Not all estate agents ask about neighbours when selling a house

Only 40% of estate agents ask people selling their home if they have issues with their neighbours at a time when issues from next door can knock thousands off the price of a property, new research shows.

It is clear that not all estate agents want to ask the question when it comes to neighbourly problems and 10% rely solely on the purchasers’ solicitor or conveyancer to investigate existing issues with neighbours.
The research from Churchill Home Insurance also found that according to estate agents the most contentious disputes are over communal space. Over half, 56%, of the estate agents surveyed identified this as the major issue while 10% said it was noise and 8% boundaries. Dogs and anti-social behaviour were also cited.

Some 14% of estate agents highlighted cases where the seller had to drop the price of a property because of issues with neighbours. The average price drop was 3.8%, around £7,000 in England and Wales and £6,400 in Scotland.

Churchill’s research also reveals that 20% of estate agents ask sellers if they have had issues with their council and 15% of these would pass this information on to the prospective buyer. As such, it is vital that prospective buyers ask the right questions to ensure they get all of the information they require to make an informed purchase, the firm said.
Buyers are relying on their solicitors or conveyancers to investigate issues with potential new neighbours. The conveyancing process can unravel any open disputes or circumstances that could lead to disagreements, but the subjectivity of loud music or an aggressive neighbourhood dog means these checks may not capture potential day to day problems.
‘Buying a property is one of the most expensive decisions many of us will ever make. As such, we are well within our rights to be informed about issues that may affect our buying decision,’ said Martin Scott, head of Churchill Home Insurance.

‘Buyers should ask their estate agent to disclose as much as information as they can about the property, seller and neighbours to help the buyer make the right decision,’ he added.

He also pointed out that since the demise of the Property Misdirection Act in 2013, estate agents are required under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations to reveal any negative issues about a property, if known to them, which may affect the buying decision.

If an estate agent has been made aware of a nightmare neighbour or previous council disputes, they are obliged to inform the buyer. Withholding information that could affect the buying decision could land estate agents in hot water. They may be subject to legal action and fines of up to £5,000 and/or two years in prison.
Churchill says that buyers should not be afraid to ask questions and when they meet the estate agent or seller they should specifically about issues such as past/ongoing disputes and the neighbourhood.