Back to public service…

It was with a teary eye that I bid farewell to Tatiana and her bikini-that clearly was based on the ” how little material will not get me arrested for indecency?” school of fashion. As I handed Svetlana what was left of my bottle of Ambre Solaire, I assumed a stiff… upper lip, you filthy-minded lot and cast my mind to matters current in the world of buying, selling and renting property. Reported across the media and not just in the property press was the case involving a claim for discrimination lodged by a former employee of a very large and successful chain of estate agents. The report of the case highlighted how the case was handled-rather incompetently as it transpired-and detailed that the claimant made the claim as a result of a comment made to her in an appraisal of her work that she would be, “better suited to a traditional estate agency”. The tribunal found in favour of the 59 year old claimant as it was deemed that the comment would not have been made to a younger person. The report did not state how ‘young’ is thought to be younger, or what is the threshold for being considered young. It did get me thinking. In any profession should age or experience be the measure by which someone is deemed capable of doing the job? What is relevant is that age has nothing to do with being professional. Was the one-size-fits-all (unless you are Tatiana) approach of the said corporate estate agency indicative of their being big enough that they felt it perfectly admissable to make such a comment in the first place and is this behaviour indicative of how they treat their clients? Maybe. Ask yourself what is  the average age of senior managers of a large corporate estate agency and compare this to the average age of the manager of an independently owned agency. Does the age of an agent have any relevance to a client selecting them to market and sell their property? Maybe. It is all about the needs of the vendor and they may well want somebody with the experience that they deem necessary for someone to be given the responsibility of selling their property. However well an agent markets themselves (did I mention that I have a side-line as a George Clooney lookie-likie?), it is wholly down to the client and the relationship that they want to have with the agent and how that can be achieved. Experience never leaves you, unlike the film-star good looks with which some of us have been blessed…

The 7 questions you SHOULD always ask your letting agent

All through my career potential landlords have always started a meeting with the same 2 questions

How much rent can you get for my property?

How much will you charge me?

These are the last two questions a potential landlord should ask. Let me show you the seven questions you should ask when considering a new letting agent.

  1. What redress scheme are you a member of?
  2. How many properties do you manage and how many staff do you have to manage them?
  3. How exactly do you screen and reference potential tenants?
  4. How do you manage arrears?
  5. What happens if my property needs urgent maintenance?
  6. What exactly is included in your full management service?
  7. How often will you inspect my property?

None of these questions deal with money they deal with service and only when you have satisfied yourself with the answers should you move onto the money side of things.

If you have an agent who is offering a no set up fee with 5% management charges see how the answers to the 7 questions add up.

It’s a win-win situation….

Or not, if Saturday’s article  in the Daily Telegraph is to be believed. Penned by Ms Amy Willis it shrieked the headline, “Only the agent wins” with an indignation befitting a die hard Corbynista at the forthcoming annual party conference (definitely one for The Chesh’s diary). The first paragraph reported how as agents we are chortling among us ourselves that our main gig is no longer making money from selling houses but we are instead profiteering from mortgage broking and the associated conveyancing services. Really? As was oft repeated in a well-known Hollywood film, “Show me the money”. In seriousness, many agents do indeed profit from the many add-on ‘services’ proffered and we have blogged many times on how we feel about the matter. In fact the fee from the house sale is often outweighed by the add-on monies. But the latter do come about because of one thing; selling houses-the clue is in the title-unless of course one is an online facilitator  of money changing hands, I mean selling houses….Anyway, that was a previous blog.

This is-despite Ms Willis’ best attempts to imply otherwise-nothing new. Go back to the mid eighties and every bank or building society was buying up chains of estate agents, simply to secure their mortgage book and increase their turn over and profit margin on the back of house sales and what went with them. This was way before data bases and data mining entered into the lexicon. Our scribe highlights many practices that are truly appalling and quotes ‘Jenny’,  a whistle blower who has become jaundiced by the business to the extent that she has gone to the press (and 6/4 on got paid for her troubles) to report the nefarious behaviour. The Chesh would have had no problem having his name and visage across the national media, preferably within the single number pages and at least half the page. (It would be the least that I could do for you ladies).

Some of Ms Willis’ ‘tips’ to avoid being “stung” are a little wide of the mark. She advises not to use an estate agent that pushes mortgages as their tricks could leave you out of pocket. Not quite right Ms W. Advise people to ask questions. Some very good estate agents push mortgages and push the prospective purchaser to acquire a suitable product for their needs. Purchasers should be asking the agent what exactly he is getting out of the deal and how using an add on service will benefit them, the customer. Many of the petrol stations that I use have at the pay desk a range of chocolate and the cashier asks whether I would like one of their special offers. I don’t like it, I don’t want it, but it doesn’t stop me buying my petrol there.

This is not like buying a jumper at a well-known retail outlet. People buy houses, they are not sold a house akin to being flogged life insurance that no one is really convinced that they need. The whole point is that both purchaser and vendor should pick an agent that they believe that they can trust. This is done through asking the right questions to establish how the said agent operates and the core principles of their business. A good deal should benefit all parties, no scam involved.