Sadly your comments are only too familiar. It’s impossible to quantify how many people are in the same boat as you but I would expect it to be hundreds, probably much more
It goes without saying that there are a good number of excellent estate agents in Spain, doing their best to give a professional and ethical service to clients. The problem is that foreign buyers, with no experience of the Spanish property market, have no way of knowing a priori which agents can be trusted and which can’t. Some of the ‘problem’ agents are not so much unethical as simply incompetent (small, unprofessional agents whose staff don’t speak a word of Spanish). Other ‘problem’ agents – generally much bigger organisations – are simply out to make as much money as they can, regardless of the cost to their clients. These organisations are geared up to close sales at the expense of all other considerations and they motivate their staff to do and say whatever it takes to close a sale.
Now ask yourself this question: Do estate agents who are prepared to say whatever it takes to close a sale make more sales than ethical agents who don’t put clients under any pressure and try to give a balanced picture? OF COURSE THEY DO! Which means that aggressive agents earn more money more quickly than ethical ones do, which gives them bigger marketing budgets and therefore more clients. Unethical agents have a competitive advantage and ethical agents can struggle to compete in this environment.
However the good news is that things are beginning to change. The Sunday Times Homes Section in particular has been very good at exposing the sharp practises of some agents and developers in Spain. And then there’s the internet. Forums like this and internet sites that put clients in touch with one another will force estate agents to build good reputations if they want to stay in business. Satisfied clients build good reputations and furious clients, like you, help destroy them. The internet is helping to spread information quickly and widely, and I would go so far as to say that in the future, reputations will become the most important asset that an estate agent can have.
I think there is one other important aspect to all this that needs to be pointed out. Buyers like you have not helped the situation by being, lets face it, a bit naïve. The world is full of dodgy salesman, always has been, always will be, and we all know that. They are selling pension funds, ‘Independent’ financial advice, ‘hot’ stocks, 2nd hand cars, basically everything under the sun and yes, Spanish property too. And in a business like this one that is 1) poorly regulated 2) unfamiliar ground for buyers and 3) very lucrative, you have to expect your fair share of Delboys. There’s big, big money to be made selling Spanish property to naïve foreign buyers who have no reliable sources of information (other than Spanish Property Insight of course!) so unethical salesmen are in their element. Caveat emptor in this business and buyers have to shoulder their part of the blame for allowing themselves to fall for slippery sales techniques that they probably wouldn’t fall for at home.