All posts by Mark Walmsley

Regulation, Regulation or Simple Integrity

No sooner had your local regulated Estate Agent amended all of their promotional material to include the new Ombudsman Logo (as requested by them because the Logo was immensely important to the service the Estate Agent delivered) do we now have a new regulatory body which has superseded the Office of Fair Trading for all property sale compliance. Clients and Customers alike are now advised to visit the Citizens Advice Bureau if they believe they have been unfairly treated or even mis-sold property under new regulations. From last month the OFT and Competition Commission merged to form the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This body now enforces, by law, consumer protection regulations governing house sales.

The most interesting part of this regulation would be the disclosure of information by the agent to a buyer regarding any information that is known that may affect a buyers decision. No more Caveat Emptor for the agents to rely on then! No more painting over the cracks or only attending viewings when the neighbours dog’s are asleep! Let’s be realistic about this…

It’s simple common sense and integrity that needs to be applied by the seller, the agent and the buyer.

What matters to one buyer doesn’t necessarily matter to another. Maybe our buyer owns a noisier dog. Maybe our buyer wants to buy a dilapidated property. As long as the price reflects it and the survey is agreeable then we are all aware and understanding. The protection is for the consumer against those individuals and agents hiding serious issues that the buyer should have been  made aware of. If a survey reveals serious detrimental information and a sale falls through then of course, surely, any further sale must account for this knowledge. That’s common sense and a lack of themis what these regulations should be applied to.

 

Are We On a Bus Driven By London?

Once again that omnipresent threat to the UK’s perception of Estate Agency is our Capital City. It drives a progressing market to the extreme and whilst the counties beyond do not rejoice in its’ ascendency they suffer when it eats itself. David Cameron, backed by Nick Clegg (what?) have suggested curbs on the second phase of the Help to Buy Scheme. However both agree with Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, that we do need to build more new homes. This cannot be denied. But if we do and the Help to Buy is restructured or even phased out then whose buying? More investors?

Undoubtedly the Bank of England’s uncertain management of  the rapid increase in house prices has been fuelled by London. A 17% rise within the last year has been experienced in London with an average outside the area of 9%. Coventry has seen a equivalent growth of 4.5%. If this growth was experienced throughout the UK then no such redress of Help to Buy would surely occur. The lack of available property generates increased prices and in London, with a constant fuel of overseas investors, overpricing  is clearly not a concern.

If there are more buyers than property and asking prices become “Guide Prices”  then the BBC decided to scare the nation with the fact that “Estate Agents” were now charging the buyer and not the seller. I’ve seen this happen with one agent in Chelsea charging a £6000 administration fee  just to place an offer with the Vendor. This sounds horrendous but don’t think that this is transferable to the Midlands because it isn’t.  That’s a bus none of us would ever want to ride on.

 

Joint Agency or Double Trouble?

Last week we placed a prestigious property onto the market in a coordinated effort to achieve the very best price possible. Both ourselves and another Estate Agent met the client independently before sharing information in a considered meeting. We had contrasting opinions to the other agent about a few different aspects of the potential sale but the vendor, prior to the instruction had heard both viewpoints and wanted maximum exposure. Sometimes, if Estate Agents work together honestly, the client can benefit from a “Joint Agency” instruction. The problem is not many do because not many Estate Agents work well together.

This is very much a contrasting story to other “Multiple Agency” experiences we have witnessed. Thankfully due to our speed of sale, we have not seen others agent instructed after ourselves, but we have begun marketing at the tail end of another’s agency period and this has led to complications for our sellers.

Despite instructions from their clients to the contrary, these Agents have not removed the properties from their own websites, Rightmove or shop windows. The result of these practices in Coventry are that “Multiple Agency” simply confuses potential buyers and leads to unsympathetic and reduced offers at best.  At worst the buyers look elsewhere entirely. What the client should remember is that if their home has been on the market without offers then something is wrong. When this is the case, a fresh pair of  eyes and ears can be the start of a successful new beginning rather than a prolonged sense of disappointment.

Continuing to employ the Agent who hasn’t achieved what they promised to achieve really does does not solve anything.  Thankfully the quality of our brochures, photography and I.T systems have allowed us to continue our number one ranking for Speed of Sale and Click Through rates during these “multiple agency” excursions and have seen properties that have sat unloved for many months sell for asking prices after multiple viewings.

“On The Job” Hits The Right Buttons!

