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WWYD - Suspect estate agent didn't pass on our offer

(29 Posts)
HmmSmellsFishyToMe Wed 17-Aug-11 22:44:19

Hello. Namechanged as this happened today and I suspect a couple of people might be on here that I told so don't want them knowing my usual name. Hello if you recognise me grin

Sorry if ends up long.

We put an offer in on a house about three weeks ago. Very cheap, quite big, total renovation. Offered the asking price. Were told by the estate agent woman that another offer was in, a couple of grand below asking price, but it was a cash offer.

She explained that the vendor had employed a 'company' to deal with the sale for him (a probate) so there were two lots of vendors for her to inform. Fine. Having this company involved, they'd want to market the house until exchange, and would want an advert online before exchange inviting our offer to be bettered. Their job was to get the best price for the seller, you see. Fine.

No word for a few days so I phoned back. She'd told the owner but couldn't get hold of the company. Quite patronising - a lot of explaining patiently to me that actually this company was owned by another company so it was very very complicated and difficult for her to get through. Right. Then a rather odd exchange during which she warned me (again very patiently and sympathetically - are you liking the sound of this helpful lady? grin) that as the other offer was cash, it might not work out for us. Well yes I know, however we have offered more. But they are cash. Well yes I know. Well that means your offer isn't very strong you see, as what if your bank won't lend? Err, we have a mortgage in principle for lots more than this house in fact , anyway that's a perfectly normal situation so let's get on with it and we can get a survey done... Oh but what if the survey comes back as less than the asking price? Err, I think that's an unlikely scenario given that it's cheap as chips... Oh but I know the surveyors round here, they are very very tough! - etc. So I got annoyed at having to stay polite to someone who seemed desperate to actually put us OFF making an offer at all and said fine I'd call again in a few days.

We've had a really busy couple of weeks so it was ten days since this conversation when I called today. I'd expected to hear from them but nothing. Spoke to a different woman. The vendors have gone with the cash offer. I asked why they hadn't contacted us. Apparently the woman I spoke to has left and her replacement (apologetic, but not massively so) has '150 properties to wade through so things have slipped through the net!' So no organised system there then - still, wouldn't you think that there'd be a list of properties under offer and some sort of knowledge of the stuff that needed dealing with? And they HAVE been dealing with this, if the other offer has been accepted over the last week or whatever then presumably if our offer went in, our details are linked to that as people who need to be called - yes? Anyway I was pretty short about it, said it was completely unprofessional and we wouldn't deal with them again blah, asked for complaint contact. But not her fault so that was that.

But. Thinking about it later, I am confused. And I think it's suss. The property is still on Rightmove. If the 'property company' wanted to get the best deal, why did they not come back to us and ask us to up the offer? I totally understand that a cash offer is great, but I really expected that they would try and play us off a bit, if anything. This property was under 100K, so 2k under the asking versus the asking is not totally insignificant. Her general attitude and the fact that they just didn't get back to us make it more suss. And - after today's conversation too - I just FEEL it's suss iykwim.

So. I'd be very grateful for advice. We've bought before, but not had an offer turned down. Is it normal for them to be so shit? Does this sound perfectly run of the mill crapness or suss? Second, is it perfectly clear to all of you that OF COURSE they'd take a lower cash offer, even a sharky property selling company? Third, how do you find out if the offer was put in? I know it's illegal for an agent not to pass on an offer. Can I ring up the manager (the complaints name) and reasonably ask for proof that the offer went in? - what would that be? Would I just have to take their word for it?! Did they have a legal obligation to get back to us about the offer (given that it's illegal not to inform the seller we made one)? I would like to follow this up and possibly give Lady Patronising Pants a hard day at her new job being asked awkward questions by her former employer

I'm annoyed angry So are you probably at the length of this. ME ME ME eh.

