Would you Adam and Eve it…?

A some what rhetorical question, but one that did rather flabber my gast this week. In recent weeks, I have commented on how I still find myself surprised/amused/bemused/entertained at being spun any number of porky pies as to why a home owner has chosen not to list their property with myself.  Following up a valuation done earlier in the week, I was told that Cheshire and Co had received a definite ‘nul points’ and would therefore be receiving a further ‘nul points’ in fees. Asking him as to the reason why, I was told, “Because I didn’t like you”.  Well blow me down with a feather. Not like the Chesh? Pray, how can that be? And ladies of the Chesh Fan Club, please calm yourselves, there is no need to call the Samaritans or call on any of the gods to organise for some hideous fate to befall the gentleman in question.  This was, I have to say, the first time in thirty odd years that a potential client had said this to my face; so ten out of ten for honesty.  It did make me think for a while and reminisce on how all those years ago, the fledging Chesh was given some sage advice by his first boss.  When attempting to gain any instruction, never forget these three things that the owner will be considering:

1.  How do you value, my house/farm/cow/ewe/wife/daughter? (the unspoken words being that it has to reconcile with what I think that it is worth-even though I am asking you as the professional to value it).

2. What is your fee?

3. Do I like you? (at least more than my wife/daughter)

1. and 2. will always trump 3.

Thinking of this, I went back through my notes on the property that I had recently visited.  I lost on all 3 counts:

1. He wanted £30k more than I thought it was worth.  He had come to this conclusion because he had read a report from the National Statistics Office report that stated that house prices are now up 9.6%-some 13% higher-than in 2008.  I complimented him on his research but asked whether he had also read in the same report that house prices in Wales are only up 0.5%-if that-so no change from 2008.

2. He told me that he already been quoted an all in fee of £500 by another agent.

3.  Totally irrelevant.  By this stage I was already in the realms of herding cats or bottling fog.  And it didn’t help that my professional expertise, including knowledge of the aforementioned NSO report, did not reassure him of my capability or specialist knowledge but contradicted what he-the non-estate agency professional-wanted to hear and selected to use in his case for a higher valuation.

In conclusion, I didn’t value it high enough and in using my professional expertise I inadvertently insulted him.  I wouldn’t like to wager what the £500 agent gave as a valuation, but I would hazard that for £500 the agent does not back up their valuation with NSO figures and knowledge of industry reports.  And there you have it; we return to the theme that like of the agent (Number 3.) is determined by the answers given to questions 1. and 2.

That said, here at Cheshire and Co we are continually trying to improves the service that we offer to clients.  With my next valuation, I am planning to offer a free puppy/kitten/signed Ed Miliband T-shirt/ tip on the 3.30 at Windsor.  Any other suggestions, please send on a postcard to the office.

Now, now children…

The jungle drummers of the Cwmbran environ were at it so hard last week that even Roger Taylor might have been pushed to keep up.  Like the characters in a Jane Austen novel, the negotiators (and anyone who had access to any form of telephonic instrument-branch managers were not immune) could barely contain themselves following the publication of a fellow independent estate agent’s article on his website.  In his treatise, he revealed some home truths about other agents; specifically those agents who come under the corporate banner. Whilst the tone of his delivery may not have been to everyone’s taste, the content was indeed very accurate.  So much so, that the points he ‘articulated’ had already been touched upon, conjugated and highlighted in many earlier blogs of Cheshire and Co.  I am not for one moment accusing the gentleman of plagiarism-indeed imitation is the best form of flattery-but it did amuse me that a fellow independent agent should raise the same issues as we have on previous occasions.  The issues raised were characteristics of the species corporatum agens.  Several members of this close band of professionals (Band of Brothers has nothing on them…) were united in their ire at his effrontery.  I understand that the regional director of one such corporate behemoth actually took the time out of his busy diary to write to the agent concerned to complain that this really wasn’t cricket.  The cynical might opine that the notion of fair play rather got knocked into touch with a Kevin Pietersen approach when one of the regional director’s more junior employees knocked on the door of an elderly lady to tell her that they had 40 people wanting to view her property, nay buy it-right now!  One could even say that the karma fairy turned up…wielding a cricket bat.

The squabbling continued throughout the week as the property portals Zoopla and OnTheMarket (OTM) engaged in a ‘handbags at dawn’ scenario.  Despite losing 23% of its agents to OTM, Zoopla claimed to be unconcerned because since January, “The number of enquiries to OnThe Market had dropped considerably” [sic] Well that’s alright then.  OTM then upped the ante in the hissy fit stakes by querying the veracity of the Zoopla analysis, stating that it was, “Simply…another desperate set of unsubstantiated claims geared to stemming the flow of agents away from it as they join OntheMarket” [sic] Ooooh!  I think that this calls for the old refrain of “Fight, fight, fight!”  Meanwhile, outside the kindergarten, the daddy of them all, with the lion’s share, (and that of mummy lion, the baby lions and various estranged lion family members), Rightmove, sat back toting a large cigar, laughing.

