A GUEST BLOG POST from DANIEL COHEN
I’ve been an Estate Agent since 1999, worked through good markets, exceptional markets and bad markets. After 18 years I have had enough.
Through that time, although technology, businesses and peoples housing needs have evolved, Estate Agency has failed to keep pace.
Unfortunately a large proportion of High Street agents have an outdated and sometimes just downright poor attitude. Our job is not just opening a door, hoping for an offer and selling a house. We are looking after what is for most people the largest investments that they make in their lifetime, not just financially, but emotionally too. As such we have a duty of care to ensure they receive the best, most informed service available.
This is something that is just not happening.
There is a reason why Purplebricks keep talking about ‘Local Property Experts’. That is because that is what people want from their agent.
They want expertise in the sales process, they want their agent to genuinely know about the local area and they will pay good fees if this can be demonstrated to them.
Too often I hear and see agents acting without the slightest care in the world in how they represent their client. Please remember the client is the fee payer, the person selling the house.
The onus is in securing the sale, not securing it at the best possible price form the best possible purchaser. Whether this just a general lack of professionalism, pressure to hit targets or a lack of leadership will likely depend on each particular company, but it is wholly damaging to the reputation of the industry.
As far as I’m concerned, my aim on every instruction is to extract the highest possible price from the buyer who is best placed to proceed with the purchase. These things are not always mutually exclusive.
Any good agent should never ever have trouble justifying the fee they charge, it makes me sick to see agents offering 0.5, 0.75% or even 1% for their services. The onset of online/hybrid agents, just make it easier to justify your fee.
There is room in every market place for budget suppliers/operators, look at Lidl/Aldi, Dacia, Ryan Air, Easy Jet. People will naturally gravitate to a cheap service, but people will pay more for a better service.
Purplebricks, Yopa etc are giving you all a wonderful opportunity to being able to truly justify your fee.
To give an example, a client of mine has recently agreed a purchase of a house via Purplebricks. At the time, when she was thinking of making the offer she phoned me to ask for advice on how to negotiate the offer. Bearing in mind her own property was not yet on the market. I explained that I thought this would put her at a disadvantage immediately, but nonetheless we went through her options.
I ascertained what her upper limit was and where I thought she should start. 20 minutes later I received an excited call from her telling me her first offer had been accepted, this offer was £20,000 under her upper limit.
Do you think she then rushed to put her property on with Purplebricks?? I got the instruction at full fee.
In the meantime, the vendor of the other property had agreed a sale to buyer who hadn’t even got their property on the market and agreed it for £20,000 less than what they could have achieved.
Property Experts my arse.
If this is what the competition is like, bring it on.
Estate Agency is not rocket science, but there is a large degree of skill and common sense that needs to be applied.
The best agents do not sell, they do not need to. It is not a case of throwing enough shit at the wall and hoping it sticks. If you have a database of applicants and some properties to sell, well there are fees and commissions to be had.
I know lots of agents set targets for viewings, targets for offers etc. Which is fine, logic decrees that law of averages will work in your favour eventually and if you do enough of certain things then results will automatically follow.
The skill is to match the right purchasers to the right properties. It is to be able to educate purchasers as to where compromises will need to be made dependent on budget and requirements.Learn what your customer wants and what stock you are able to offer them and efficiency will improve as a result.
There will be occasions where you need to do 50 viewings in a week to get 3 offers, but there is no reason why 25 viewings can’t offer the same results.
People buy from people. People want being listened to. You want to be a good salesperson, a good negotiator? Then learn how to listen. Another skill sorely lacking within the industry.\
This is not hard to do, understand the needs, wants and desires of the person talking to you. You should spend more time listening than talking.
Which makes what you do say that much more important.
On a valuation talking about how great you are, how amazing your company is and how many portals you advertise on will not win you the business, well it might if you are up against another 2 set of idiots that do the same, then it is just down to luck and likeability.
You want to win the instruction? You want to get the property at a good fee? You want to get the property at the right price?
Well, all the listening you’ve done will give you the answers in how to do it. Talk to them as intelligent human beings, converse with them and demonstrate you understand their needs and desires. The information you provide in the short period of time where you do the talking, must be informative, interesting and on point. You must display good knowledge of the local property market, the economy and what it is they want. These are all musts, the amount of time you spend talking about your company is negligible. You have been called in off the back off who you work for. You are the one that is going to win the instruction
Directors/Managers, you want results? Then train your staff in the right way, teach them, lead them. Show them that you are representing your clients and their interests are paramount, do that and sales will automatically follow.\
Show them how to cut corners, put pressure on them to agree sales at any price, you may get results you might even do well, but your reputation will be rubbish and your fee levels will be nowhere near where it could be.