This is in Chat too. Thanks for any words of wisdom smile

WideWebWitch Thu 18-Aug-11 00:40:04

Hmm, can you contact the sellers direct in any way? It does sound very odd and they are obliged to put the offer to the vendors.

carpwidow Thu 18-Aug-11 00:53:45

Could be a pecuniary interest there somewhere. If offers are very close, it is wise for vendors to go for a cash offer over one where a mortgage is needed as the transaction is usually much quicker. You'll obviously need a solicitor for the conveyancing - I'd seek his/her advice on this.

jade80 Thu 18-Aug-11 01:12:58

Which estate agents? They sound about as useless as the ones I'm dealing with at the moment! Sounds like they've just dealt badly with the change in staff but who knows, they seem to be a law unto themselves!

MeMySonAndI Thu 18-Aug-11 01:20:20

Many agents really push the vendor to accept a cash offer (quick business for the agency with less chance of the deal falling through).

I think it is unfair on everyone involved (save the agency), perhaps this woman was trying to get her last bit of commission before leaving the company.

Funk Thu 18-Aug-11 04:07:25

Send a written copy of your offer to the owners directly if you think the EA has been less than honest. EA is obliged to forward all offers - some are unscrupulous.

GrendelsMum Thu 18-Aug-11 07:23:49

Well, it was only a couple of grand difference between the two offers, though it seems odd they didnt try to bid you off against each other. FWIW, we put in a cash offer 4% below another offer on our current house, and the vendor, who we now know quite well, chose our offer for the increased security it gave her. Do you have another house to sell?

You could always put a letter with the offer through the door of the house?

moomaa Thu 18-Aug-11 07:34:59

I lurk quite a lot on moneysavingexpert house buying/selling forum and the advice about the law seems to be that they have to put forward offers that they have recieved in writing - did you put yours in writing? I don't know if this is because they can deny phone offers ever exisited. I must say, when we have put in an offer that has been refused we have had details of it and the refusual in the post a few days later.

If they are marketing until exchange I would put an offer in writing to them and request the chance to negotiate and a written response. I would cc the house address in the hope that it gets noticed by the owner too.

BettyBathroom Thu 18-Aug-11 07:35:37

I would be suspicious about this deal due to you saying you believe the house is being sold at 100k below it's Market value - I'd be worried that the EA was doing a mate a favour rather than just being a bit crap at their job.

theyoungvisiter Thu 18-Aug-11 07:42:31

THe thing is, if it's a probate, it's very likely they are focussed on getting the deal tied up as quick as possible so that all the beneficiaries can get their money.

If there are 8 beneficiaries then they are not going to care about a difference of a few hundred quid in their legacy - what they WILL care about is a delay of 6 months while you get your chain together, things fall through, people quibble over surveys and it's distressing to all the bereaved parties. People often also feel less like haggling violently if the sale is due to a death.

I've been involved in probate sales before (both as a buyer and as a beneficiary) and in both cases a lower offer was accepted in favour of a quick clean sale that was guaranteed to go through fast.

I think what's most likely is that they went with the cash offer straight away but asked the estate agent to avoid telling you for as long as possible until the cash buyer had instructed their solicitor, just in case it fell through at the first hurdle. Now things have moved on and they can't avoid telling you, they have done, and have blamed this other woman as an explanation for the delay.

It all sounds completely normal to me - if frustrating for you.

LynetteScavo Thu 18-Aug-11 07:47:24

Personally, I would go into the office when the manager was in and ask to see the offer letter which should have been sent out. If you ask for proof over the phone, the manger will be able to cover their tracks by back dating a letter, etc.

By doing that, (nicely, and not screaming you are going to shop them) you may still be in with a change of buying the house.

It sounds like the woman who left has royally fucked up, and the 2nd woman you spoke to is having to pick up a lot of mess.

GrendelsMum Thu 18-Aug-11 08:05:43

I think TheYoungVisiter may have it with her scenario. family just want to get it done and sold and don't care about losing a few hundred each.

LynetteScavo Thu 18-Aug-11 08:13:28

Well, TBH, in their position, I too would take the cash and run.

