Agents are listing ghost properties on portals, says BBC

Letting agents are creating fake adverts of properties against a background of strong demand and insufficient supply.

BBC London says its investigation found one agent using exactly the same photographs for three properties in different locations.

The BBC also found one home owner who found her own flat listed on Zoopla without her knowledge.

She only discovered it because she wanted to remortgage and looked up the value of her property on the portal.

She found it had been listed as available to let a month earlier by an agent in Islington.

She said: “It’s our home. We’ve been here for so long, and to see someone creating a deception around our address feels like our home has been stolen to a certain extent.”

BBC London quotes David Cox, managing director of ARLA, who said that “ghost listing” is on the rise.

He said: “We’re hearing anecdotal evidence that this is increasing.

“It’s in all parts of London from the high-end properties in central London to average-priced properties in east and south London.

“It’s because the agents don’t have the stock. There is a massive shortage of housing and a huge influx of people.”

Cox told the BBC that policing “ghost listing” is almost impossible.

He said: “These listings will look exactly the same as any genuine listing. Unless someone actually notices ‘that is my property’ they’re probably never going be found.”

Legal guru David Smith described the practice as “bait and switch” – agents advertise a property that does not exist, and then tell prospective tenants of another.

He said: “If someone is induced to see a property that doesn’t exist, they then may be so desperate by that point they’ll take an inferior product they would never normally have taken, or they’ll be prepared to pay too much money for it.

“People are already talking about how the market in London is overheated. This just distorts it further.”

Rightmove and Zoopla both told the BBC that they are aware of the problem, and remove content that is not genuine.

The BBC’s latest coverage follows a You and Yours programme in the summer where a home owner found her property on an agent’s website. We reported on it here

The BBC’s story also follows EYE’s coverage of so-called portal juggling this week, whereby agents re-list properties.

All three of the main portals did not consider it a major problem – but an astonishing number of our readers admitted to it, or could point to its prevalence.

x

Email the story to a friend

39 Comments

  1. MF

    “All three of the main portals did not consider it a major problem, for them

    Report
    1. Disillusioned

      Jesus wept, Why in gods name are you having a pop at the portals?!! The buck lies fairly and squarely on one parties doorstep here and that’s the bl00dy agents.

      It was frightening the other day reading on here how some agents almost seeing it as a competition who’s the best at it.

      And before you ask, no, I don’t portal juggle and no, I don’t put fake properties on and no. I don’t have the largest stock in my area but I get a lot more satisfaction trying to be the better agent than the bigger agent,

      Report
  2. MarkRowe

    Comment made ‘I used Zoopla to find a price for a remortgage’ ….

    Agents reading this who question stats quoted by Z – now do you see why there are a huge number of people who use the site for this purpose and not necessarily to search for available homes to buy? I wonder how many people remortgage daily in the UK???

    Report
    1. CDC

      And which site do you think she will use if and when she is actively looking to buy or sell?

      Report
    2. danny

      Extra extra “Property related website attracts people carrying out property related searches shocker … Read all about it

      Report
    3. Simon Chan

      The bit I want to know is if the three main portals are Zoopa, Rightmove and Prime Location or Zoopla, Rightmove and onthemarket.

      Report
      1. PeeBee

        Irrelevant.

        What’s your opinion on #portaljuggling?

        That IS relevant.

        Report
    4. PeeBee

      “Agents reading this who question stats quoted by Z…”

      Want proof?  Straight off Tw@tter – ‘Meggy P’ posted

      “Love going on zoopla and setting my house budget for like £2 million, just for a browse…”

      (credit: Zoopla for re-Tw@tting it)

      Transcript of discussion between Neg and disgruntled seller as follows: “Well, Mr Vendor – I know that the Zoopla report we emailed you says there have been sixteen billion people ‘visited’ your property in the last 24 hours – but they’re all “just browsing”, I’m sure…”

      Report
      1. MarkRowe

        Just to make clear I’m with you on that @PeeBee, think my comment was written rather quickly – my point was that Z and RM have a lot of visitors that aren’t serious buyers, so of no benefit to us agents.

         

        Report
        1. PeeBee

          Don’t you worry, Mr Rowe – I knew where you were coming from and my post was simply to reinforce your point to the likes of the two that apparently disagree the lazy way – hitting the ‘Dislike’ button instead of debating their own opinion.

