“We also sell washing machines…”

My weekend was spent in Londinium to celebrate my birthday (no presents thank you people, merely donations to The Rest home for Ladies of the Night…) As Samuel Johnson wrote, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”. Indeed there is Samuel, just ask Keith Vaz, I mean J-I-M. For what else is a washing machine salesman to do in his spare time when not selling washing machines (or chairing the Home Affairs Committee for that matter), than to request the company of two Eastern European gentlemen of the night? I won’t be asking for donations to that rest home I can assure you. Just a query on the whole teeth-grinding, stomach-churning, wince-inducing saga; how can one claim to be the victim of a ‘sting’ when you were the one who initiated the whole thing by making the first ‘phone call? Just wondering.

Having popped into No 10 to give Theresa a few pointers for the G20 summit, I decided to walk down the Old Brompton Road/corner of Earls Court Road and look at the office of my fellow estate agency professionals. Goodness me, to paraphrase Dorothy, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore Toto”. From Chelsea to Knightsbridge I counted 15 agents-the daddies of the corporate property agency world and well-heeled, one-man independents. Not one had any sticker in their window advertising Rightmove, OnTheMarket or Zoopla, or for that matter any poster or flyer promoting local business, the circus or whatever charity they supported. Each one had double yellow lines outside and no indication of any available parking or passing trade. They all had had very smart tea and coffee machines and a suitably enticingly-comfortable looking sofa. None of them-and I reiterate, none-had a piece of paper on display anywhere.

Having girded my loins I ventured through one of the portals and spoke with the (very aesthetically-pleasing) staff. Good looking aside, boy were Miranda, Felicity and Philippa professional. Obviously an audience with The Chesh was not an everyday occurrence for them, but having overcome their initial shock they were very informative.

No Rightmove, OnTheMarket or Zoopla? No need, I was told, nobody ever asks, it is taken as a given that we will be online. Why wouldn’t we be?

Double yellow lines outside and no passing trade? We don’t want any passing trade, we are too busy via the internet.

Then why the coffee machine? Because if someone does come in, they have obviously made the effort to do so, so it is our job to make them feel welcome. Please note, that I wasn’t offered a cup-possibly because in the first nano-second, they recognised that I was never going to be able to afford anything that they might have for sale.

But not a piece of paper anywhere? “Darling” purred Philippa (the next Mrs Chesh), “…it is 2016, we don’t do paper”. When I questioned this, she offered to let me into a little secret and beckoned me to follow (I was hyperventilating by this point). She took me to the back office and there was pile upon pile of files and paperwork. There followed the almost Bond-esque line, “When you are on a yacht, who wants to see the engine room?”

When we talked about business she concurred that their biggest problem was getting instructions. When I at last thought that we had at least reached a common ground on people not wanting to pay fees, I was spectacularly shot down when I was told that, “We don’t get the business if we do not charge enough”. Dear Lord, back across the bridge I will go to a different universe.

What did come over very strongly was that the whole business was based on service; top-notch, out-of-this-world service and the resulting referrals. Much of their business came from selling property for the same family over and over-being the only agent that the said family would use. No cheap fees, no cheap service. Admittedly, this is in a social demographic where anything less than expensive people don’t want to be associated with. Speaking of which, their average fee was 2% and their average sale price was £1.5 million, with 10% individual commission on each sale. Taking their average selling price, each exchange was worth £3000 to the individual sales person. I asked the future Mrs Chesh how August had been, Quiet actually she said, just 4 sales. That would have meant £12000 to her at least; no wonder she’s good.

The biggest difference was highlighted when I asked what completion day was like-vans, people trying to squash a three piece suite into the back of a mini-bearing in mind that this was the capital with no parking anywhere and yellow, if not red lines everywhere. The look that I got! “Most of the sales that we do around here, people don’t move in”. Right, I thought, buy-to-let? Nope, they just stand empty. People aren’t interested in yield, they just want capital growth. So in 2 years time, Philippa will sell it for them for £2 million, with a cool half a million profit. It sure beats 7.5% yield on rental income.

After 15 minutes, they had had enough of me (see my earlier comment about affordability). I bid them farewell and offered if they every ever wanted to try and sell a first-time buyer property in Varteg…