…and into my car” That was the line that we gave the ladies back in the day; a comment that is likely in today’s world to get you a. an opportunity to sample the hospitality of the Gwent or b. arrested and locked up. So grooved a certain Billy Ocean (better known to his friends and family as Leslie Charles-but with that name he was never going to make it as a happening chart topper). This was the era of great tunes and dire clothes; think leg warmers, shoulder pads and finger-less gloves. It was also the time when we first saw people camping outside estate agents in an attempt to secure a property when it came on the market the following day. Yes, you did read that correctly, camping, and this was way before the have tent, will travel, Glastonbury-induced, wear-braids-in-my-hair-even-if-I-am-over-40 festival vibe, took hold with the tenacity of Japanese knotweed. What caused me to reminisce about the days when I had hair (no braids) was the reporting last week of people camping outside an estate agent to hopefully put their name down for a property on a new-build estate in Dartford, Kent. The desperation was as a result of Dartford being one of the few places where homes are semi-affordable and London is still within commuting distance (one hour).
Being old enough to remember the last three property crashes, I see frightening similarities in these ever repeating cycles and buying a tent is only a small part of it. Property news this week has been full of details of how the big boy estate agents (i.e. corporate groups) are buying up lots of smaller, often independent estate agents. I must point out that they are not rushing to purchase the solely online agents. On that note, I read that PurpleBricks has now launched in Australia. Financial analysts, Jeffries, report that during the period November 2015-March 2016, PB only sold 14% of their listings; a conversion rate that would see most estate agents seeking alternative employment. But as PB gets paid up front, do they care? So one should perhaps recognize them as a listing company as opposed to an estate agent, but nice work if you can get it Shep.
The predecessors to the likes of Connells, Countrywide and William H Brown included Lloyds Black Horse, Abbey National and the Halifax Building Society; all of whom paid casino money for estate agents. Was this to earn from selling houses? Of course it wasn’t, it was to protect and grow their lending book. How times have changed. Some ten years later, the original vending partners of many of these agents bought them back for around 10p in the pound. My point is that just after these acquisitions in the 1980’s and booming prices, the market crashed. I bought my original Cheshire Towers for £87,000 in 1988 and sold it ten years later for…£87,000. It sold last month for £220,000. I refuse to drive past it.
Fast forward to 2006 and people were channeling their inner Ray Mears and camping outside a development on the old Black Cawson smelting works site in the dock area of Newport. Similar vignettes took place around the British Isles and yes, you’re right, the market crashed. In my lifetime, stampedes to buy new homes at the same time as mass purchasing of estate agents have led to one thing only, trouble with a capital T. In fact, stampedes of any kind don’t usually end well; just ask John Wayne, he made a career out of stampeding disaster.
I am not saying that we are due a crash. If I could make successful predictions, I would be blogging from my private island in the Caribbean. I do though keep telling the young bucks on the real estate scene in the NP postcode that experience never goes away. In 2004, 5 and 6, I said to any young agent that would listen that prices can actually go down as well as up. Then, as now, I am met with the, ‘£$%& off grandad’ look. Ah well.
There are always though fresh lambs to the slaughter. Not least when it comes to accepting the b$%ll£ks put out by certain members of my property agent brethren. Even this morning the delightful Sarah Beeney (I have met her and she is indeed most beguiling), was advertising that her company Tepilo sells 250 houses a month, Well done Sarah. Out of interest, how many have you not sold from the instructions that you took on board? What the ever lovely Ms B does neglect to elaborate on is the cost involved. If you choose to part with the seemingly very reasonable ‘pay now’ fee of £495, you must realise that if you want a board to advertise that your property is for sale, that will be an additional £60, photos are £120, a floor plan is £75. A premium listing on rightmove is £75 (come on Sarah, we all know that they cost £20), a video will be £90 and an EPC a further £90. So a grand total of £565 on top of the original, ‘great value’ listing fee. So that is £1060 before you start, not forgetting that you do your own viewings and negotiate your own sale. Well played there Sarah, I doff my cap.