Do you believe everything that you read in the paper…and on the internet…?

That is of course assuming that people can read…but this isn’t the forum to question the education system of modern Britain.  Last night as I finished measuring up a property at half past seven (is that a tiny violin that I see you playing?), I did wonder whether the old fashioned practice of wearing out my shoe leather should be replaced by the e-movement of estate agency. That is, is the old style of building relationships with potential customers – admittedly something that can be a futile exercise – should be consigned to the past  and  instead I should embrace the new style where by everything is done through the internet; contact is made through email, payment is made via the internet and then a return email is sent confirming that ‘a representative’ from the company will be ringing within the next few days to organise a time to come and view the property and take some photos. There has been much coverage recently of ‘online, low cost estate agency’.  There is no office, but a call centre – ‘local call rates will apply’ – and someone – after your money is in their bank – will be dispatched.  This individual may well have the remit of covering Wales – that is all of Wales – not specific to Cwmbran, or Usk or Newtown.  He or she is sent to take the photos, and that is it; not advise you on a sensible asking price, the marketing of the property or to discuss any other issues specific to you and the sale of your property.  The days of the an estate agent having to be based in a town to maximise the chance of selling a property are gone. Just look at how many have moved out of Cwmbran centre to Pontnewydd.  This is due to the power of the internet and more specifically, Rightmove.  But once the initial enquiry comes in after someone has searched on their iPad or Smartphone (other electronic devices are available), the contact needs to be personal and must continue to be personal.  Every estate agent will recount how having taken what they deem to be a great set of photos of a property and asked the vendor to have a look at them, finds themselves having to go out and re-photograph the dining room because the vendor doesn’t like the position of the flower vase on the table.  Not a problem, a decent estate agent should go back out to take another photo; irritating and time-consuming, yes, but it is part of the customer service.  On that note, we are aware of a local estate agent who doesn’t quite strive to meet the high standards of customer service expected; he usually meets the request for another photo to be taken with, “tell them to £&%* off”.  There is a prize for anyone who can name the individual.  One has to ask if you choose to use an online estate agent, will they – via their call centre – organise for someone to be dispatched to take another photo – and if they do – is it included in the initial payment or do you have fork out again for the privilege?  Bearing in mind that no photo shoot was planned previously until your money was in their account.

The clue is in the title: ‘Low cost’ and ‘online’ are rather obvious combat indicators (see, there’s my military training again) of what you are getting and to put it bluntly, you get what you pay for. It is rather like certain ‘budget’ airlines where the flight for £1 doesn’t actually exist other than in the initial online enquiry.  From there on in, you pay for everything at a premium, including if a recent online Twitter discussion is to be believed, the right to breathe.  Those who take more breaths will be charged more than those who manage to minimise their inhaling and exhaling.   Disingenuous? Exaggerating? Taking the &%£$?  Of course, but someone will believe it and will pay for it.  Perhaps we should all breathe a huge sigh of relief (at no further cost) that a certain gentleman with a predilection for shamrocks isn’t yet running a budget estate agency.