£30 to view a property?

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One of the UK’s most popular pastimes is apparently surfing on Rightmove to see what properties are available. Another is then spending a pleasant day visiting houses when there is no intention of actually buying anything.

Regrettably, at least from the estate agent’s point of view, a large number of those people are not turning up for the inspections and do not have the courtesy to cancel beforehand.

The problem is not confined to housing inspections. Many restaurants now take a booking fee when reservations are made, and the system does not appear to have adversely affected them.

Estate agents are about to follow suit with the launch of a new website, ViewRabbit. The site allows agents to send a web link to prospective buyers and tenants who will be asked to pay at least £30 to guarantee a viewing.

Paid-for viewings would take place before free ones, and viewers who went on to purchase the property or sign a tenancy agreement would receive a full refund. There are plans for any income generated from the first 30 days of viewings to be donated to charity – which we doubt will happen.

Not everyone is happy with fees being charged, the argument being that agents are paid enough when they sell the property and viewings are all part of the sales process. They believe that allows people to not turn up with no recourse.

Not every agent will jump on board and start charging inspection fees. Nevertheless, while the market remains hot more agents will adopt the system. When the market cools and there are fewer buyers around, it will be interesting to see if they have the backbone to continue demanding them. Without sounding cynical, we doubt they will.

As for St David, we rarely do inspections as our service is tailored for overseas investors. However, we often send information that has been requested only to find the recipient can’t be bothered to reply to us. Of course, people are busy, and the argument is that if they were interested, they would let us know.

Nevertheless, the age-old expression springs to mind; treat people as you would want to be treated. It is why we always respond to enquiries quickly and try not to waste people’s time. Whilst we won’t be charging fees to send information out, the thought does occasionally cross our minds…

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