Buy now – but pay later?

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I’ve been helping out in my aftersales department this week and I must say it’s massively strengthened what I already knew – that we are so lucky to have our own dedicated department to chase our sales. It’s no coincidence that so many of our glowing reviews on www.allagents.co.uk individually mention our fantastic members of staff.

Whilst it’s great to be voted ‘The best agent in Plymouth 2016’ by our customers on this Independent review site, little is known of the real turmoil that is starting to have an effect on the Industry.

Poor practice through estate agents and solicitors is nothing new of course but through my own Regional N.A.E.A role I was made aware a year ago of some concerns nationally over the impact that new, well publicised companies with National TV exposure and coverage were having on the industry.

The problem is not in losing potential property Instructions, but when these companies are involved in a property chain. I’ve talked previously about chains falling through because vendor’s time expectations are not being established from the outset and poor or non-existent financial checks. Those valid shortcomings aside, I’m seriously concerned at bad practice hurting the Industry that I, Mansbridge Balment and other likeminded companies in the City do so much to maintain high standards in.

What help to the industry is a central aftersales department who won’t answer the phones or a central email address that won’t reply to emails at any point along the sales process?

And why an earth would an ‘Estate agent’ want or need to speak to anyone in order to get a sale through to exchange and completion if they’d already been paid upfront?

It’s a sad state of affairs and something that both the National Association of Estate Agents and Local Industry Associations are keen to address. Similarly distressing is that I’ve been made aware of contracts signed by sellers being marketed with these companies that are not Industry standard ‘NO SALE, NO FEE’ estate agent terms of business – some say it is akin to a ‘Loan agreement’, effectively meaning the vendor is in debt whether or not the property achieves a buyer. This is of course not good for the seller and certainly not good for the industry as a whole.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog knows that I love new ideas and fresh concepts. I openly encourage new ideas in the industry as without them we become stale and uninteresting to our potential customer base – so this is not about that. But in the cold light of day I work in an industry that despite every sinew of common sense shouting ‘we need regulation’ – it isn’t happening. And it won’t happen soon. Because of this I can seriously see agents in the not too distant future ‘turning away’ offers from buyers who have Sold stc but have properties involved in their chain with poorly run, national companies included.

Until the government puts the Estate Agency Industry sector as a high priority, self-regulation could possibly become the norm. If this is the case you’ll certainly be reading more about agents and buyers favouring sellers who have sold with more traditional agents. Agents you can speak to and who want, and need, to see the sale through to completion. Agents who want repeat business and want to build lasting relationships.

Everyone is open to choosing who they want to sell their home through and as long as you are aware what you are getting into then fine, I wish you luck.

Just remember that if you ‘Buy now’ you sometimes don’t pay until much later – but you will pay.

Let’s hope that in time it’s the industry that doesn’t end up counting the real cost.

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Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. Even the Victorians knew that!

You can learn a lot from the past. Not far from my City Centre Office is a wealth of Victorian architecture and along with the common acceptance that the age created the foundations for ‘Modern Britain’, the Victorians seemed to have it ‘licked’ when it came to the meaning of ‘Value’.

For me, one of the most prominent social thinkers of the time, John Ruskin, captured it beautifully when he stated –

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a place for ‘cheap’ in the world. Businesses like the Pound Shop or similarly named are successful because they offer what they promote – cheap goods. Buyers rarely visit to purchase something that has a long life, is of the highest quality or something that could be given as a special gift. Unfortunately in other business fields there is often a big difference in what you get, compared with what you expected to get – and it’s rarely positive.

A friend of mine recently chose a local garage to fix their car. Phoning around for quotes they went for the second cheapest. What should’ve been a simple job became a long and complicated one, where lack of expertise and knowledge ended up costing him far more money (and perhaps more importantly time). My friend is not a fool but ended up feeling like one. He’ll say it himself that he knew that it was a gamble and if the original garage had been capable of doing the work agreed, to the correct timescale and pricing, he would’ve saved some money. Unfortunately it very rarely works out this way of course.

The same could be said of selling your own property (usually your biggest asset) and making sure you get the right agent from the outset. With so many agents claiming to offer ‘everything’, often there isn’t a clear picture on perceived value for what you pay.

I’ve spoken about it in a previous post but both locally and nationally in the Estate Agency Industry it is something that perhaps needs greater clarification.

A low fee may initially be enticing but that’s usually because there are a smaller number of people (1 or 2?) to pay a wage to. Even the most capable people in the industry cannot answer the phone whilst undertaking a viewing, valuing a property, chasing solicitors, giving a vendor a marketing update, answering phone calls, replying to email and website leads, booking viewings, valuations, 7 days a week etc, etc – you get the picture.

“If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

You can learn a lot from the past.

I don’t want to market every property.

There, I’ve said it. It’s a bit of a statement I know – in a world where every estate agent will tell you that they ‘want’ your property (without even knowing about you, your property, your own needs and your own timescales).

Sometimes it takes experience to say, NO. Perhaps the prospective seller does not ‘value’ the extra services a company like Mansbridge Balment offers and simply wants the lowest fee, the vendors expectations on price are too high or on odd occasions we feel that we simply could not work together with the vendor – sometimes the right decision for both parties is to not get involved in a ‘partnership’ at all.

And that’s what selling a home is – a ‘partnership’ – one where the Seller does their part and the Estate Agent does theirs. A lot of people forget that.

When I first started out valuing property for a different company (many years ago) I was told about the 3 point triangle rule – (1) Great property at the right price 2) Realistic vendors 3) Good fee for the services the company offers). As a valuer if you could get two out of the three points ticked, then you took the instruction.

It seemed a simple premise to begin with but actually, my early days as a valuer came with it a lot of pressure to win a listing and I’ll be honest enough to say that I took on a few properties that I should’ve steered clear of. Hindsight and experience now shows that it would’ve been so much better and easier, to stay truer to those three points. I can blame some of my early mistakes on enthusiasm of course but those three key valuing points are perhaps more strongly relevant than ever.

As I write, the market is property scarce, meaning the possibility that properties try over optimistic prices just because there are more buyers out there. But buyers are not stupid. Many of these properties linger on the market jumping from one agent to the next until someone stands up and says what is wrong with the property or owner mindset.

It’s a massive generalisation of course, but the people who successfully achieve a sale on their own property to good timescales are those who are straightforward and easy to deal with, those that have honestly looked at pricing and made their own property competitive and those that know the difference between what they pay and what they get.

This is the same if the property is niche or difficult to sell because of its situation, design etc. Most negativity against estate agents is due to having the wrong advice from the outset and subsequently the ‘relationship’ turning sour. In many instances an individual / company have not delivered on what they promised. For myself and other Independent Full Service Estate Agents like us here at Mansbridge Balment, being truthful from the outset is the key to success. Sticking to your own knowledge, experience, comparable Sold properties and ‘common sense’ can mean ‘trust’ is built from the outset and we can get the right price, from the right buyer to the right timescales.

Experience shows that we don’t want every property and we don’t want to ‘help’ everyone. We can then use all our focus on those sellers who see value in what we do when we ‘go above and beyond’ selling their home.

It’s a selling ‘partnership’ with honesty from the outset. It’s Mansbridge Balment.