When should an agent release a key and to whom?

When should an agent release a key and to whom?

When should an estate agent release the keys of a property when the sale has yet to complete, and to whom?

A builder, perhaps, or the buyer? Could the key find it its way to another agent or someone from an auction house?

An interesting debate on an online forum tells quite a story.

A conveyancer for a house seller, who happens to be an elderly lady, is asking the key question.

It turns out that the lady visited her former home, only to be told by neighbours of a large number of viewings (19 in ten days). The property has apparently been entered into an auction by the purchaser – who has not completed the purchase because he told the 80-year-old seller that he needed time to get the funds together.

The seller, having been alerted by the neighbours, checked on the internet, and found her property advertised. The agents who had sold the house for her said they knew nothing of this.

However, it does seem clear that the buyer must think he is buying at a knock-down price and that he will be able to turn a quick profit – all before parting with his purchase money.

Was the property under-sold? Will the purchaser complain to an ombudsman?

There is, of course, nothing illegal about someone in the throes of buying a property re-marketing before completion, but it does raise a couple of issues. The obvious one is that an agent does have a duty of care to the client. The second is that surely an auction house or agent instructed on a property should check to see that the person giving them the instruction does at least own it.

We would be interested in your views – not least because EAT has been approached for advice on a case that is not dissimilar in that a property has changed hands inside two months for an extraordinarily large mark-up.