Rise in complaints about real estate agents

Red-hot property market no excuse for agents to disregard obligations.

21mar rise in complaints hero

Real estate agents are making more money than ever as house prices skyrocket. However, complaints about them are also on the rise.

The Real Estate Authority (REA), which deals with complaints about agents, fielded 896 inquiries in the six months to December. That’s up 36 percent on the same period in 2019.

Of those who contacted the REA, 163 went on to make formal complaints – an increase of eight percent.

Authority chief executive Belinda Moffat said the swell in complaints was a reflection of the sizzling market.

However, the hot market wasn’t an excuse for agents to ignore their legal obligations to be upfront with buyers and sellers.

Agents needed to show high levels of “professionalism and care”, Moffatt said.

Prior to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, complaints to the REA had been at their lowest level since the authority was established.

Misleading information tops complaints

Agents giving out wrong or misleading information about a property – such as saying it had a Master Build guarantee or sea views when it didn’t – is the most common reason for people to complain to the REA.

Complaints about agents withholding information they should disclose also feature – for example, failing to inform potential buyers about a planned development in the neighbourhood.

The REA also receives complaints from vendors who feel the agent hasn’t acted in the vendor’s best interest. Situations can include an agent telling a potential buyer that a vendor will accept an offer lower than what the vendor has indicated.

Before you make an offer

If you’re looking at making an offer on a house, here are 10 questions we think you should expect the real estate agent to be able to answer:

  1. Does the property need any urgent repairs?
  2. Are there outstanding consents for renovations or other work?
  3. For older properties, has the house been re-piled, re-roofed, re-wired, re-plumbed and re-lined?
  4. Is there insulation in the roof, underfloor and walls?
  5. Are there any issues with the title?
  6. Are there any developments planned for neighbouring properties or in the area?
  7. Is there a LIM available?
  8. What did the agent price the property at?
  9. What have nearby properties sold for?
  10. Why are the owners selling?

The REA also runs settled.govt.nz, which provides advice on navigating the buying and selling process. The site has a Property Checker tool that generates a list of questions to ask about a particular property.

If you have a problem with the conduct of a real estate agent, contact the authority.

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