I have criticised The Irish Times before for being too compliant towards estate agents and the network of vested interests that makes up the property business in Ireland. But, as they now report, they have finally called a halt to one dodgy practice: that of auctioneers and agents publishing exaggerated sales prices for houses. They sent a letter to estate agents demanding an explanation for some prices they were being asked to publish in their property supplement. This was a means for estate agents to falsely claim that property was selling at inflated prices. I can only assume that this letter followed a tip-off from a buyer, or perhaps a little bit of investigative journalism.
The National Consumer Agency got involved and held a meeting with the institutes that represent estate agents, yesterday. As is usual in these tense stand-offs, the threats and warnings are all hedged around with caveats, so as not to directly make libellous accusations. In typically quaint language, the IAVI chief executive described the meeting as “very constructive and productive”! I am sure it was.
In its purest form, this practice is lying. At best, it distorts the public perception of the state of the property market. At worst, it is down-right fraudulent.
Following on from the scandals about solitcitors arranging multiple mortgages for single properties, this just underlines the motivating factors of greed and self-interest that fuel the property market in Ireland.
Hopefully, the result of yesterday’s meeting should be better transparency in the market place and a better deal for buyers. Published prices should be accurate. The market will return to normality when the greed, lies, dodgy practices, and illegalities are taken away. Which probably means it won’t happen just yet.