BBC investigates dodgy estate agents

If you were watching BBC one on tuesday night at 9pm you would have seen their Whistle Blower report. In this programme journalist Anna Adams and her colleague Emma Clarke go undercover to work for agencies of various sizes in the London area.

Their investigation uncovers a multitude of illegal and immoral practices by estate and letting agents ranging from placing false offers, hiding fees, faking signatures on documents “the chop chop trade”, flyboarding, undervaluing and overvaluing to sharing confidential information about clients.

You name it, it seems that some estate and letting agents are in to it! In one extreme case a mortgage broker even offers to forge passport documents and pay slips in order to get an unemployed person a huge mortgage.

Of course not all estate agents are like this, a lot of them will be honest, hardworking individuals, which is why it was nice to see on the same day a property professionals directory was launched by which aims to bring transparency to the property market. This site will allow estate agents to be open and honest about their fees and practices, and for users to submit feedback on their experiences with agents for others to see. Just what the market needs, in my opinion.

Internet kills the highstreet shop

It was inevitable really, but now it really is time to call it…. The highstreet is dead! For years, I have preached the benefits of shopping online to even the most adamant technophobes, so you may find it ironic that I am the first to miss our old friend the highstreet.

This weekend I was looking to buy some rollerblades, and seeing as they need to fit extremely well for comfort’s sake, I decided that rather than buy them online as I would with anything else, I would actually go to a shop to try some on. The problem? there are no shops left. Well none that sell rollerblades anyway. I went to two large towns near me (Basingstoke and Reading, the latter is actually a city), and after searching high and low, there was not one shop that sold rollerblades.

Actually, that’s a bit of a lie, John Lewis sold some budget skates, but seeing as I have been skating for 10 years, I wanted some good ones, and that’s when it dawned on me. As more and more people buy online, the sort of specialist retailers where I would have bought skates during in the 90s have been forced to either close, or move to cheaper industrial space rather than the highstreet prime retail space they used to occupy. It seems there has been a lot of consolidation and where we may have had 100 specialist skate shops across the UK before, now we have perhaps 10, and most of them probably rely on Internet sales for the bulk of their turnover.

Of course this does mean that we as the consumer get better prices, so I have ordered them online now. Lets just hope they fit.