Negotiators, this is a career, a profession, it is not just a job. You need to treat it with respect, take time to understand your local area. Immerse yourself in it, become part of the community, become the person that people turn to for advice.
You must understand the wider goings on within the economy. If I asked half the agents that I come across these questions, I would get met with a series of blank expressions and generic answers at best.
1. What has the impact of Brexit been on the property market?
2. Has the interest rate rise affected property prices?
3. Has the stamp duty changes had an impact?
4. What have property prices done in the local area over the last 12 months?
This isn’t rocket science, but if you can answer these or similar questions with confidence in a well- informed manner, that will result in more instructions and more sales.
The industry can make massive strides to improve, just by improving the attitude you take in how you do your job.
Do you know that some agents still don’t use professional photographers and don’t provide floor plans? It is 2018 people, seriously. How can such a vital inexpensive tool be ignored.
It is a failure to adapt, an arrogance and in all honesty just a failure in duty of care to your client.
This though is just part of a problem for a wider issue, the way people shop, interact and operate within their daily lives is changing at an incredible rate.
Estate agents have to do the same, you need to ingratiate yourselves in formats that enable you to be able to communicate with the audience you are intending to attract.
This means adopting new technology, having a proper social media presence and not being afraid to try new things.
The high street constantly changes and evolves, 100 years ago it looked a lot different to how it does today and in 20 years’ time I believe it will be wholly different again. Do not be afraid of the changes that are coming, adopt them and use them to set yourselves apart from the rest.
It isn’t just Estate Agents that need to adapt and change, but it is the industries that are related to it.
In fact the entire sale process is a mess. It takes too much time, it costs people too much money.
If the government are truly serious about fixing the housing market, then serious reform is needed from top to bottom.
The conveyancing process takes too long, admittedly there are a lot of moving parts and many different people working on one transaction, for instance on standard leasehold sale with no chain there will be:
1 Estate Agent
1 Mortgage Broker
1 Freeholder and Probably a Managing Agent
Throw in more properties into the chain and the number of people involved grows massively.
So, how do you manage that many people? If you are the agent, that’s going to be your job to do and it isn’t easy, it is frustrating stressful and downright annoying at times.
In 18 years, I can count on my fingers the number of good solicitors I would be happy to recommend. Yep, less than 10 in 18 years.
Conveyancing is not hard, but for some reason the vast majority of solicitors are lazy, uncommunicative and a hindrance to get any sale through quickly.
Same goes for managing agents and a lot of freeholders.
How can this be changed, how can so many moving parts be managed efficiently?
Well, I have some ideas:
1. A vendor must instruct a solicitor at the point the property goes on the market.
2. The deeds, lease, management pack etc should all be with the solicitor prior to a sale being agreed.
3. There must be a time limit of 5 working days for managing agents and freeholders to provide any information that is requested including management packs. Fines to be levied against them, should they fail to do so.
4. Councils must provide search results within 5 working days. Failure results in fines being levied.
5. Purchasers can only have an offer accepted upon receipt of proof of funds or an agreement in principle
6. Once an offer is accepted the purchasers must put down a reservation fee and exchange contracts within 28 days.
7. The vendor and purchaser will be tied in together for that 28 day period, no other offers can be considered.
8. There should be an insurance product released that enables either or both party to insure against a sale falling through and being able to claim back their costs.
At the moment it is too open, there is too much incompetence allowed.
Don’t think I’m going to lay all the blame for sales falling through at the doors of solictors and the other parties I mentioned.
Oh no, Estate Agents aren’t getting off scott free. Sales progression is something that is key, getting an acceptable offer is the easy part, getting it through to completion is the hard part.
You need to be relentless, you need to understand the sales process from start to finish and you have to communicate clearly to both sides.
People get frustrated; people get more frustrated when they are left in the dark about something.
Sales will fall through just because buyers or sellers have not been informed about progress, so they get scared or nervous or start to have second thoughts.
All of which could be avoided in a couple of phone calls and or emails a weeks. Time, money and effort is being wasted just because the basics aren’t being done correctly.
The industry is on a precipice, some of you are going to fall off the edge and die. Hopefully more of you are going to evolve, sprout wings and fly. The industry needs change, those within are best placed to do it.