Continuation of marketing is one of those things which is sometimes ‘assumed’ rather than checked according to Paul Offley, Compliance Officer at The Guild of Property Professionals. Offley says once an offer has been accepted and the buyer is in a position to proceed, then sometimes we jump to the conclusion that the seller would wish to suspend active marketing, however, in fact the seller is within their rights to keep the property on the market if they wish, but does the agent always check and document their client’s decision?
He adds that the agreement between the buyer and seller only becomes legally binding once the contracts have been exchanged and at any point up to that the agent is obliged to forward any other offers received to the seller.
Offley says that this continuation of marketing is something which The Property Ombudsman requires as part of their code of practice. “A seller might be hesitant to take their property off the market for a number of reasons, particularly if they feel that the buyer is not in a proceedable position. It is up to the seller to decide whether they wish the agent to keep going with the marketing of the property, mark it as Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC), or allow for future viewings, the choice is theirs. This is an important discussion that an agent will need to have with their client, with the outcome regarding steps moving forward determined by both the buying position of the buyer and the seller’s wishes.”
According to Offley, it is vital that agents have a clear note of the discussion and the seller’s decision regarding the continued marketing of the property. “Often, I would suspect that this conversion does happen, but is not always recorded. It is a good idea for agents to keep a record of all such discussions, perhaps asking the seller to confirm their decision to writing to ensure that there are no misunderstandings, and the agent has something to refer back to,” he adds.
Offley says that in the instance where a seller wishes that the property remains ‘available’ and open to viewings, transparency is essential, and the agent should inform the buyer of the seller’s instructions. “Likewise, where an offer has been accepted and the seller continues to take viewings, then any new viewer should be advised that a sale has been agreed or that solicitors have been instructed, but the seller is happy to accommodate further viewings,” he comments.
Offley says imagine the situation; you agree a sale with a proceedable buyer; you instruct solicitors; class the property as SSTC – then for whatever reason the buyer withdraws from the transaction; the seller then challenges you on why you have not sent any other viewers, just in case. If you have no evidence of obtaining a ‘continuation of marketing’ instruction, then then where is your rationale for taking this course of action. My recommendation to all agents is that they review their existing process and ask themselves whether they could really demonstrate they have taken their client’s instruction once a sale has been agreed.