Why leading agents love a tougher market

dinnerreservationI booked a restaurant last week for my wife and I. Like all things nowadays I had the opportunity to book a table online and as I’d visited the restaurant before I knew the exact position and table I’d like. It wasn’t a special occasion like a birthday but was ‘special’, as like most people with children and a family, we were celebrating being able to actually do something on our own for a change!

I took the decision to phone and book. I got instant rapport with the waiter I spoke to and yes, on my arrival we were met by the same guy and shown to the table – he remembered our ‘you’ve managed to escape from the kids’ conversation. At the end of the meal he got my thanks and a modest but appreciative tip. 

This week whilst in the office I’ve been wondering about my choice of phoning versus booking online. I guess it’s a question over communication and connection with your potential customer. If I hadn’t spoken to anyone in the restaurant I may’ve got the same table but without making that personal connection it may’ve been given to someone else who did.

Making that ‘connection’ is just as important in estate agency. Over the last month or so I’ve seen more and more people visiting our two Plymouth branches. Some are Sold stc, yet many have not put their own properties onto the market – what they have in common however is that they all couldn’t find anything new that matches what they are looking for available online.

When the market gets a little tougher, simply thinking that placing your property onto the internet will get you moving is now not enough. You may get a buyer, but if you are buying onward and in the middle market (not a cheaper investment property with no chain or a much, much larger property where the owner is likely to have a second residence to move into), you’ll be like well over 80% of sellers who need to find a property to move into.

NOW is exactly when good high street agents earn their money. Putting a face and story to a name means that a good agent will start to chain build. Having a buyer in mind before you even visit a property to value and knowing that you also have a buyer in mind for their own. This comes with experience, knowledge of the industry and having the ability to be able to talk to people in a relaxed environment.

But what if I am going to go into rented? Unfortunately the rental market is just as lean as the sales market for quality property. You can see why some people stay put.

Like I’ve always said, marketing the property is the easy part but when the market gets a ‘little tougher’, that’s when your choice of agent could pay dividends or unfortunately leave you wanting.

It’s funny to think that being able to walk in to an office and speak to a professional and knowledgeable person is fast becoming a real point of difference when choosing who to market your home. But that is exactly what seems to be happening across the City.

This is and will continue to be a testing market, but likewise having been in the industry ourselves for over 4 decades, we have seen differing markets before. Good agency, chain building, clever and innovative ideas to sell houses and win instructions will be key. Being able to simply build rapport and a working relationship is just as important.

The upside for High Street agents like us here at Mansbridge Balment is exactly that…… buyers and sellers need a point of contact, a place to talk to an expert, discuss strategy and get an intelligent view from an Agent who thoroughly understands his or her patch.

Simply thinking that placing your property onto the internet will get you moving is now not enough. Talking to an agent face to face and explaining your requirements over a cup of tea could make all the difference.

Do you take sugar?

 

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.

Internet V Traditional Estate Agency and the rise of the machines

I was reading in an estate agency magazine last week about the ‘Rise of Machines’ and whether the internet estate agency model could really replace the high street agent. It reminded me of a conversation that I had with a vendor last week.

The conversation started off with me waxing lyrical about how we market property and why we do it in a certain way. I’d had two very similar conversations earlier on in the day but this time it went completely off track when the vendor asked me how I was going to vote in the EU referendum.

Personally, I’m undecided yet I see plenty of positives for sticking with the status quo. But what if it was better spreading our horizons a little bit further? For a business, there lies the eternal question. Stop a dozen people in the street and you won’t find a universal answer to the EU in / out question. But maybe that’s down to all this constant verbal diarriah we hear everyday about the pros and cons. Politicians who tell us made up figures based on what they think we want to hear? In business as in everyday life they’ll always be someone who prefers shop B to shop A. In business, we need variety, different options, constant innovation and a need to adapt to what the consumer wants.

I got back to reading through the article and amongst the words ‘online’, ‘fee saving’ and ‘modern’, I also read ‘trust’, ‘face to face’ and ‘service’. Whilst the ‘internet agents’ tailor their own offering by taking bits of traditional estate agency to suit their business model, the smarter traditional estate agents take parts of ‘internet estate agency’ to service their own perceived view of what the client really wants.

The trouble with all this is that rather than having distinct differences between businesses we run the risk of having estate agents who each have bits of what the others offer and there is a danger that a once clear gap of difference is further diminished. The choice for the vendor then has a danger of just coming down to who is the cheapest.

As my Gran used to say ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’ and whilst many lower fee agents seem attractive, what I’ve witnessed from those type of agents in the Plymouth area in the last few months are long tie-ins, with-drawl fees and properties selling at lower prices than they should have. I’ve also heard horror stories about the service that they have given (or lack of). Despite all this I still see properties on the market with these agents.

One box does not fit all and the Internet estate agency model will not replace the high street agent. Believe me, I place myself as an innovative agent and if having a high street office did not work for us, then we’d shut up shop tomorrow and trade from elsewhere. We are certainly not there yet and the benefit of having buyers and vendors able to visit us 7 days a week – without an appointment – still is a strong enough reason to continue doing what we do.

We are not a low fee agent. Our difference is in our service.

When ‘experts’ in magazines can’t agree on what is right for the customer – perhaps us as ‘agents’ simply have to speak to our customers and ask them ‘what they want’ in the future. Rather than telling them ‘what they need’?