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A fee and easy approach

Julian Stevens feels aggrieved by the lack of regulation of estate agency and recruitment consultancy businesses compared with UK financial services (Money Marketing, January 6).

Fair point. However, he believes Halifax Property Service’s charge of 2 per cent to sell a property for his client does not represent value for money. I disagree. The fee can represent excellent, fair or poor value for money depending on the services provided to buyer and seller.

If Julian is reading this, I hope he is sitting down, as estate agents in Spain, where I work part-time, normally charge 5 per cent on a secondhand property and 10 per cent on a new one. That really is a rip-off, irrespective of services provided.

In my experience, what people hate about hourly fees is that they have no idea what the final cost might be. Perish the thought but I have heard of some hourly fee-charging IFAs who have unnecessary meetings to bump up the chargeable hours. Far better, in my view, to explain to the client what the cost will be in absolute terms and tell him or her exactly what they are going to get for that money. Most clients will be happy with that, whether they are visiting an IFA, estate agent or recruitment consultant.

Surely clients go to estate agents because they believe it is the best way of selling their property with the least hassle and in the shortest timescale. I would be happier paying a fee of 2 per cent if the sale is completed in two months rather than 10. Why shouldn’t the agent earn the same money for doing the work in less time if it is to my benefit?Similarly, if I were arranging a pension transfer for one of my clients and earning 4 per cent, I am sure he would feel he had better value if it took two months rather than two years to transfer it.

I have spent 12 years in this industry doing unpaid work for the many which was subsidised by the few. My New Year resolution for 2005 is to stop this practice immediately. By the end of March, all my clients will be on fixed fees, perhaps with a commission offset.

Some may well refuse but I doubt I will cry too much over them. Good luck to all in 2005, I hope you don’t need it.

Steve Laird Hanley Morton, Belfast

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