Come on boys and girls, at least pretend to be grown ups.

No more racehorses for Chesh !

“To be or not to be…”

No, not the words of the Prince of Denmark bemoaning his fate (as was his wont), but what I asked of a landlord this week.  Do you really think that this renting lark is for you, my old china?’  I am still capable of having my flabber gasted by the ridiculous reactions of first time landlords who, whilst reading all the press about how buy-to-let properties are the new Valhalla, simultaneously leave their common sense in the same place that Sally Bercow left her self-respect.  This week we contacted a “new” landlord who had just purchased his “first of many” buy-to-let properties.  We informed him that the locking system on the 40 year old aluminium double glazed front door had seized whilst the door was open!  The reaction of the landlord was, “I knew those tenants would be trouble”.  Tenants, who are retired and are not prone to swinging or crashing through front doors; think the demographic of the Specsavers adverts where the fitness instructor turns up to the local bingo hall.  After explaining the risk to the security of his property I confirmed that our contractor had already visited the house and could fix the problem for £140. I was told that his mate could do it cheaper and that he would get back to me.  True to his word, he did, to tell me that actually his mate couldn’t do it for less than we had quoted and couldn’t actually get there for some time.  Fortunately, history had taught me to already book our contractor to carry out the work. Whilst the mass press reporting on how to be a landlord focuses on  the terrific yields; what it invariably fails to mention is that on order to earn these yields, a landlord has to be prepared to spend at least some money on upkeep. Whilst the property is quite literally the property of the landlord, it is the home of the tenant and they are paying the monthly rental for the privilege.

The advice of my father-who counselled me on my courting technique- came to mind this week.  If you really, really like a member of the fairer sex, try not to appear too desperate.  The same could be applied to vendors who impart at every opportunity that they, “don’t need to sell” and “I won’t take less than …” Cue a viewing of their property. The interested parties have barely left the postcode when a breathless home owner is on the phone, “Well? Did they like it? Have they made an offer? What other properties are they looking at?”  If we rang the people that we had escorted on a viewing within an hour of having bid them farewell, we are straying into territory that is no longer under the banner of ‘Efficient and Professional’ but closer to ‘Fricking Desperate and We Need To Pay The Rent On The Office’.  People continue to think that a property transaction is a cat and mouse game and that they need to play their cards so close to their chest that retrieving them is akin to an SAS mission.  Whilst I appreciate that nobody wants to be caught with their pants down, the too cool for school mentality is wearing, a waste of time and as a result, affects people where they feel it the most, in their pocket.  Potential purchasers are equally culpable.  Having viewed a property with feigned disinterest accompanied by any number of theatrically announced comments on what they really, really don’t like, they ‘nonchalantly’ ask the agent, “What will they take for it?”  Being an independent agent and not having to worry about the behemoth of a PR machine that is part of the corporate structure, I can politely enquire of both parties, “Do you want to buy it? Do you want to sell it?” It is then up me and my years of experience (from about the time that Moses’ mother was putting down a deposit on the basket), to bring both parties together to a mutually agreeable point for exchange.  To all potential landlords, I would urge them-before they spend their recently cashed-in pension fund-to speak to a rental agent who can bring their experience to discuss the great benefits and possible pitfalls of becoming a landlord.

Jeffrey Archer has nothing on this…

The events within the 24 hour period of 7-8 May would have been dismissed as wholly unbelievable if introduced in the last pages of a novel penned by the former Conservative MP. Kane and Abel was given its very own Trotskyite production five years ago as Familias Miliband indulged in fratricide and the cynics amongst us might say that in writing his manifesto, Miliband E. penned the longest suicide note in history.  But who would have given credence to the final act of the party leaders standing before the Cenotaph-only one of whom was still in a job-whilst the others had committed hara kiri shortly before the service to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day?  Old Faithful, The Sun, summed it up yesterday with its headline, “Awkward”. Not half.  One could say that the former Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson in the phrase invariably attributed to him of, “A week is a long time in politics”, got his calculations wrong by about 6 days, 22 hours and 27 minutes;  if, as is alleged, certain former party leaders were-at 0930hrs-writing their victory speech and planning the new carpets at No’s 10 and  11.  When at 10pm the preceding evening, Mr, “that is a fascinating insight” Dimbleby said with a certain incredulity that the exit polls showed that Cameron was going to win, it was revealing to see the reaction of many of the experts.  Not least Paddy, ‘I am now in hospital having my hat removed from my upper colon’ Ashdown or my fellow country man and serial loser Neil ‘The British people are being conned’ Kinnock.  As regards the “Welsh Windbag” I noted that his daughter-in-law, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish Prime Minister was wearing a very smart green dress adorned with a large red rosette as she supported her husband, Stephen in his successful bid to become MP for Aberavon. It brought to mind the colloquial sartorial phrase, “Red and green should never be seen, without a colour in between”.  As many of Kinnock Junior’s party colleagues discovered as the night wore on, that colour was blue.  Oh well.

