Greens MSP challenges estate agent over ‘buyer’s premium’

Andy Wightman said he had written to McEwan Frasern on the issue. Picture: Julie Bull
Andy Wightman said he had written to McEwan Frasern on the issue. Picture: Julie Bull
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A Green MSP has challenged a leading Scottish estate agents over claims it is levying additional costs of up to £10,000 on home buyers.

Andy Wightman said McEwan Fraser Legal was marketing properties with what the firm calls a “buyer’s premium”, which passes to the agency on top of any fee it has already charged the seller.

The Greens housing spokesman and Lothian list member has written to the company’s chief executive to ask what the fee entails and why it is seeking this extra cost from home buyers when no other estate agent appears to do so.

“It strikes me as unethical for an estate agent to ask buyers for additional money which the agent keeps and never passes on to the seller,” Wightman said.

“McEwan Fraser will already be earning fees from the sellers themselves so they are overstepping the mark by essentially seeking double payment.

“I can’t imagine other firms in the sector are happy with this, and there could be a need for professional bodies such as the Law Society of Scotland to step in.

“These fees simply add further pressure to an already challenging housing market, putting another hurdle in front of people struggling to buy their first home. It’s hard to see how this firm can explain these fees other than a blatant attempt to increase their profits at the expense of hard-pressed house buyers facing over-inflated prices and lack of supply.”

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A spokeswoman for McEwan Fraser Legal said: “The Buyer’s Premium is an innovative and popular way we use to sell a small selection of properties that are in high demand and where our objective is to save our vendors from having to pay any Estate Agency fees or selling costs.

“This is a very similar way to how ‘off market’ and ‘auction properties’ are commonly sold in the UK and in other countries.

“The Buyer’s Premium is a very attractive proposition for banks and institutional investors to dispose of distressed assets and indeed private sellers to allow them to test the market without incurring any selling costs. For avoidance of doubt McEwan Fraser Legal do not charge the seller an estate agency fee and are not seeking any double payment.

“If a buyer is unwilling to pay the Buyer’s Premium or believes the premium is not justified on any particular property, they simply don’t purchase the property or simply adjust their offer for the property accordingly – it is no more complicated than that. This is no different to how many buyers view the recent and arguably punitive Scottish Government increases in LBTT and the ADS (Additional Dwelling Supplement). Taxes that have slowed down the housing market in Scotland.”