I’ll have a P (for price) please Bob…

Whilst waiting last Sunday for the Ryder Cup to begin its final exertions and to unbeknownst to us all (not least the PGA in America), for Phil Mickelson to be the living embodiment of “There is no ‘I’ in team ,but there is a ‘Me'”, I read an article in The Sunday Times, ‘Home Section’ penned by Graham Norwood, entitled, “The Hard Sell”. The article highlighted 6 different ways to find a buyer for a property. It opened with the statement that Rightmove (what did the property world do before the launch of such property portals and the myriad of data available to quote ad nauseum?) had admitted that, “120,000 of its 800,000 homes have been on the market for at least 6 months” and in some cases, “much longer”.  I have never had the physical or mental acumen to enrol on the NASA astronaut programme, but any knowledge of rocket science here is wasted; reduce the f”£$*&ng price then.  In the same article, Howard Elston, associate director at Aylesford and Quay, a Chelsea based agency, says,” The claptrap about the smell of coffee, first impressions and great presentation is window dressing.  If you want to sell by half term, you probably need to discount” [sic] No probable about it Howard, but elegantly put.

I was rather shocked to read the advice of Andrew Phillips, Head of London Sales at Hamptons International who opined, “Remove your home from all websites and relaunch it as, ‘property of the week’ on Rightmove and Zoopla” [sic]  This will apparently increase enquiries twofold and indicate to the market that you are serious about selling. Clearly, you were not that fussed beforehand; putting your property on the market was merely the behaviour of a bored dilettante… Any new potential purchasers will automatically assume that your house is a new addition to the site and thereby a new instruction.  Wrong.  Firstly, only agents can list on these sites, so the implication from the article that an individual vendor would be able to do this was disingenuous and factually and legally inaccurate.  Allowing for journalistic ambiguity, more importantly, these portals have automated compliance software and relisting the same property three times will initiate the flagging system, and the agent will receive a three strikes and you are out warning.  Admittedly, the ferocity of the reprimand is akin to being savaged by a broken mouthed ewe, but wilfully and consciously breaking the site rules is not to be advocated.

An agent earning their fee should keep their vendors informed at all times as to what is being done to try and sell the latter’s property.  If all other plans of action have been tried with no movement (i.e. someone walking through the door to sign a contract of sale), then it is the agent’s responsibility to advise the vendor – their client – that a price reduction is advisable. This should not come as a shock to the vendor as the agent should have had a constant dialogue with the home owner.  If an agent is happy for the property-that all the indications show is over priced- to sit on their books, price unchanged, and they are not willing to lower the price, then the vendor should change their agent.  I accept that some agencies tie a vendor into a lifetime contract that requires giving up their first born in order to be released; but they should still change their agent.

The final point from Mr Norwood’s article was the discussion of marketing tricks including the one much favoured and indeed the norm in the USA, Australia and Canada, the open viewing. Jo Charlton, a negotiator at Strutt and Parker is quoted, “Sellers have nothing to lose and everything to gain” [sic]  Not quite Joseph.  Sellers do have lots of things to lose, namely jewellery, precious items, the gerbil, the kids.  The concept of a block or open viewing developed in this country following the example of our cousins across the pond, when a house was that popular, due to price, location and demand in that area, that everyone and his dog was desperate to see it.  In America, the realtor (who for those vendors bemoaning a 1% fee takes between 7-10% of the sale price-don’t choke on that coffee), will take as many staff as possible to occupy the house to ensure a constant supply of bagels, coffee and most importantly, security.  Taking priority on the nominal roll is a conveyancing lawyer who will be responsible for the contract and the deal will usually get done there and then.  It is exceedingly efficient, but the hybrid form in England does not reach the same level of efficiency and certainty and only then in specific geographical areas.  An article earlier this year in the London Evening Standard, (I do believe that the clue is in the title), heralded that “Mass house viewings are the only way to buy and sell in London” Emily Jupp, London Evening Standard, 8 April 2014   Possibly, but as her article detailed, the process is not without its pitfalls.  The London postcodes are seeing a huge increase in the number of open or block viewings where demand for property is off the scale in comparison to the rest of the country.  In such areas, open viewings further fuel the sense of demand by the “sheer number of people piling into the property” [sic] The example is cited of a £4 million Chelsea property that saw 40 people through the door in one afternoon and the property exceeding its asking price by some way in a sealed bid scenario.  Firstly a house in that location in the top bracket of stamp duty always would be attractive to a certain demographic and would invariably reach, if not exceed its asking price.  Ms Jupp quotes Jo Eccles, managing director of the house finding company, Sourcing Property who acknowledges that many open house viewings generate excessive interest by putting forward a very low asking price in order to create, “a frenzy of interest and an almost sealed bid situation” [sic]  Whereas the practice in the states involves a lawyer being in situ and a binding agreement there and then, the scenario on this side of the water has a high drop out ratio.  Panic- driven potential buyers often put down sealed bids for enormous sums of money having only seen the property for fifteen minutes.  A few days later, having given it more measured consideration, they realise what they have done and withdraw the bid.  Closed viewings have a place, but it is more suited to the capital than Trevethin.