          But, then… maybe when you have no opinion it’s easier to pick a button… any button…

          Report
  3. Ewemover45

    I am a Sales & Lettings agent doing it properly and i know for a fact some of the other agents have been listed properties that aren’t for sale since i started in business.  Its frustrating when you also hear about agents listing properties before vendors have signed, or made a decision and then to be told ‘sorry, but we’ve now actually got you some viewings booked in – so if you come along and sign on the dotted line we’ll get you sorted to sell your home’ then low and behold the viewings cancel?! Surprise surprise.  I’m all for audits, checks, professionalising the industry, monitoring practice, etc…i would like to just state that all the agents i have met since starting have actually been very professional and conducted themselves well when i’ve met them personally, so they aren’t all bad i guess.

    Report
  4. Woodentop

    Its not just  a problem on the web, I know many an agent who has sold properties displayed in their vast windows, some have been there for so many years they have faded and then reprinted!

    Report
  5. Robert May

    Policing ghost properties is not impossible. In the same way as portal juggling is easily identified so is ghosting. Ghosting is not just confined to letting properties, some are using ghosting to ‘fluff’ their registers

    If it were not for an accidental heads up  given to one agent earlier in the summer we had been gathering evidence  on a portfolio that was over inflated by 400 properties, they were subsequently were exorcised and disappeared in a matter of days.

    The portals, the agents practising juggling and ghosting and those helping them to suppress the seriousness of the practices might  not see the harm but  the laws of the land and decency say  both are wrong.

    The respect the public had for agency pre mid 80’s will not return until practices such as this are stamped out.

     

    Report
    1. PeeBee

      “…we had been gathering evidence  on a portfolio that was over inflated by 400 properties, they were subsequently were exorcised and disappeared in a matter of days.”

      They were only ‘exorcised’ on ONE portal, Robert – still sitting there on the other!

      The portals’ “anti-gaming technology” they apparently rely on appears as if the rubber band has snapped – but good old fashioned ‘manual digging’ (with a lot of digital help…) still comes up trumps!

      If there’s 5h!t to be shifted – we’ve got the shovel!! ;o)

      #portaljuggling #truthwillout

      Report
      1. smile please

        Fair play PeeBee for going to the effort but do you think it will have any repercussions for the agents involved or will stop others from doing it?

        Report
        1. PeeBee

          Trust me, smile please – I am confident it will!

          Report
  6. letmeout

    It’s tantamount to sheer deception! I would strongly suggest that any would be vendor or purchaser look to another agent and if this mal practice comes to ligh spread the word

    Report
  7. davehedgehog

    I have complained endlessly to both R/M and Z about this but they just don’t care – I suppose this is because they can then boast about how much stock they have, it’s extra clicks and site visits. I gave up in the end.

    Report
    1. PeeBee

      So, then… some could potentially come to the conclusion that portals may be purposefully misleading the public for some reason…?

      Surely not!

      Report
      1. danny

        I don’t understand why portals are responsible for this ? Surely it’s the ASA ? Is google responsible for criminal type websites ?

        Report
        1. PeeBee

          danny

          ASA?? You’re having a laugh, ain’t you!

          No-one is bothered apparently – hence the practice is rife.  As was seen from comments yesterday, even those who object to it do it because otherwise they look inferior to the true inferior ones!

          It needs sorting – simple as.  The portals have to accept at least some responsibility for the information they allow their paying customers to display – and as reported Rightmove have confirmed that they do so now – so why is the extent of #portaljuggling clearly taking place on a daily basis getting through the net?

          Maybe – just maybe – it’s where the net is being cast that is the issue here.

          We are simply helping the process along by telling them where to cast their nets.

          And will continue to do so – and to shout when it’s not dealt with.

          Report
  8. smile please

    I never portal juggled or added ghost properties.

    From time to time i have rested a property for a week and then added with new pictures but in the main this is an exception.

    However i am starting to think after the last story, “If you cant beat them, join them” it seems like there is no appetite from Portals, ASA, Redress Schemes, Professional Bodies, Trading Standards to crack down on this.

    Why should agents have to report competitors doing this and then whoever you report it to do not care.

    Maybe this afternoon i will get the guys to drive round blocks of Apartments take an exterior shot and load up a load of “New” properties ….

    Report
    1. Robert May

      You have kept your anonymity from me for so long Smile, If you start juggling or ghosting I will find out who you are!

      Agents should not have to report the practice at all now it is highlighted and the mainstream media are taking note; it becomes very difficult for executives to stand in front of cameras and explain why they have turned a blind eye.  The fact some big names are at it makes no difference.

      Evil prospers when good folk do nothing. Good (stubborn, well intentioned, honest)  Estate Agents have researched and exposed this, it is not going back in the box.*

      I can tell you first hand Rightmove are taking this seriously and are doing something about it. If they act the rest will follow. If they fail to act the rest will be given commercial advantage, I can not see Rightmove backing wrongdoing no matter how large, wealthy or shouty those involved are.

