BMWs and are overpaid. In reality, many members of the profession are now living on their basic salaries, with the occasional sniff of commission.

“My family won’t be having a summer holiday this year, just as we had to do without one last year. We are also looking to downsize our home and move out to deepest Kent in order to reduce our outgoings. Do I want sympathy? Not at all! I have earned good money in the past and will live to do so again.

“If we could somehow educate the public to understand the complexities and difficulties that we face and overcome on a daily basis, on behalf of our clients and purchasers, they would have more respect for us. If professional qualifications were mandatory, that would help our cause.”

Others agreed, with one saying that the public attitude was “fuelled by ignorance and misinformation” and warning that anyone venting their spleen on estate agents would get their come-uppance when they found themselves also in the dole queue.

Georgina Broadhead, director of Isle of Wight Homes, said she was saddened at redundancies and one closure in her locality. She added: “I know there are plenty of sharp traders out there, but in our area, there are far more good agents who do care about their clients and the service they provide. From my experience, it is the big, often national companies who are the worst, and then probably because of pressures placed on commission-based staff to perform.

“Even if people don’t care about agents, how about the huge knock-on effect, on conveyancers, surveyors, removal firms, builders, DIY stores, etc?”
But several of you believed that agents should not be surprised at the public’s low opinion of them.

The industry has gone from being a respected industry to a cut-throat, commission-driven sales machine, wrote one long-standing agent. “The youthful, white-socked, gel-haired, Mini-driving negotiator has come to personify the public image of agents and we all suffer as a result. Sadly, the public gets what the public pays for – encouraged by agents who stupidly cut commissions to win business.”
This agent, and several others, believed that fees should be raised, marketing and advertising costs charged on top,  and all staff should be paid salaries and not commissions. There were also calls for agents to be licensed, and that entry qualifications to be made mandatory, to prevent anyone being able to set up as either an estate agent or letting agent.
I know, I know – we’ve heard it all before. But is anyone outside the industry listening?

Meanwhile, the Tories’ much heralded review of the property transactions market has yet to materialise, and is now not likely to be published until autumn.
Any educated guesses as to the delay? One wonders if they hit upon the idea of tying in buyers and sellers with some kind of payment or contract once the sale is agreed – only to realise that in today’s market, where lenders pull the plug at no notice, it isn’t quite the brilliantly simple solution it appears.

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