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Advertising watchdog warns ‘Marie Celeste’ portals over old property listings

The ASA has told two online portals to stop advertising homes for sale listed years ago, often by FSBO vendors.

Nigel Lewis

asa laptop property portals

Two property portals in Manchester have been censured by the Advertising Standards for advertising properties that, a member of the public complained, did not exist.

The property, a four-bedroom detached in the Devon town of Rackenford, was listed in 2017 by the vendor on both ManchesterSaleRent.co.uk and OverStreet.co.uk with its full address and details of how to arrange either a virtual or face-to-face viewing.

A house hunter complained to the ASA in July last year that after making enquiries, it turned out the property was not for sale – unsurprisingly.

The ASA tried to contact both property portals which did not respond, and the ASA now says it is worried by both website’s disregard for the advertising code and that the adverts were ‘misleading’.

“We understood that the property had not been on the market since 2017 and remained on the website despite several requests to remove it. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading,” its adjudication says.

Track down

The ASA said it could not track down the people behind both sites, but The Negotiator has established that both were sister sites to Houser, whose general manager until 2017 – when the house ad was first listed – was Adnan Arif.

He is a tech entrepreneur of Pakistani origin who launched Houser in the UK during 2014/5 and persuaded several thousand agents to list on the site and launched regional sister sites.

Since 2017 the sites including Houser and Manchestersalerent.co.uk. have become digital ‘Marie Celestes’ – digitally afloat but with no one in charge or returning emails. The ASA says it has told the portals not to advertise properties in this way again and subsequently both have been taken down, displaying ‘temporarily unavailable’ messages.

January 20, 2021

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