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Scarier than a haunted house: estate agent horror stories

From dead bodies to burglary, the Guardian looks at some of the most terrifying mistakes estate agents have made – and how you can avoid them

scarier than a haunted house estate agent horror stories

From dead bodies to burglary, we look at some of the most terrifying mistakes estate agents have made – and how you can avoid them

As the second part of the government’s Help to Buy scheme kicks off, and the property market continues to get busier, more of us are set to spend a bit of time with estate agents over the coming months.

Agents who do not voluntarily join a professional body do not have to meet minimum competency standards, and buyers and sellers can have little come back if things go wrong. And sometimes they do go horribly wrong, as these stories attest …

The agents who let in a thief

Not one but three different agents in Essex showed luxury homes to a thief who stole expensive jewellery during the viewings in August. The bogus buyer, who called himself Oleg, managed to convince the agents he was a representative of a wealthy Russian and needed time alone in the property to speak privately to his client on his mobile phone. Source: Estate Agent Today

The agent who didn’t call ahead

An agent showed a couple round a flat without checking whether anyone was home. All was well until they got to a bedroom and opened the built-in wardrobes … to be greeted with the sight of the owner hiding inside, stark nakedSource: Rightmove.co.uk

The agent who failed to make proper checks

A couple signed up to a shorthold tenancy through a lettings agent, but were evicted just 10 days later. Bailiffs forced entry while the tenants were at work and changed the locks. The lettings agent had failed to verify that the landlord had the authority to rent out the property and it turned out she was being evicted by her mortgage lender. The couple were not even allowed back in to remove their belongings. Source: The Tenants Voice

The agent who failed to call the police

A lettings agent in Holland Park arrived at a property with a prospective tenant to find the front door hanging on its hinges. Inside, the flat was a shambles, but the agent continued with the viewing and merely pulled the door shut when he left. It wasn’t until the owner returned home that evening that she discovered she had been burgled. Source: Sourcingproperty.co.uk

The agency which left too much to the imagination

An estate agency’s description of a property in Epsom went viral after it stated it could not show internal photos “due to the owners’ hobby”. Speculation ensued, including a New York newspaper wondering whether said hobby might involve uranium. Source: ThisislocalLondon.co.uk

The agent who showed a property with a dead body inside

An estate agent showed prospective buyers around an £800,000 house in Notting Hill, London, without realising that the 55-year-old owner he presumed was asleep on the sofa had actually died. The agent admitted to a coroner’s court that he had thought “something didn’t seem right” but continued with the viewing nevertheless. Source: Daily Mail

The agent who had no idea where he was

A couple visited a property with an estate agent who conducted the entire viewing on auto pilot. “He told us all the normal spiel about heating and wiring etc, then said there was potential for developing or extending the property with a conservatory or adding a loft conversion,” the prospective buyer said. “The wife and I looked at each other, feeling very confused. We were on the third floor of a five-storey block.” Source: Rightmove.co.uk

First-time buyers are particularly vulnerable to incompetent agents, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says, claiming most are forced to “fly blind” through the “biggest purchase of their lives”. But sellers also need to know they are not paying huge fees to someone who is sleeping on the job – maybe even literally if the tales above are anything to go by. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of encountering a hapless estate agent:

Read more on this story in The Guardian

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