      This does not have to be a big problem, it simply needs to stop.

      * it is important that the correct people get credit for the work they have put into this Peebee, Ben, Chris, Paul, RIC, Julian  and others have all been part of this and it would be an injustice if their good work has been claimed  away and they are not given credit.

      Report
      1. smile please

        Robert “Liam Neeson” May. 😉

        Report
        1. Robert May

          I thought I was the Rainman?

          Report
          1. smile please

            Well you have a particular set of skills by the sounds of it!

            Report
  9. Gump

    Don’t do it!

    I admit I’ve done a few, but not for a long time. Agents in my town do them all the time (not so much ghost properties though)

    I currently have 4 sold properties that are not on any of the portals, sold by an old school ring out, but alas, I will have to upload them at some point as portal stats seems to be the only thing anyone cares about nowadays.

    Report
    1. PeeBee

      Jeez, Gump – how come we can have so many points of agreement yet we invariably scrap like two tomcats chasing the same ‘she’?

      Report
      1. Gump

        Different areas of forum passion Mr Peebee 😛

        Report
        1. PeeBee

          Maybe not so much ‘different’ as it appears, Mr Gump… ;o)

          Report
          1. Gump

            I feel like we should hug or something 😛

            Report
            1. PeeBee

              Feel the love in the room…

              Report
              1. smile please

                More like get a room you two! 😉

                Report
                1. Gump

                  C’mon in Smile, group hug it is!

                  Report
                  1. PeeBee

                    Won’t the biggest of groups if it’s non- #portaljugglers only, though… :o(

                    Report
  10. StatementOfFact

    No s**t Sherlock

    Report
  11. Andy W

    The problem is that it’s nigh on impossible to regulate this sort of thing, unless you had a fairly long winded process that meant you were required to give an exact property address and have the listing confirmed by an owner (though even that could have its workarounds).

    Wherever you go you’ll see this though, I expect most Agents on here will testify to seeing this sort of listing. I tend to find startup Agents suddenly have an explosion of stock from nowhere, plus those who are well established but usually less ethical in their approach. From a marketing viewpoint it makes a lot of sense of course; boards up around town, valuations coming in because you have a listing in the same area on Rightmove/Zoopla, it’s more a question of ethics.

    Report
  12. Ric

    I’ve just had a lengthy chat with RM and raised a point which I think leads to #revengeportaljuggling…… (there’s a new one)

    So a genuine situation happened to me this week and last week.

    RM removed 2 of my properties as they have been SSTC for 6 months. One is subject to a lengthy probate matter which has cropped up and the other a change of use application; however both sales are continuing but both not exchanged. After a quick chat with RM both made visible again as SSTC as they should be (ie sales still proceeding)

    These properties were made available initially in January / February (ish) YET both when they were made visible again by RM after my chat showed “Added on 12-Oct and 16-Oct” hence perhaps looking like I have re-listed and juggled.

    I am yet to check today however, the one last week triggered in my opinion #revengeportaljuggling as another local agent promptly relisted TWO properties which original came on in July and sold in August but were re-listed on RM on 14-Oct as New and SSTC (Same buyer purchasing both as I know them) So both these were not subject to a data quality issues, nor were they new buyers (as I know them) and a software glitch would have relisted many more of their current pipeline so in my opinion this other company IS portal juggling.

    When I questioned RM; they said they DID NOT realise when they put stuff back on after a data quality removal which was found to be wrong it states the new date RM reload it and they agreed this could have an agent think if they are doing it, I will thus creating #revengeportaljuggling

    Basically today it looks like I may have portal juggled but haven’t!

    Just checking before hitting “post comment” and RM have relisted my property today but WITHOUT the added on bit! It still appears as RM latest listing and marked SSTC but no mention of the date…. so maybe a degree of portal juggling will stop if RM are creating an appearance agents do when they don’t!

    phew….. anyone follow that… haha.

    Report
  13. Traditionalist

    In the past I have written to Zoopla about agents  ‘ghosting’ – one agent was using our pics to do it, so we picked it up pretty quickly. I also wrote to them about an agent whose main patch is SW8 (Battersea) but deliberately list them with SW3 (Chelsea) postcodes.  Zoopla’s response – not interested.  A quick check this morning of the postcode cheat – they also manage to get away with listing on Zoopla, Rightmove – and OTM!

    Report
X

You must be logged in to report this comment!

Leave a reply

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.