The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that claims made by a ‘fast home buying’ company that it was not an estate agent were misleading.
We Buy Any House – which has no connection with other companies that may have similar names – was also ruled to having misled the public because it suggested that it was a purchaser which bought properties itself directly from people wanting a fast and convenient sale – when in fact it lined up investor buyers.
Eclectic Financial Solutions, which trades as We Buy Any House and is based in Northwich, Cheshire, was the subject of a complaint concerning claims made on its own website.
It stated: “Economic or time constraints can often lead home owners to seek out companies that buy houses for cash.
“We Buy Any House should not be compared with an Estate Agent because we buy properties direct from the seller, so avoiding expensive Estate Agency fees.
“We offer a free service and legal representation. The offer we present is the amount you will receive on completion without deductions. We will typically pay up to 90% of the market value for a house, depending on the property type, its condition and location.”
The complainant told the ASA that they thought the service operated similarly to an estate agent.
We Buy Any House told the ASA that their properties appealed to investors wanting to buy houses at a discount, and who were able to complete quickly. It was made clear to sellers in advertising material that investors might wish to view a house before buying it.
We Buy Any House said the majority of its customers were able to sell their property within the relevant timeframe and save on traditional estate agency costs.
The ASA noted that the We Buy Any House website made a variety of claims, including “We Buy Any House Fast for Cash”, and “we buy any house in any condition throughout the UK”.
But the ASA said: “We considered the overall impression of the ad, in conjunction with the company name, We Buy Any House, suggested elements of the traditional estate agency process, such as the property being advertised or viewings from potential buyers, would not be necessary before the purchase was complete, because the advertiser would purchase property directly from consumers who desired a fast and convenient sale.
“We understood that We Buy Any House did not generally purchase properties directly from consumers and therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.”
The ruling suggests that We Buy Any House may now have to join an estate agency redress scheme – as some other buying companies have already done.
Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman, said: “The definition of estate agency appears in Section 1 (1) of the Estate Agents Act 1979.
“Put simply, if you act as an intermediary in the course of business to bring a buyer and a seller together then you are conducting estate agency.
“It appears that the ASA have concluded that the firm in question is not actually buying the property itself but rather are finding buyers for properties they have sourced.
“In such a scenario it is clear to me that they fall within the definition in the Act.”