Quite often the last thing an Estate Agent would choose to do in their own spare time would be to watch a television series about Estate Agents but “Under Offer: Estate Agents On The Job” was a different beast. I suppose the voyeuristic nature of the docudrama spiked a sense of  impending dread. I better watch it so I know what  I’m faced with tomorrow! Would we Estate Agents be further tarnished? Would we be mocked? I was pretty confident that the show wouldn’t instigate a surge of job applications but I hoped for the best and I think we got it.

First and foremost it was fun. We are great fun you once you get to know us.

Secondly the show was littered with classic quotations that that Messrs Scorcese and Tarantino would have been proud of. “Mass Murderers would be greeted with a better response”, “If you want to be an Estate Agent, you just open a shop”, “Most Estate Agents are Posh and Blond and I’m Irish and a Redhead”. It was great. The show on a more serious note clearly highlighted the canyon between London and the rest of the country something that we certainly have written about before. What clearly works in one region won’t  necessarily work in another but certainly what shone through is that energy and enthusiasm go along way. Together with a moral compass pointing North, Estate Agents should come out of this smelling of roses rather than manure! Still, we are only on  Episode Two!

Extraordinary Practice Does Not Make Perfect

What a week that was!

A record level of instructions and a record level of sales agreed. It seems that the Coventry buyer really has grown in confidence and together with Mortgage lending we are seeing sensible purchases facilitated by sensible lending. Let’s hope it stays that way. Last week three quarters of the new stock was sold with either asking price offers or above. Most importantly this completely satisfied our clients but it also reinforced the mentality that ” if you don’t overprice a house it will have enough interest to reach it’s own natural level”. That natural level will always be above the asking price (or as the London market now exemplifies,” The Guide Price”!).

From satisfied clients to the shocked and offended . “All fair in Love and War” and “We’ve all got mouths to feed” are just not justifiable hyperbole for ignorance and misleading information.

A potential seller requests multiple valuations or appraisals. Each agent presents their research, their service, the costs and the figure they would like to market the property for. This is how the process works. If you do the job correctly then in far more cases than not you receive the instruction to sell your clients home. We have been witness this week to our clients being approached by agents they haven’t instructed to a) “Dual Market” from day one, b) dis-instruct the chosen agent and c) be told they have made the wrong choice. These same clients have all sold through us within a few days of instruction, we have achieved a superb volume of viewings and the offers have been asking price or above. With our Click Through Rate consistently number 1 in the region and our speed of sale equal to it, I would suggest that some of these “established agents” get their own ships in order to avoid this sort of embarrassment being launched upon them. Extraordinary Practices like this only enhance the poor reputation that many Estate Agents have and that others are, unfairly, often tarnished with.

Nothing is Unsellable if Presented Properly.

Every House Will Sell. Put quite simply, every property has a market value and can be sold in a matter of days or weeks. This may sound incredible, especially if you have been on the market for months (or even years) but it is absolutely true.

On Saturday this week we agreed a sale on another property that had been unsuccessfully marketed for many months with another agent. It was a lovely home. Definitely a property worth more than the square footage it presented, the house was certainly a difficult one to value.  Many are. If they are then the key is to not let them “sit” on the agents books. The agent can’t be allowed to forget your property and just wait for interest. That interest won’t come. Proactive agents have the ability to engage new interest and they need to be on the ball to do this. We sold the house  for a price the owners were happy with and the buyers were also delighted.

If a property is stuck on the market then it is for one of three reasons. Firstly, the vendor is not motivated to sell, secondly the property has not been marketed correctly (i.e poor marketing, brochures, presentation, lack of information etc) or thirdly the property is not being advertised at the right price. There is no other reason why a home will not sell.

Bad neighbours, busy roads, railway lines through the garden, poor decoration, old fashioned kitchens, not enough bedrooms, pink bathroom suites, unfinished extensions, holes in roofs, lack of parking, too many bedrooms, no heating system, poor location……………………….. THESE ARE NOT VALID REASONS FOR A PROPERTY TO BE STUCK ON THE MARKET. They are simply factors that negatively affect the value of a property.

So if you have a property that has been stuck on sale for a long time and you think it’s not selling because of the motorway at the bottom of the garden, think again. Look at the three reasons and work through them. Your property will sell with an agent who cares.

Let Your Purchase Be Crystal Clear!

Sometimes when you meet the right people opportunities arise that enable your business to move in a direction quicker than you anticipated! George and I met Ian Shaw, an experienced financial consultant and we got on even before he explained the full capacity and opportunities his business offered. Ian has the ability to independently search over 5000 mortgage products for potential clients, many of which, due to his companies partnership with Legal and General are unique to their company.