SybilBeddows Thu 18-Aug-11 10:39:29

tbh if I was the vendor I would DEFINITELY take the cash offer, because in this current climate so many sales are falling through despite apparently having everything in place, and prices are falling so a delay of a few months could cost a lot more than the difference between the two offers.

however agents do sometimes fail to pass on offers because they are playing games or whatever. We had an agent say she had not noticed our email offer (when really I think it was just it was so much lower than the other offer she had that she decided it wasn't worth the trouble of her writing the formal letter declining, as she wasn't going to be able to use it to bid the other buyer up.)

narmada Thu 18-Aug-11 10:47:15

Hmm, sounds dead fishy to me. If I were you, I would buy the land registry title document online for 4 quid. I am wondering whether rather than being a probate sale, it's a forced sale beacuse someone has defaulted on their mortgage - the thing about this other 'company' being involved sounds rather odd.

Or, I reckon, the EA who has just left has ensured a developer friend has got it for cash.

I would put your offer in writing directly to the vendors if you can ascertain who they are - might be tricky if it really is a probate sale but otherwise the owners' names are listed on the title plan.

narmada Thu 18-Aug-11 10:48:28

Sorry, what I meant was the title deed may contain a clue as to w hether it's a forced sale or not - there might, for example, be mention of a sub-prime lender on the title deed.

theyoungvisiter Thu 18-Aug-11 13:01:44

narmada I might be wrong but I'm pretty sure the title deeds you get from the land registry wouldn't contain any of this info...? They just say who owns the house. They don't give any information on mortgage details or lenders.

Anyway if it's a probate sale the owner is presumably dead so I'm not sure how that would help either.

The only thing you could do is send a letter to the property addressed to "Person dealing with probate" or similar outlining your offer, but honestly I really don't think what's happened sounds remotely fishy. Accepting a 2k reduction for a cash sale is completely normal given the circs - as is stringing along the under-bidder for as long as possible to give a fall-back position.

I can see why the OP didn't like the woman's patronising manner, but this doesn't mean there's anything dodgy going on. In fact it sounds like the woman was trying to give the OP as much info as possible without acting against her client's interests.

Also wrt to Bertie's comment, the OP didn't say the house was being sold for 100k under its value, she said the house was priced under 100k. Totally different!

theyoungvisiter Thu 18-Aug-11 13:08:48

Also why would a "company" being involved indicate they're lying about probate? confused

The company would be the solicitors dealing with probate - who would then have to consult the executors to get their permission. Totally normal.

Where did this idea that a specialist property company is involved come from?

fapl Thu 18-Aug-11 13:20:07

It might even be more complicated than probate if the deceased had done something to release equity in their older age, there my be a finance company behind it too, in which case they operate in a similar way to a repossesion siuation (i viewed a house like this once). You could download the land registry documents for £4 to see if there are any charges on the property.

Are you chain free? If you are in a chain I would pretty much forget about it, if you are chain free with a mortgage I would say you are in with a chance, but put your offer in writing.

narmada Thu 18-Aug-11 15:37:31

Title from Land Registry will show any current registered charges on the property - e.g., mortgages, secured loans or any equity release agreement. The title has to contain such information to ensure that creditors' interests are taken into account when the property is sold IIRC.

It could well just be a probate case but I have had so much bullshit from agents over the years that my default position when dealing with them is suspicious.

theyoungvisiter Thu 18-Aug-11 19:48:36

Oh yes sorry I'd forgotten it shows the lender.

But it just says "lender halifax" or something doesn't it? It doesn't say what state the loan is in or anything. I don't really see how it would help tell you if it was a forced sale.

I've read absolutely nothing in the OP that sounds fishy at all. It's understandably annoying that the OP didn't get the house she wanted but honestly I think complaining about this poor estate agent is pointless and clutching at straws.

She lost out to a cash buyer who offered just 2 grand less than her and they didn't inform her for a few days about the vendor's decision - having warned her that they were keen on a cash sale and that it would probably take a long time to get back to her because of the probate situation. I just don't get what's fishy about that.

bibbitybobbityhat Thu 18-Aug-11 20:04:01

I am sure to the sellers the cash offer is more attractive, HOWEVER the EAs are legally obliged to put ALL offers forward in writing. Not just offers made in writing. I would go in to the office (as someone else said up thread) and ask to see the offer letter that was sent to the vendors.

