A frustrated estate agent has contacted The Negotiator after witnessing competitors on their patch increasingly using fake listings to boost their online profile.
The agent, who wishes to remain anonymous but runs a small family-run business in West London, told us that: “We all know an agent who does it. They simply upload a property to the internet ‘by mistake’, reload one that sold maybe six months or a year ago or simply list a property online as a duplicate from another branch”.
These ‘fakes’ can be administrative errors or software glitches but more frustratingly, are often clearly dishonest or the “result over inflated agents’ egos”. Some agents consider them ‘par for the course’. But are they?
Faced with repetitive ‘faking’ in their area, the agency who contacted The Negotiator says they used to find this practice ‘amusing’ and just cheeky estate agents eager to impress their potential vendors.
“They work… like fake boards put up all over a town, these little gems increase an agent’s presence, and uplift the market share while being hard to spot by an untrained eye.”
But the practice is getting out of control. The agent reports that at the start of the spring market, another agent in their area uploaded 120 properties in one go.
“A cursory glance at these properties confirmed these were duplicates. After contacting the portal to inform them, the properties were quickly removed – deemed to be copies (e.g. fake) but we were told, only uploaded as the result of a ‘software’ error.”
The portal assured the agency that these fake properties would not be included in the agents’ market share reports, and they were encouraged to report “any more suspicious activity.”
“It is easy to spot a fake property. They still appear (usually uploaded by the usual suspects) and will probably continue to do so while we have to upload properties to the national websites to sell them,” the agent says.
But the real issue is that fake properties are damaging for all agents who don’t break the rules.
NAEA Propertymark members have a duty to ensure that their adverts meet the guidelines of the Advertising Standards Authority.
There are also professional and statutory bodies charged with policing fake properties including The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team based in Powys County Council.
It is the lead enforcement authority for the purposes of the Estate Agents Act 1979 along with Local Trading Standards, which are all there to ensure agents follow the rules and play fairly.
“The portals need to be confident that the properties they list (e.g. the properties we give them) are real,” the agent says.
This issue does no favours for genuine estate agents who work hard to keep their businesses going – and growing. More must be done to stamp fake properites out. Share your views and experiences of this issue by emailing: [email protected]