The National Trading Standards Agency Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) has waded into the issue of portal juggling with a resounding thumbs up for The Property Ombudsman’s imminent changes to its guidance.
James Munro, who leads the NTSEAT, today said that he welcomed the TPO’s new guidance, which will be published on Saturday. It is likely to prevent TPO member agents from misleading consumers by removing and re-listing homes on property portals, enabling them to hide price cuts and make properties appear new to the market when they are not.
Munro said he believes many agents do this to “manipulate sales figures” and that the new TPO guidelines could, he says, “lead to a ruling by the Ombudsman and also referral to enforcement agencies such as NTSEAT and local trading standards authorities”.
“Such referrals could lead to prohibition orders or prosecution,” he added, and that “we will continue to work closely with industries bodies to stop this unfair practice, which misleads prospective homebuyers and harms honest estate agents who conduct their business in a fair and professional way.”
One agent The Negotiator spoke to, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out that although “unscrupulous”, it was a practice created in part by the property portals. The practice of revealing previous price reductions, pioneered by Zoopla and subsequently taken up by Rightmove (but eschewed by OnTheMarket) have, they said, “unwittingly helped created a problem that did not exist before the portals started doing this”.