Who wants to go and live in Spain?

A recent few days on the Iberian peninsula gave me much cause for consideration. Whilst enjoying the temperate climes, Havana Club rum and majestic, mountainous views (invariably encased in material working overtime to try and pass the fit and proper test of ‘clothing’…), I also spent a few hours dealing with my counterparts in the world of Spanish estate agency. And let me tell you; it made me wonder which nation has got it right and whether things should, or even could change in the UK. If someone decides to call out an agent to their Spanish property, the agent does not arrive all geared up to perform their routine to get the instruction. Nor do they present the sales package that makes them better than any other agent in the area (albeit that they may well be the best in the area at what they do). No; having been called out to a property the agent gets the contract out straight away. There is no beauty parade or cabaret act to convince the owner to pick them. In calling them out it is decreed that the home owner has already consciously chosen to use that specific agent; the home owner is instructing them-that is not open to question. There is no such thing as sole or joint agency. If you want to instruct ten agents, then go ahead; winner takes all. There is no stamping of feet and brexit-like “it’s not fair” behaviour if it is sold by another agent-everyone knows the rules of the game. To this end, it is industry practice that all agents arrive to that first meeting with a contract stating that if, within a 12 month period, the property is sold to someone who they initially introduced, then the introducer gets the fee. This is applicable whether the vendor has 20 contracts with 20 agents; the 20 agents understand how it works. I wondered how this would go down with the property fraternity in the UK in general and specifically the NP4 postcodes. It is imbued in us that we have to be sole agents-there is no sharing the market. Why? During our pick-me presentation we all say how good we are and some (you know who you are), devote a whole part of their routine to booting the boot in on their fellow agents. Really though, what relevance does this have to selling the house? If we are that good, then who cares about other agents, because we are going to sell it, right?

At my next valuation, I am going to say that my fee is the same whether I am sole or joint agent. Nor will I  discourage the vendor from employing another agent because I know that Cheshire & Co are good enough to sell it. Why wouldn’t we be? Capitulating on the fee is almost an admittance that you might not be quite as good as you initially said. Of course, some you win, some you lose and undoubtedly a refusal to bend may well lead to a vendor choosing to take their business to an agent who, having told them how utterly brilliant they are, when asked about their fee replies with the line, “Whatever Cheshire & Co said, I will beat it”. You know who you are.



Grand Partner earns place at Cheltenham

Father and son Thoms and Danny Mullins teamed up at Leopardstown to take a decent handicap hurdle with Grand Partner. Returning to winning ways, the 9 year old by Millenary scored decisively over a classy field and may well take his place at Cheltenham in one of the handicap hurdles. For full details of the race, click her:

The truth is out there…

Life as an estate agent can be a challenging one, not least because of the lowly opinion held of us by most of the general public, jockeying for position with the pond life of politicians, bankers and journalists. Some of the opprobrium directed towards the profession over the years has been deserved; some not. The ire has been levelled at both independents and corporates, both of which face shared and individual challenges. What is a little disappointing is when comments and statements are made purporting to be fact, when they have little relation to the truth; something endemic to our society. What is more than a little disappointing is when this is perpetuated by fellow estate agents to their colleagues and competitors within the industry.

The power of the internet and Facebook (amongst other social media outlets) has allowed many a keyboard warrior to list many an alleged action or behaviour. Forget disgruntled letters to a national newspaper-that requires time, considered thought in order for the editor to consider it for publication and money-the price of a first class stamp would have bought a round of drinks several years ago. No, the immediacy of bashing a keyboard or handheld device (stop smirking at the back), means that a one man campaign of misinformation and factual inaccuracy can be waged and disseminated to the wider world: immediately. Terrific; thus lost wallets/dogs/children/any item of sentimental value is reunited with its owner. Similarly factual inaccuracies are put out there as the truth with no corroborating evidence. Unfortunately for those feverishly bashing out their missives, if they are not necessarily the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, this can be just as easily proven.

At Cheshire and Co we have no problem with canvassing letters, leaflets and brochures being dropped on properties with one of our boards outside. Why would we? All agents have used this method as an attempt to generate business. Describing it as “attacking” as a fellow agent who works for a corporate entity in the Principality has done is somewhat overly dramatic on his part. Taken literally, “attacking” other agents boards would mean physically taking a sledge hammer to them; not the most grown up or professional of behaviour. Speaking of levels of professionalism, I have twice had to contact my previous HR Director at Peter Alan-I choose to name the company, not the individual-as one of their former employees had approached several of my vendors, making false and slanderous statements about me and my professional conduct. This inappropriate and unprofessional conduct was acknowledged by Peter Alan and I received an apology.

It is fortunate that some of us left do have a sense of humour. The many letters that vendors have passed on to me-all kept and available for viewing by anyone who has an interest-querying why their property has not been sold when they (the agent) have busloads of people wanting to not only view, but buy that exact property, do make entertaining reading. Just one query: do none of these people have access to the internet and is their only means of communication with the outside world though this said agent? Really? Next you will be asking me to believe in fairies: the same mythical spirits that put up a corporate agency’s board outside a property when the regional manager of the said corporate agency detailed in an email to me that they had never acted for the owner of the property… Another cracker is when a vendor receives a letter from an agent-again I have any number available for viewing-addressed to ‘Mr and Mrs’. This invariably raises either a smile or a grimace dependent upon whether the Mr or Mrs is no longer around having died/joined a commune/run off with the next door neighbour.

