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Vetting Buyers: row escalates over ‘proof of funds’ demand

Vetting Buyers: row escalates over ‘proof of funds’ demand

The row over whether agents should be allowed to vet people who view properties on the basis of their wealth has taken a new turn

Savills in the Republic of Ireland took the unusual step of demanding detailed financial information from those wishing to view a new build scheme in County Dublin.

Savills in London told Estate Agent Today that this was following Covid-related advice from the Republic’s Property Services Regulatory Authority. “This is not policy over here [in the UK]” a Savills spokeswoman told EAT.

However now in the Republic there is a growing dispute over the vetting, with the country’s Data Protection Commission – the equivalent of the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK – writing to Savills to express concern.

The Irish Times reports that the privacy watchdog in the Republic is planning to issue guidelines in relation “to the practice of seeking personal data in the context of property viewings”. The DPC is examining whether Savills had a legal basis to seek financial information from people wishing to view properties.

And the Irish Independent has carried an opinion piece with the headline: “Estate agent’s demand for proof of funds being seen as the latest example of the little guy getting kicked around.”

Meanwhile Irish housing minister Darragh O’Brien says he will contact agency trade groups about the practice by Savills.

“Requesting this level of info from a prospective buyer to view a home is simply wrong” he says.

“I’ll be writing to the Property Services Regulatory Authority on this and requests for excessive info prior to informing enquirers of house price.”

Agents in this country appear broadly supportive of the Savills tactic, with comments left on the EAT website suggesting this is a good way of ensuring viewings are for genuine buyers.

Here’s the background to the controversy.

Savills in Ireland issued a financial questionnaire. It asks whether those wishing to view are first-time buyers, investors or existing owners, and wants “evidence of all savings that will be used in the purchase” or “evidence of gifts from family members, if applicable.”

They are also required to provide “full proof of funds” in order to view the houses, which range in price from €395,000 for a mid-terrace to €565,000 for a detached house.

If it’s a cash purchase, Savills requests “a bank statement or letter from your solicitor confirming funds are available” and, at the very least, a mortgage approval in principle document, which includes the amount the bank is prepared to lend.

“Please note that if submitting letters from your mortgage broker, the loan amount must be visible. We cannot accept a redacted Approval in Principle” the email tells those who expressed an interest in viewing.

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