What are ‘pressure sales’ tactics in the housing market and why does it affect my mortgage decision?

Aug 14, 2023

What is ‘conditional selling’ or ‘pressure sales’ tactics in the housing market, and why does it affect my mortgage decision?

 

Pressure sales in the housing market refers to aggressive and often manipulative tactics used by estate agents and others to push potential buyers into making quick purchasing decisions on a property or taking up further products or services from them in order to win the property the customer desires.

Pressure sales are generally where the agent creates a false sense of urgency and to compel buyers to commit to a purchase; sometimes against their better judgment and always to benefit the party applying the pressure. Pressure sales can involve a variety of techniques, such as limited time offers, misrepresentation, discounts, incentives, emotional manipulation and other high pressure tactics.

Conditional selling however specifically refers to the pressure sale of peripheral services such as mortgages, legals and surveys”

 

Why is it important to understand conditional selling if I am applying for a mortgage right now?

Independent mortgage brokers are calling for the FCA to take action on those estate agencies that use conditional selling to their own advantage. Our own Advising Director Steven Morris was recently featured in The Negotiator discussing an instance circulating social media, which shows an email from a Connell’s representative, telling a client their offer was no longer accepted because they had decided against using Connell’s mortgage service https://thenegotiator.co.uk/connells-launches-yet-another-investigation-into-pressure-sales/

The article debated whether or not this constituted conditional selling:

Of course, it’s conditional selling,” {Steven} says. “The agent has clearly stated that the client’s offer was ‘based on’ (aka condition of) using the agents’ in-house broker and now the offer would need to be ‘reconsidered’ on the basis the client now isn’t. There isn’t scope for subjectivity here, the Trading Standards guidance is crystal clear in section 9d: ‘By law you cannot make it a condition of passing on offers to the seller that the buyer must use services offered by you or another party. You must not discriminate, or threaten to discriminate, against a buyer because that person declines to accept that you will (directly or indirectly) provide related services to them.’ If you ever wondered how estate agency linked mortgage brokers (generally brands whose name starts with a ‘C’) stay in business, despite their terribly limited panel of lenders (and therefore sub-standard service offering), the explanation is easy; because of conditional selling. It is literally their business model.

In a mortgage market that has been under huge pressure due to high inflation and a cost of living crisis, consumers are more at risk of pressure tactics as their budgets are stretched and their options potentially limited. Many brokers are calling on the FCA to step in at this time when borrowing consumers are at their most vulnerable.

 

How long has this been going on?

Probably since the first mortgage was used to buy a house. This has been a known issue in the industry for decades. Channel 4 even produced an expose on this (and other malpractices amongst certain estate agency firms).

 https://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/news/a-bit-naughty-channel-4s-dispatches-exposes-in-house-estate-agent-deals/

 However it is only in more recent times that the mortgage broker community has come together to lobby in a bid to fight it.

 https://www.ftadviser.com/mortgages/2023/08/10/brokers-call-out-conditional-selling-at-connells/

 https://www.ftadviser.com/mortgages/2022/08/31/countrywide-staff-can-push-too-hard-on-in-house-services/

 

What is being done to tackle conditional selling?

 It seems as though mortgage brokers may have finally had enough. There are talks of the FCA, AMI and trading standards reviewing what can be done about these practices, though nothing has yet been confirmed.

What is certain though is mortgage brokers taking a stand; they are increasingly posting evidence to social media platforms, even tagging the businesses accused, their staff and owners.

 

How can I stop this happening to me?

Get on the front foot.

Speak with a mortgage broker early. Have them assess your documents (link to docs requirements) and establish which lenders you are eligible for and how much you can borrow.

Obtain a decision in principle on a ‘soft basis’ (write new article we can link for what this means), line up a solicitor and obtain a quote from them in preparation for a purchase.

When you initially engage with an estate agent and particularly when you present your offer do so comprehensively and involve the professionals you have already recruited to independently act in your best interests.

Accompany your offer with

-Your decision in principle certificate

-Legal quote and contact details for the solicitor you are using

-Proofs of your ID, address and deposit (estate agents may well request these for anti-money laundering purposes)

 

What can I do if I think an estate agent is using conditional selling tactics?

Firstly, politely remind them of their obligations under Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents. In particular, you are drawing their attention to section 9C.

 https://www.tradingstandards.uk/media/documents/commercial/codes-of-practice/tpo-sales.pdf

Secondly, report them. If it is not reported it will continue.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/get-more-help/report-to-trading-standards/

It’s important for buyers to be aware of these tactics and to take their time when making such a significant financial decision. Rushing into a purchase due to pressure sales can lead to regrets later on if the property doesn’t truly meet their needs or if they discover hidden issues after the fact.

Buyers should thoroughly research properties, consider their financial situation, and work with reputable estate agencies and professionals who prioritise their clients’ best interests rather than pushing for quick sales at any cost.

 

Steven Morris – Advising Director

CeMAP CeRER

 

Steve loves a complex mortgage. Most recently he has used his technical geekery to work his way up through Which? Mortgage Advisers, progressing to Senior Adviser and then Onboarding Manager. There, he was responsible for hiring, training and managing new advisers.

He also ran the monthly new starter inductions and wrote and maintained the telephony advice standards of the company. Outside of work Steve can be found coaching and being run ragged by his local under 10’s rugby team, Bristol Harlequins RFC.

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