Estate agents have a rather unpopular reputation in the Housing Market. Perhaps it's their persistent drive to sell a property that brings about an annoying impression, as they need to have as much potential buyers in their books and sell the property at the best price, irrespective of its current condition and location - just so they'll receive a hefty sum in fees.
And with such predicament some estate agents are forced to use methods that are quite dodgy - asking buyers to throw in some money although their offer has already been accepted. These agents would typically arrange an open viewing for all potential buyers in short intervals and ask them to put their offers in writing.
There are others, too, who would push an "informal sale" by asking the buyer to pay a "finder's fee" that ranges from 2% to 2.5% of the agreed selling price, following a sealed bid. This is called double-charging and is a very unkind act just so the agent would draw in as much money to their pockets.
Complaints of estate agents engaged in double charging scheme have reached the Legal Ombudsman and reports had it that it has become a common practice in London without a definitive plan to stop it. This activity may already be present in other parts of the country, too, and can actually discourage buyers at the thought of being possibly robbed of a hefty sum.
While it's an alarming situation, not all estate agents are as dodgy as reported. There are those who can be very helpful and efficient, if you choose carefully. What you can do to make sure you're not tricked while looking for a property to buy is to involve the estate agent through the search. Discuss how you need as much information about the property with them; and prod them for advice, too. This will give estate agents a chance to be more transparent with the details and find schemes to get money from you besides the fees they're getting from the seller.
What you could do at this point is to look around for the best company or individual estate agents - either on the Internet or through recommendations from people close to you. Don't just jump into open viewings and making an offer immediately. Find as much information about the estate agent and find out how efficient and reliable their service are. If it helps, and we reckon it does, list down at least three to choose from before coming down to your best choice.
To even help you more, you can look for accredited estate agents through the Property Ombudsman website. These agents are guaranteed to take you through the buying process at par with the legal and quality guidelines. Do your homework and look for as much information about the estate agent to make sure you're going to work with a diligent one. If something goes wrong though, the Property Ombudsman can look into it as soon as you file a complaint, especially if it's clear that the estate agent did not give you a fair treatment.