Lauristons, a London estate agency, is offering its customers the choice between paying an up-front flat fee or the usual commission of between 2% and 3% when the property is sold, in a bid to attract new business.

The deal, which is valid for all properties that go on to the market before the end of December, represents a considerable saving on the typical commission charge of around £7,000 to £8,000, says an article in the Daily Mail.

If the property fails to sell, people who have opted to pay the up-front fee will not receive a refund, but they will be able to offset the sum against the group’s fees for letting a property if they decide to rent it out instead.

Steve Truman, managing director of sales and marketing at Lauristons, told the Mail: ‘The market is changing and the current economic climate means it probably won’t be the same in the future.

‘Estate agents are one of the only ones (professional groups) who don’t charge a fee up front.’

He added that the move should also help the group, whose branches are currently making two to three sales a week, increase its market share.

A recent survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors showed that estate agents are selling less than one property a week, making an average of just 11.5 homes sales during the three months to the end of September, the lowest level since its survey first began in 1978.

The situation is even more severe in London, where estate agents have made an average of just eight sales during the period.