Things are not quite what they seem…

This week brought the annual pilgrimage to SW19 and the world’s greatest tennis tournament. Cue innumerable pictures of ‘celebrities’ (some genuine A-list, some who lurk between X-Z), Team Middleton doing what Team Middleton do (not much), Claire Balding being hyper-enthusiastic, Team Middeton again (again not doing very much) and the country claiming a level of knowledge of the sport that is singularly lacking the other 352 days of the year. All as expected. Except that on this occasion we as a nation had a player in both individual semi finals. How can this be? Because they aren’t both British. Before anyone gets all Wee Jimmie Krankie on me, I know he is Scottish, I know he is therefore British (shut the f$%& up about North Sea oil and another referendum Nicola) and I know that he is a truly gifted sportsman who was suffering with injury and struggled on in true British fashion before heroically succumbing, but Ms Konta? The Hungarian born and Australian raised Jo Konta? The natural order of things was restored though when having had a wholly unfair level of expectation placed upon her (no change there then), she got outgunned on every front by someone of a totally different class.

Misleading headlines and ‘expert’ opinion again provoked deeper investigation that showed that things are not all as they seem. The BBC led on a report released by the Principality Building Society that states that there is a house price slowdown in Wales. The Principality take into account all house sales-not just the house sales on which they hold a mortgage-and the report says that that in Newport annual house price growth was 5.1%. This is way above inflation and of course, wage rises, so on an average house price of £176,000, that’s £8756 of untaxed profit in one year. For homeowners this is better than working as their home is taking care of a lack of wages (or a significant increase) and rising inflation. The Daily Express goes potty for these figures-even more so than their unending quest of ‘Who Killed Diana?’

This is where there is a problem with these types of figures being released, because what relevance do they have for buyers looking today? Not a lot. I have yet to have a buyer offer lower than the asking price because of a report released by a bank or building society. Rising damp in the gable, enough artex to cover the Pyramids of just trying to be a clever git are all reasons for offering a much lower price, but not a recently published report from industry professionals. Assuming a very local agent stance, may I suggest that prices are holding up in Newport and the other NP postcodes because of one thing: supply or specifically, lack of. All over the area, listings are down and this reduces choice. Added to house price inflation being around 5% and what happens? Prices remain stable and even increase. Not quite what the Principality’s report would have one believe.

What are you going to do about it then?

This weekend saw a rare occurrence in the natural world; worthy of Sir David Attenborough at his most breathlessly awestruck. Estate agents-not a breed known for their piety-were seen flocking to their local places of worship to offer thanks and in some cases the sacrifice of their first born (funny lot up in Abersychan…) to Saint Listalot, the patron saint of property agents. Why such reverent behaviour? The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT)-an organisation as sleek as its name and one that until last week I never knew existed-has deemed that advertising claims must be “accurate and truthful”. Right, I’ve got a ten inch… hydrangea growing in the garden and as regular readers of the blog will attest, Miss Minogue is but one of my many female admirers. This need for rectitude is all because the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against our friends at Purplebricks (PB). James Munro, head of the NTSEAT stated, “we have seen many examples of online agents making unsubstantiated claims about their selling fees when compared to traditional or high street agents” 8 July 2017 “These businesses should ensure that they are making comparisons against like-for-like services,” The Negotiator 11 July 2017 

Very true James, but may I be so bold as to say, do something about it then? When I read that you cite “many” examples of the practice, why has it been allowed to go on for so long? Before us traditional agents get too excited, let’s see what it really means. Well in the long term, the square root of $%£K all. As we have blogged before, the type of client who will use the non-traditional on-liners will know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, so will want one thing and one thing only, the cheapest agent available. Q.E.D. Before we traditional agents get too sanctimonious and celebrate our first victory over PB, we should look at ourselves in the shaving mirror (yes, you too those ladies of a more hirsute nature).  How many agents publish their selling fees and are suitably candid when asked about fees over the telephone? This is when we stray into PB territory: because PB adverts open the door by getting the vendor to be sufficiently interested to ring and book an appointment for a valuation.In exactly the same fashion, traditional agents will instruct staff to ‘just get me there’ and the fee is never discussed openly until the appointment. So are we as bad as each other? We certainly share certain characteristics in that all we really want is to get inside the front door to allow us to display our wares (back to my hydrangea, ladies…) One shouldn’t leave oneself open to criticism by flatly refusing to discuss fees prior to an appointment. If a potential vendor rings and asks about fees, the response should surely be, “very reasonable, are fees the most important issue for you when selling your property?” Their answer will tell you more than you or they, realise.



A missed opportunity

As I spend my last day on the Balearic Islands contemplating squeezing my bronzed, gym-honed frame into an air plane seat clearly designed for a munchkin, to emerge the other end like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I ponder upon the missed opportunities of life. If only I had answered the phone to that unknown number then I could have been Mr Minogue..if I hadn’t gone to get a cup of tea then I could have bought the future winner of The Grand National at Doncaster Sales (the required £160k is a moot point) and if I had picked my mother’s birthday instead of my own then I could have been the Euromilllions winner and it would have been sod budget airlines travelling cattle class and hello Gulfstream G550. Of course, if my auntie had balls she would be my uncle, but…

A headline in caught my eye-not as much as the ladies’ beach volleyball team practicing in their very aerodynamic (almost non-existent) apparel-which also spoke of a missed opportunity. The theme of the article was that of an agent charging an elderly lady commission on her property that they had failed to sell after 18 months of unsuccessful marketing, but which she eventually sold to her son in a private transaction. They were alerted to the sale not because another agent crowed triumphantly but because the vendor instead of just withdrawing the property from the market place did the honourable thing and told the agents that she had sold her house to her son to enable her to move on with her plans. Under the threat of legal action from the agents she paid then £4000 in commission. There is no doubt that vendor and her chosen agent had a contract that would have stated that commission was payable no matter who bought the property. The agent would have incurred costs in the 18 months prior to the sale, but, what a missed opportunity. Instead of finding themselves the subject of an article whereby the vendor’s incensed lawyer has complained about their behaviour (very likely costing them future custom), they could have used this sale to their advantage. This could have involved their approaching the vendor and explaining that whilst commission was payable, they were delighted that she had sold her property and that she had done the honourable thing by telling them and that only a small amount to cover costs would be acceptable. Cue a photo promulgated through the wonders of social media and the t’interweb of the agent and the vendor smiling happily together with the necessary blurb of helping customers. A fluffy dog/kitten/small child could also have been commandeered for the photo shoot.

I appreciate that in extracting the fee, the agent was able to put another sale towards their target for the month and keep head office off their back, but I do think that it will cost them in the long term. If of course the said agent-and I am referring to the individual, not the firm-does pick his/her mother’s birthday as opposed to his/her own and does win the Euromillions rollover then he/she won’t give a £$%& about the adverse publicity from strong-arming an elderly lady into paying a fee. I don’t subscribe to the adage of all publicity is good publicity. Just ask Gerald Ratner.