Crystal Clear Financial Planning can meet our customers and those we introduce, at our clients convenience, whatever the time or location. The research and proposal of a suitable mortgage for our clients will cost nothing. Ian, together with Graeme Lewis and the director Darren Burdis all follow our companies “Client and Customer First” ethos. Buying a house is not about us and it’s not about them. Buying a house is about the customer and selling a house is about our client. We don’t want to push a mortgage in front of our customers.

We are Estate Agents (I tried to think of another title but I suppose I can’t completely reinvent the wheel!) and we have no interest in which mortgage product you choose. We simply want what is best for you. The way to do that is to offer you the ability to discuss financial matters with a truly independent expert who can listen, advise and satisfy your needs.

Don’t Get Bored! Get Boards!

A common discussion with absolutely no rights or wrongs is the value of a “For Sale” or “To Let Board” at your home. “To Let” Boards are more straightforward as the emotional factor of telling your neighbours and the passing public that your house or a house you own is “available” is far less relevant. The percentage of owner occupiers renting there own home is obviously less than the number of  investment properties on the market. The issue regarding security though may still be a relevant one. If the property you own is empty then does a board signal “Empty! Easy Opportunity”. Well, Ne’er-do-wells don’t burgle empty houses.  So a Board does not a burglary make. These security issues are the most common negatives that a seller or buyer will concerned about, and quite fairly too.

The positives though can of course can be great. Desirable areas will lead potential buyers to drive around and research where they hope to live. If there is no “For Sale” board then they may not see your house. No matter how impressive the brochures and web details, no one should buy a home without seeing it in the light of day. A “For Sale” Board isn’t just helpful for the seller of course. It’s an immensely powerful marketing tool for the Estate Agent too.  If your agents For Sale boards are faded, in bad repair  or remain fallen down or broken, what does this say about them as well?

Viewings! To do or Not to do! That is the Question!

Some clients this week have raised the issue that previous Estate Agents did not undertake their own viewings and instead relied on the owners to perform them instead. On paper this opinion looks a fair one. Certainly when Estate Agents fee’s are as considerable as they are, the Agent should be doing everything possible to sell there Vendors home’s as effectively.  There is no hard and fast rule in this regard though. I had a chat with my Mum about this as well and although they have always used Estate Agents to sell their houses, Mum always undertook her own viewings by choice (I’d like to state they haven’t moved since I have been in the business but watch this space!). Not only did she do this but my parents homes always sold very quickly. 

You see sometimes, but not always, the owner can make an impression that the Estate Agent cannot. The Estate Agent can present in the third person how a family “could” feel in  a house or what fun “could” be enjoyed in such a lovely home where the owner, if confident and willing, can present a “do feel” and “do enjoy” sensibility. This, allied with the fact that the applicant may well have viewed countless other houses by Estate Agents who simply opened a door and let you look, would present a much more attractive proposition to them. So the answer here is that if the seller is confident, comfortable and able, they can do as good a job if not a better one than even a good Estate Agent. If they are not, then the viewing representative employed by the Estate Agent must be knowledgeable, courteous, understanding and as good a listener as possible. This is how relationships develop and when your first meeting with an Estate Agent is through a viewing appointment, the Estate Agent is certainly responsible for making it a positive one.

If You’re Going To Pay, Then Get What You Pay For!

A potential Client dropped into our Office yesterday and we had a pleasant chat. As a home owner and developer he certainly knew the trials and tribulations of the industry and offered an interesting perspective on the services many Estate Agents provide in the City.  He was frank which made the conversation easy. The subject of Estate Agent Fee’s and the justification of them was his main area of concern. He expressed no loyalty to any Estate Agent in particular. As the service levels fluctuated so wildly and the fees they charged, even for below stamp duty properties, were often excessive, he kept trying new agents.

I explained, clearly I hope, how every business has a point which they cannot reduce fees or services below and the question to ask is not “How Much Do You Charge?” but “What Do I Get for My Fee’s”. It was certainly obvious to my guest that “Service” was his issue, not just “Fee”.

 

I showed him an array of sold properties, in our office and also the fees we charged.  I showed him the brochures and floor plans that we invest in for each  property, I discussed the way we undertake feedback whilst the viewings are taking place and he made it obvious that the fees we charged were way below the image we portray. “I’ll be certain to tell my family and friends”, he stated, “We just presumed you’d be a lot more expensive”.

What we offer is the very best presentation and sale of your home at a price that others may charge for a nonchalant service. When instructing an agent, ask not “What Price?” but “What Do I Get for The Price I Pay?”. We’d be delighted to show you and think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!