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5 Buying and Selling Property

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1. Introduction

2. Dealing with estate agents

If you are buying or selling a house or flat, your first contact will probably be with an estate agent.

Many agents belong to the National Association of Estate Agents (listed in 'Further help') which has a code of practice for its members. When you make a contract with an estate agent to sell your house or flat, you should look for the following points:

  • An agent should give you written confirmation that you have instructed them to sell and should state when you will have to pay commission. For example, if you grant the agent 'sole agency', they should make clear that you will still have to pay them commission if you then sell through another agent. If you grant them 'sole selling rights', they should say whether you will have to pay them even if you sell privately without using an agent (for example, to a friend).
  • An agent should not discriminate against someone who wants to buy but does not want to get a mortgage through them (an example of discrimination would be not telling the seller about the potential buyer's offer).
  • An agent should tell the buyer whether or not the seller is taking the property off the market after accepting thier offer.

If you decide to use a different agent, for example, because you are unhappy with the service from the first agent, check the terms of ending your agreement. You will probably still have to pay the first estate agent’s commission if you sell to someone they had originally introduced to you. This could mean that you have to pay fees to both estate agents.

Remember that an estate agent's contract is with the seller, not the buyer. But if you have a complaint, either as buyer or seller, which you can't resolve with the agent or through the National Association of Estate Agents (if the agent is a member), you should contact the trading standards department at your local council. In extreme cases, where estate agents have behaved very badly, the Office of Fair Trading can stop them working as estate agents.

There is also an Ombudsman for Estate Agents, who will consider a complaint and can award compensation of up to £25,000 (though it is normally much less).

However, many estate agents are not members of the Ombudsman scheme, and you may want to check before making a contract with one.

By law, sellers don't have to point out defects in a property to buyers, but they must answer a buyer's direct questions accurately. A buyer who has been given false information about the property before agreeing to buy it might have a claim against the estate agent or the seller under the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991.


3. Offers, exchange of contract and completion

4. What the price should include

5. Problems with solicitors and conveyancers

6. Problems with the survey

7. Buying a newly built home

8. Leasehold, freehold and commonhold properties

9. Mortgage and money problems

10. Neighbour disputes and anti-social behaviour

11. Further Help

12. About this leaflet

This leaflet was written by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Shelter.

Leaflet Version: April 2019

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