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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Portent of Doom?

The news that Jon Hunt, the owner of estate agency Foxtons, will sell Foxtons for around £370m to BC Partners a private equity group has caused a few worries in the housing market.

This signals to many that Hunt has, in effect, "called the market" and decided that now is a good time to get out of UK property.

Foxtons started trading in a converted Italian restaurant in Notting Hill 26 years ago, it now has 19 branches in London. Hunt will continue to work in the US market.

Last year, a BBC undercover documentary made a number of allegations about the firm. It claimed staff used faked documents to support inflated prices, put forward false offers to sellers, and made use of customer information passed on to them by Foxtons-owned mortgage broker Alexander Hall, which is also being bought by BC Partners.

Foxtons joined the industry's ombudsman scheme, an independent dispute resolution service which can award compensation, this year.

The sale of Foxtons UK business is subject to regulatory approval, which is expected within six weeks.

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