Estate agent seeks proof of how much buyers can afford before viewings

Savills denies it is in breach of data privacy laws by seeking ‘full proof of funds’ before letting buyers view properties

Estate agent Savills is asking people to disclose proof of how much they can afford to pay before allowing them even to view properties at Somerton, in Dublin.

Estate agent Savills is asking people to disclose proof of how much they can afford to pay before allowing them even to view properties at Somerton, in Dublin.

 

Estate agent Savills is asking people to disclose proof of how much they can afford to pay before allowing them even to view properties at a new housing development in Dublin.

The estate agent denies it has breached data privacy laws by requesting potential buyers to provide detailed financial information prior to viewing properties. But its approach has been criticised by several posters on social media, who claimed the company was in breach of data protection laws.

The Data Protection Commission said it had been in touch with the firm.

“We became aware of the issue through recent media reports and we have contacted Savills today to get further details,” said deputy commissioner Graham Doyle on Monday.

No redactions

Concern has been expressed particularly about details being sought of the “full amount” of mortgage approval granted and not just that sufficient funds are available to meet the prices at the Somerton development in Lucan in west Dublin. In an email, Savills warned potential buyers submitting letters from their mortgage broker that “the loan amount must be visible” and that it would not accept “a redacted approval in principle”.

“With this information they [estate agents] effectively build a database of the max budget of all interested buyers,” an email to the Crazy House Prices Instagram page, run by consumer advocate Ciarán Mulqueen, said.

“In theory this could be used to set the floor on prices of future phases, or even adjust the prices in this phase,” it said.

The estate agent last week emailed people who had registered an interest in the new Somerton scheme, which is located off Newcastle Road, informing them that they would have to submit “full proof of funds” in order to secure a viewing.

“This is proof that as a buyer, you have the financial means to purchase a property and we require proof of finance for the full purchase price,” the email said.

This could include, mortgage approval with the full amount approved; evidence of a help-to-buy grant if applicable; evidence of all savings that will be used in the purchase; and/or evidence of gifts from family members, it said.

If purchasing by cash, a bank statement or a solicitor’s letter confirming funds are available would be required, the company said.

High demand

Savills says it was not looking for “detailed” financial information or that it was in breach of the current GDPR regulations on data privacy.

“Due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, we cannot facilitate general open viewings. This is to safeguard the health and safety of all purchasers,” it said in a statement.

“As a result of very high demand – several thousand applicants in this instance – the phase 2 launch of Somerton can be by private sales appointment only,” it said. “To facilitate a fair and efficient sales purchasing process, we require proof of funds to the value of the property in advance of the private purchaser viewing. Prices were set out prior to the request for proof of finance,” it added.

The company said it had received more than 5,000 expressions of interest linked to the Somerton estate, where 44 properties are due to come up for sale as part of the second phase of the scheme. The three and four-bed units range in price from €395,000-€565,000.