'Underquoting' back with a vengeance?

Darren Moffatt

Today in Propoerty Observer, Mal James asserts that underquoting by agents (or 'price baiting' as it's known in NSW) is once again a real probelm in the industry. Here is the excerpt from his article:

"Underquoting is back with a vengeance. It is a real stain on our profession. Like dummy bidding it causes great angst to a large number of buyers and sellers (yes, sellers as well).

Underquoting is the deliberate lying to buyers by agents as to the price the vendor is likely to be seeking. It is not legal in this or any other market. It is different to the legitimate practice of step quoting, which is the raising or lowering of a quote by an agent during a campaign in response to buyer interest, to more accurately reflect the expected sale range, while keeping the vendors’ expectations (which may move) within that range.

While underquoting is illegal, the government and REIV are doing nothing about it, either because they can’t or because its proponents are all-powerful and the authorities are scared of them. They cannot be ignorant of its occurrence – it is rife in much of Melbourne’s inner east and now some of bayside.

Writing this comment is doing us no favours in terms of our relationships with particular agents (which we value). And, to be honest, underquoting is good for our business: the more of it there is, the more enquiries we receive for our services.

However, we find underquoting unacceptable – and we are particularly concerned at the increasing dominance of the company that is forcing the issue and encouraging other companies to do the same just to compete. A whole new generation of salesmen and saleswomen are being taught to lie for a living and then being allowed to think that this is consistent with professional conduct.

Given that the government and the REIV have proven they do not have the “cahoonas” to take this on, until they do, if there is to be change, then it must come from within the company(s).

We urge the company, for which we have the utmost respect as professional agents outside this issue, to reconsider its methods and set higher standards than the lofty ones it is currently achieving.

Nobody’s perfect, our company included, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try and fix a problem.

Underquoting is hurting our truly great profession. It is simply plain wrong and it is ultimately ineffective. "

Agents and buyers, what are your thoughts? Is this widespread?