SSTC Properties in Northampton
Trading Standards reminds agents to update SSTC listings amid legal debate
Trading Standards has advised agents to update listings once they reach the “sold subject to contract” (SSTC) stage. It comes after legal property expert David Smith suggested yesterday that keeping SSTC properties listed on portals could breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) as it risks misleading consumers.
“A property remains for sale and open to offers until exchange of contracts – unless the seller agrees (or has previously agreed) that the marketing should cease and the property be withdrawn from sale.
“Agents are under a duty to continue passing on offers until they have instructions in writing from the seller to the contrary.
“In an ideal world the agent should update the listing when a property goes to SSTC and instructions are received from their client to state that ‘no further offers are being accepted on this property’.
“Being open and transparent about the process is essential for agents to maintain the trust of their clients and customers.
“A failure to update property listings can lead to frustration on both sides, wastes time through unnecessary enquiries, and can put agents at risk of ombudsman complaints or enforcement action.”
National Trading Standards has published guidance on the use of terms in property listings.
In that guidance certain terms are defined:
‘Under offer’ – used when an offer has been received which is under consideration by the vendor, but the property is normally still on the market (i.e. further offers may be made dependent upon the vendor’s written instructions) – the description should only be used until the offer is accepted or declined, as the case may be.
‘Sale agreed’ – used when an offer has been accepted by the seller, but (for example) contracts may not have been prepared or the buyer may not be in a final position to proceed. The property may or may not still be on the market, i.e. further offers may be made dependent upon the seller’s written instructions. The seller’s decision on future marketing is material information in this context and should be clearly stated on property listings to avoid any confusion amongst potential buyers. This description may be used until the property is sold or the sale falls through, as the case may be.
‘Sold subject to contract’ – relates to a property on which an offer has been accepted by the seller and the sales process is complete, subject to contracts being exchanged. The seller should be asked to confirm whether or not the property should continue to be marketed for sale, and this decision should be clearly stated on property listings, as above. This description may be used until the property is sold or the sale falls through, as the case may be.
‘Sold subject to conclusion of missives’ (in Scotland) – an offer has been accepted but the sale has not been concluded – the property should no longer be marketed for sale. In rare cases the sale may still fall through, hence the use of this description.
‘Sold’ – contracts have been exchanged and the sale is completed – the property must no longer be marketed for sale. ‘Sold’ property listings should be removed in line with portal requirements and/or relevant codes of practice (e.g. RICS UK Residential Real Estate Agency 6th edition, the Property Ombudsman code of practice for residential sales, etc.)
Allowing properties to appear that they are still on the market, when there is a sale agreed, is not only unethical, it is designed to mislead potential buyers. It could be argued that potential buyers could be swayed to make a decision that may impact their position, based on false information. It is also a dishonest method used by some estate agents to use these properties as ‘bait’ in order to acquire the contact details of active buyers.