Real estate agents - issues 

If my house doesn't sell, do I need to pay the real estate agent anything?

Generally you don’t have to pay the real estate agent a commission if your house doesn’t sell, because you aren’t liable for this fee until an offer to buy your house becomes unconditional (i.e. when the buyer is legally bound to go through with the purchase).

You may still have to pay for any additional expenses which were agreed to in your contract with the agency (such as such as any advertising).

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My real estate agent has had no success selling my house. If I manage to sell the house privately, do I still have to pay my agent a commission?

The agency agreement that you signed with the real estate agent should specify in which circumstances you are expected to pay.

In general, if you manage to sell your house privately as a result of work done by an agency you signed up with, you can be liable to pay the agency a commission - for example if the buyer viewed your property during an open home organised by the agent but didn’t make an offer until after the agency agreement had expired.

If you have a sole agency agreement and the property is sold within the time period stated in the agreement, then you have to pay commission to the agency even if you sold it yourself and the agent had nothing to do with finding the buyer.

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We have discovered a number of problems with the house we recently bought, that the real estate agent didn't tell us about. What can we do about it?

According to the  Real Estate Agents’ Code of Professional Conduct and Client Care, a licensed real estate agent is obliged to tell the potential buyer about any defects which they know about, as well as any significant potential risks which they should know about based on their knowledge and experience. Also, they are not allowed to give false information about the property (more about a real estate agent's responsibilities is on our Real estate agents page).

If you believe the real estate agent knew about (or should have known about) the problems at the time, you can make a complaint to the real estate agent using their in-house complaints process or make a complaint to the Real Estate Agents Authority.

However a real estate agent is not obliged to look for defects in the property (and could be relying on information from the seller) - this is the responsibility of the buyer. When considering buying a property, we recommend that you get the appropriate pre-purchase checks done.

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My real estate agent is pressuring me to sell my house for less than what I think it is worth. What can I do?

It’s possible that the real estate agent wants you to sell your house at a lower price in order to get a quicker sale (and earn their commission sooner). However you may just have unrealistic expectations about the market value of your property, and the agent has a more accurate idea of its worth. You can read our information for private sellers, about setting a realistic house price.

A real estate agent who puts unfair or undue pressure on a client would be in breach of the Real Estate Agents’ Code of Professional Conduct and Client Care. If you feel that this is what your agent is doing you can make a complaint using the agency’s complaints process, or complain to the Real Estate Authority.

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How do I make a complaint about a real estate agent?

Agents are required to have a specific complaints process, so your first step would be to make a complaint to the real estate agent. If this approach doesn’t resolve your problem, or you do not want to complain to the real estate agent directly, then you can make a complaint to the Real Estate Authority (REA).

The REA investigates claims about breaches of the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 (or regulations made under the Act) or the Real Estate Agents’ Code of Professional Conduct and Client Care. You can visit their website for information on how to lay a complaint, and what happens when a complaint is made.

You can also contact the REA for more information:

freephone:  0800 367 7322  
phone:  04 471 8930 

Note that although many real estate agencies are also property managers, the REA usually can’t deal with complaints relating to property management.