Estate agents defend accusations over costs

The chief executive of Homeowners Alliance claimed that the organisation had received “worrying” reports that consumers were paying up to £150 to buy energy performance certificates (EPCs) through certain estate agents, even though the asking price can be £60, or less directly from an authorised EPC provider.

Ms Higgins also alleged that national estate agency Connells does not always disclose the 28-day window that buyers have to shop around for an alternative, or inform them that better options may be available elsewhere.

EPCs are legal requirement for all those selling properties with the term of the certificate lasting 10 years.

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Ms Higgins said: “We are trying to make consumers aware that EPCs do not have to be purchased straightaway from the estate agent, who does not always provide the correct price. Sadly, the contracts do not make this clear.”

She claimed that the extra cost of an EPC is one example of estate agents using their position to hike fees, claiming that London-based firms were also charging buyers 2 per cent plus VAT on homes that “easily sell in an overheated market”.

She added: “Sale by tender is being increasingly rolled out by some national chains. This sees estate agents getting a nice fat fee from both the buyer and the seller. It should be outlawed. The same goes for contracts locking buyers in to using the same agent again if they plan to sell in the near future. This is another example of opportunistic estate agents trying to cash in on the sellers market.”

Right to reply

A spokesman for Connells said: “Our agency agreement clearly outlines all the options for commissioning an EPC, including circumstances where an EPC already exists or where the vendor is making their own arrangements. There is no obligation whatsoever to use Connells’ EPC provider although an EPC or evidence that an EPC has been ordered is legally required before marketing of a property can start.”