Perhaps I am destined to spend my life in a state of mild disappointment. Although the alleged (there’s that word again), extra-curricular dalliances of Miss Minogue’s now ex-fiancé means there is still an outsider’s chance of her making my acquaintance (think Foinavon in 1967 or Leicester City in 2016). No, my view of the world is increasingly jaundiced when a fellow property professional (there’s that word again), responds to one of my posts-imploring potential vendors to call more than one agent out to value their property, because they may receive more favourable terms from one agent as opposed to another-with that succinct but unbecoming of a professional (see, that pesky word makes yet another appearance), “bollocks”. Anyone who would like to see this on my timeline is welcome to a viewing and no, that isn’t a euphemism. How or why is it “bollocks”? Is it untrue? Professionally negligent to make the suggestion? I await an answer.

Perhaps I am being a little harsh and the individuals who have taken it upon themselves to make personal attacks on myself as an individual and as an industry competitor are merely making a bold bid for Employee of the Month/Year. Loyalty can only be applauded, but as anyone from the intelligence world will tell you, always, always, always check the integrity of your source.

The clue is in the title: ‘service industry’

Bob Monkhouse once said, “People used to laugh at me when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well they’re not laughing now.” Just as those who scoffed at the idea that the British public would ever vote to leave Europe never for one moment thought that well actually, the British public might just say thank you, we’re off. As I type, the House of Commons has endorsed the legislation by 498 votes to 114 that allows Britain to trigger Article 50. I bet that when a certain D Cameron threw in the referendum promise in a last ditch attempt to stop traditional Tory voters decamping to UKip (and thus handing victory to Labour) that he never ever thought that it would a. work and b. that the Labour party would be losing MP’s faster than one can say Tony who?

When we opened the doors of Cheshire & Co 6 years ago, I told everyone that it was my belief that traditional high street estate agency was finished as we knew it, due to the power of the internet and the accessibility of data to everyone. At the time, many of my fellow estate agents who I had worked with on many high streets across the principality laughed at me and questioned my sanity. Interestingly, many of these individuals now work for Purplebricks, the online estate agency founded in 2014 by brothers Micheal and Kenny Bruce. Not a criticism boys; merely an observing of the facts. Similarly, we were derided by many when we first posted online a video of a property together with floor plans; now find me an agent who does not offer these as part of their service, (admittedly at an exorbitant, additional cost. You know who you are).

It is not just a move away from the office based on the high street of Cwmbran or any other town or city. The tactics and outlook of estate agents have also changed. Current literature is awash with agents advertising how “big” or “successful” they are. This has in some instances been ‘evidenced’ by falsifying or misappropriating the information inputted on rightmove. Again, you know who you are. A classic example of ‘my…….(fill in as deemed appropriate) is bigger than yours’.

I doff my cap to the Purplebricks marketing team who have earned their monthly bonus several times over in recent days. Press releases with the theme of share prices have dominated the property headlines, with the absolute cracker of reporting how the board of Purplebricks has issued a statement to the City saying it has no idea what lies behind the soaring share price the hybrid agency has enjoyed in recent weeks. Well played boys, well played. And what has been the result? The share price has risen around 40 per cent since the start of 2017 and – despite the statement from the board – it ended Friday’s trading at 189.01, almost twice the price of shares when it was originally floated at 100.00 just before Christmas 2015. It is clear to me that the Bruce brothers are after one thing and one thing only-a stock market listing. When they get this they will cash in their chips-who wouldn’t?

It is not the local independent who needs to fear the likes of the online agents, but the corporate entities that the NP postcode-like most-is awash with. The corporates-and I know, because I was one of their managers-cannot cut their fees to try and match either their online or independent counterparts, because head office will not let them.

I am still surprised that many of my fellow local agents forget the word ‘service’. A current advert in that bastion of the fourth estate, The Argus, cites how one estate agency has sold more properties than a number of other agents (who they choose to list). What cannot speak cannot lie and I am not intimating that figures have been massaged (see my earlier point re you know who you are), but what the advert does not show is how good they are for the individual customer in the service that they provide. Manchester United are the biggest football club in the world, yet are well off the top of the Premiership. So clearly, they are not the best. Citing how, as an agent, you sell more houses than any one else may be an incontrovertible truth, but does it tell the whole story? Does it list how many offices that agent may have? Does it show the conversion rate of listings to successful sales? For those residents of the NP postcode, nobody would dispute that the local supermarket sells more meat than Doug Willis, but if they want something special, where do they go?

As independents, we cannot even begin to compete with being the biggest, but we can aim to be the best at what we do. The service that we provide to our customers is our income generator. Referrals and repeat business will drive any independent agent, regardless of the postcode. Being the biggest isn’t all that it is cracked up to be; just ask the gentleman who recently made the headlines for officially having the world’s biggest penis. It has ruined his life…. apparently. I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing whether I would agree with him…