Portal juggling – What is it, and why you should care
What is portal juggling?
Portal juggling is a ‘cover-all’ term for a range of illegal practices whereby estate agents de-list and then re-list properties on property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla in order to:
- to give consumers the false impression the amount of time a property has been up for sale or rent
- to mislead home sellers and landlords looking to employ an agent that the agents concerned are more successful at selling or letting property more quickly or, at a better price than is the case
- to falsify data on the percentage of final asking price achieved in order to obtain more business from false advertising, press-releases and during sales-appointments
- to create the impression that the agents are listing or selling far more properties than they are
- to mislead consumers that the agents have sold far more homes than they have
- in the case of private and publicly quoted limited companies and businesses looking to raise investment funding; to use all of the above data to mislead investors and potential investors/ the stock market as to the current or future success or prospects of a business
How big is the problem?
In the past 12 months there were thousands of recorded instances of portal juggling events in the London property market alone, equating to an estimated 2.8 BILLION* Pounds worth of portal juggles or, £240 Million per month.
Why you should care
Anyone buying, selling or letting a property or land or, investors in stocks and share in property related companies, this practice affects you. It also affects all estate and letting agents too.
Buyers and tenants rightly make important decisions on which properties to view and how much to offer based on a range of factors, one of which, is how long a property appears to have been up for sale or rent. The Consumer Protection Regulations Act, make it an offence (amongst other offences) for agents to misdescribe the status or condition of a property to you and this includes the length of time a property has been for sale or, its status on the market. Portal juggling is such an activity. It is now a specified offence within The Property Ombudsman code of conduct
Property sellers and landlords make financially important decisions on which agent to use based on a range of factors, including marketing claims made by agents and news stories in the media. How much an agent might achieve, how quickly and how successful an agent appears to be will be major influencing factors in this decision-making process.
If you have chosen an agent who has misled you with claims of sales/ lettings successes, many other customers, higher achieved prices and seemingly quicker sales times/ shorter void periods, you have been the victim of a breach of portal juggling and as a result of this deception, it has been argued, you may be a victim of fraud.
Estate agents too, are victims of portal juggling and it is affecting their income, their job security and their local reputation. Competitors who are deliberately flouting the law and getting away with portal juggling are unfairly taking business from honest firms, wages from the pockets of its owners and staff and make their genuine, honest sales and lettings successes seem less so or, non-existent.
This is an illegal practice and one which the portals grudgingly acknowledge exists but, despite fine words, seem unable or unwilling to tackle.
Most agents each pay many thousands of pounds for the service of the portals and, whilst these practices are banned in the portals terms and conditions, agents do not seem to be receiving this part of the contract honoured. As the customers of the portals agents are not being treated equally, legally or fairly.
The portals, separately, have a duty as advertisers to ensure that all of their advertising is legal, decent, true and honest. The portals, despite having been regularly supplied with large volumes of evidence since last Summer, have yet to take any obvious action against persistent offenders.
Given that the portals own usage and visitor numbers are bolstered by the illegal activities of portal juggling agents, it has been suggested by some agents that the portals have an inherent interest in the status quo, though that is hotly denied by them.
For more information and further reading on this topic, there are a number of stories concerning portal juggling within the excellent trade publication, Property Industry Eye
*I was provided this information in good faith but have not seen the data and am currently unable to reveal my data source for this information as they are under a press embargo regarding a related story and a specific well-known PLC. However the company has proved to be an excellent source of property market information in the past and I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.
About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience. His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall and was included in the Daily Telegraphs’ list of the UK’s top 20 best small estate agents “who go above and beyond to help their customers” in 2013.
No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter
Chris has previously competed in the National Laser sailing championships and, as a Sabreur with a top 300 UK ranking in fencing. A long-standing member of the Territorial Army; in 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade but was medically evacuated back to the UK before deploying to his forward base with his unit and is now medically discharged from the army.