I don't think you are going to get this house but you are in a good position to make life very difficult for the EA if revenge is your thing.

timidviper Thu 18-Aug-11 20:12:10

We made an offer on a house some years back, agents told us that vendor had already accepted an offer and was not interested despite ours being higher. We then put in offer on our current house and when we had moved noticed first house was still on market, some friends of ours knew the vendor and asked her. It turned out our offer had never been passed on. The first offer was from someone who was also selling via the same agent so we think they were just after both commissions.

HmmSmellsFishyToMe Thu 18-Aug-11 22:35:59

Thanks to everyone who's posted, lots of food for thought here! Sorry I've only just managed to get back.

Well. I have investigated a bit, and a line has been drawn. I called the very helpful solicitor of a friend today and explained the situation - free half hour, couldn't have been more helpful smile

I told the story and my questions were as I posted above. And no, it seems that although they are obliged to pass on offers, it isn't illegal to not inform the person making the offer of the fact, and they don't have to keep a paper trail apparently, though most do for this reason. But as he pointed out, now that I'd called and said I might complain, they would probably have backdated a form already! So little point in turning up at the branch and asking for proof of our offer going in. My best chance of 'invesitgating' would have been to try and get hold of the solicitors who would definitely be involved if it were a probate - but how to get their details. Or of course as others have suggested of somehow getting a note to the vendor or something - however, he is now not living at the property, there is the company dealing with the sale itself, so not very easy. The solicitor agreed that it looked a bit fishy and (depressingly) said that he had seen similar situations where cash offers (i.e. developers) were involved.

I got in touch with the person whose name I was given as a complaint contact - area manager - or rather I left a message and he called back so I'm sure he made sure to check his story out first! Apologies for not contacting us and yes of course our offer went in, yes we should have been as part of the other offer going through... apparently when I phoned they noticed that my original details were missing a digit on my contact number, so that was why. hmm Then two minutes later he was giving me a spiel about how they always send out signed copies of the official 'offer made' to the potential buyer - so I pointed out that we hadn't had that either even though we made the offer three weeks ago - err no answer to that! grin

Anyway. It seems that the reason the vendor went with the cash buyers was that they knew them, which answers my question - as I pointed out to the manager - no issue with them choosing to go with a cash buyer, it was the set of circumstances - the agent almost seeing to try to put us off, then being told that this 'company' would be aiming to push the price up - so we expected to be haggled up - then no contact - then they accept a lower offer. But of course, if the vendor was insistent that he wanted to sell to people he knew, that's fine and makes perfect sense. Apparently it's not a probate - his parents died a short time ago and he inherited and is now selling after having stayed there a short while. So goodness knows why the company were involved at all. Anyway I told him that I'd taken legal advice and knew that there was nothing I could do to investigate any suspicions I might still have, given that for all I knew he was telling complete porkies grin so just pointed out that the estate agent would be better off with a more positive phone manner and a better callback system, because basically she may have done nothing wrong but she'd made herself look fairly dodgy (I made the point that it looked very much as if she was trying to get her commission before leaving - thanks to the poster of that suggestion!) And then - he said 'Well this person has just left, as you know' in a very pointed way! Who knows what that might mean, if anything...

So. Tis fine. Thanks to everyone - to those who asked questions- no we aren't in a chain, no I know the cash offer is option is worth gold in times like these - if it hadn't been for the first conversation about the company working to get the best price for the seller, I wouldn't have had suspicions. bibbity - revenge could be my thing, I am happy that the vendor has found a friend to sell his parents' house to as it happens - but I am not above peeing over some chocolates and sending them to the estate agents 'from a grateful client' - JOKE grin

nocake Fri 19-Aug-11 09:54:42

To add my experience to this thread... we had a situation where an estate agent didn't pass on our offer and then attempted to cover it up by sending out backdated letters. I called them on it and received a letter admitting what they'd done but.... wait for it.... there's fuck all I could do about it. The estate agent ombudsman will only consider a complaint if you've lost out financially so estate agents can, and do, break their code of conduct knowing that there's nothing you can do.

Another fine example of how estate agents have rightfully earned their reputation!

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