Enough political comment.  Hang on one moment, did I mention that the other Ed had gone as well?  Shame.  What has been interesting, if not surprising is the clamour from various members of the party (un)faithful  who have desperately tried to absolve themselves of any culpability for it all going horribly wrong.  To give Miliband E. credit, he was gracious and unswerving in accepting responsibility for the cataclysm.  In every walk of life one meets any number of people who say one thing with total conviction and then do the complete opposite.  I often ask a potential vendor what it is that they want or expect from an estate agent. Much well considered, sensible, erudite nonsense comes out.  What they really want is someone who will do it for £500 or less.  Why not say that at the start and save everyone time?  The other classic, is “I won’t take less than £150k, I know what it’s worth…” only to see it on with another agent some months later with an asking price of £120k.  What has happened to the notion of straight talking or at least something approaching the truth?  As has been opined before in this blog, any agent can tell a vendor that their property is worth vastly more than it is in reality-just to get the instruction.  Invariably the home owner believes the agent’s every word, because obviously their home IS worth £30k more than any other property in the street… because the agent said it was. We are all human, and our condition means that we will always be unwavering in our belief that when we are told something that we want to hear it is obviously the truth.  Something with which I am sure Miliband E, would concur as he reads the papers today and puts down his coffee mug on his brand new, avant-garde coffee table from the ‘Tombstone’ range.

The important questions of the week…

The last week, nay the last 48 hours, have thrown up some life-changing questions that demand an attempt at being answered.  To begin:

1. Chantelle, Kimberley, Taylor-May, Shannon, Kylie or perhaps following that other ‘royal’ couple, the Kardashians, could it be one of the points on a compass?  The newest princess on the block is awaiting a name.  I think that ‘South’ Wales has a certain je ne sais quoi, although one of her middle names being Pontnewydd or Pantygasseg might be pushing it and the Royal Mint could throw something of a hissy fit.

2. Was ‘The Fight of the Century’ fixed? Already the t’internet is full of videos claiming to provide irrefutable evidence that the Mexican had to lose.  Pacquiao’s camp are (some may say understandably), calling foul on the points decision.  This one will run for longer than it took to get the fight staged in the first place.

3.  Ed Miliband’s Charlton Heston, tablet of stone.  Words fail me and it has to be said most of the journalists who were there at the unveiling. In crossing the divide of the eons of time-with a biblical theme meeting that most modern of phenomena-text speak, I ask succinctly, WTF?

Further down the list of imponderables and not accruing anywhere near the column inches or pontificating is whether the election has caused  a “slump in the housing market” as was claimed in various media outlets in the past seven days.  According to data collated from the likes of Zoopla, Foxtons and the NAEA, there are on average 23 less people registered as house hunters per branch of estate agent.   This is data taken from the same source that states that on average there are 343 house hunters registered in each of these branches.  Forgive my impertinence, but if an ‘average’  estate agency has 343 individuals registered as ‘looking to buy’ I would opine that they are not doing their job particularly well.  Of this 343, there would be about 50 who are classed as ‘hot’ (stop sniggering at the back), who are ready to go and buy a property.  Without straying too far into corporate territory, the 343 claim is on a par with personnel from market competitors calling vendors and claiming that they have at least 40 people desperate to buy who want to come and view the property on Saturday.  In all such instances, I advise the vendors to politely ask the breathless negotiator to name them.

Yes, things are a little quieter at the moment than perhaps expected or in comparison to 2014.   By this, I mean the number of times that the phone rings during the course of the working day. What differs here at Cheshire & Co is that-unlike Foxtons who reported a drop in the first quarter’s turnover for 2015, compared to 2014-we have seen an increase in turnover. Is this due to more efficient working practices, luck or GC’s new Kier Starmer-esque quiff…?

Finally, a question that will be answered by next weekend and the last frenzied days of political campaigning. Friday is traditionally moving day in the property world; who will be moving house this Friday?