Post Summer Review

Having returned from my vacation (get me, all transatlantic and WASPish-look it up if you don’t know what it means), I realised that summer was most definitely over.  I know this because there is a house in Cardiff festooned with smirking Santas, flashing snowmen and frolicking elves who by the look on their faces have been told that they are on a zero hours contract; and this was before I had locked myself in the house and switched all the lights off to deter those demanding, ‘Trick or treat?’ Incidentally, what happens when you tell them that you are thinking of their health and not providing them with sweets, but want a trick instead?  Do your car tyres get slashed or does a brick come through the window?  I digress.  As one season draws to a close, I thought that I would review the summer of 2015 for the property market in the NP44 postcode.

Firstly for all new followers (regular readers will know that I have gone on about this in the same way that Status Quo use the same three chords), here at Cheshire and Co we have repeatedly stated that, in our opinion, interest rates were not going to and will not go up soon.  Behold, Gideon’s mate, Mark at the BoE (who owes his job to our Chancellor), has said that an interest rate rise will now be scheduled for 2017 and not early 2016.  This has little to do with fiscal analysis and a lot to do with political nouse.  The timely intervention of Mr Carney is very much a case of the right word at the right time goes along way to solving things; cue Gideon getting help when his back is to the wall.

Back to the events of the summer this side of the bridge.  It would seem that estate agents are now, more than ever adopting the Jim Bowen approach of, ” Let’s see what you could have won”, when telling vendors one thing and meaning quite the opposite.  Classics from the collection include:

“I won’t get out of bed for less than a 1.5% fee” that should actually read, “I will drop my fee to whatever it takes to get your instruction”.

“We have a standard fee threshold that we won’t/cannot drop under” that translates to “Whatever Chesh/whoever says he will charge, I will beat it”.

” We have people wanting to buy your property now! (the exclamation mark is VERY important), in fact I have 20 people who will view this Saturday” that could be transposed into the real world as “I’m going to tell you that your property is worth £30k more than it actually is and I am blowing smoke up one of your orifices in order to get the instruction. You will come with us, be tied into a 6 month contract and in 6 weeks I will tell you to drop the price. Doh!” (again, the exclamation mark is VERY important).

These one liners are easily addressed and appear as frequently as Katie Price/Kerry Katona get married/divorced/bear offspring.

What has been an intriguing addition to the oeuvre are some opinions being expressed through various mediums that are portrayed as facts.  Forgive my having dropped out of English class to watch the 3.15 from Nottingham, but I was of the impression that a fact is something that is known and can be proven to be true.  With this definition in mind, I am struggling to find how some of the recent statements made are backed up by empirical evidence.

“No viewing is a waste of time”.  Put in blunt Anglo Saxon/Bruno Tonioli language, “Bollocks”.  It is if the person doing the viewing cannot proceed and even more importantly never had any intention of offering to proceed.  It is the agent’s responsibility in the service that they provide to their client-the vendor-and the duty of care that this includes, to determine whether the person looking to view the property is in a position to proceed/what their circumstances are.  If they have no means of being able to make an offer that they can act upon, then it is a waste of everyone’s time, not least the vendor, who will invariably have cleaned the property/taken the day off work/changed their diary to facilitate the viewing.  Continuing the theme, on what grounds is a viewing taking place?  Is it to impress the vendor that as an agent you have booked in numerous viewings from ‘interested parties’; that are actually disinterested parties because they are a contingent of people known to you who you have inveigled, bribed and coerced into coming and ‘having a wander  about’ so that it buys you some credit with the vendor?  Naughty, naughty, surely not.

This segues neatly into the premise that the number of viewings has a direct effect on the chances of securing a sale and there is a distinct correlation between viewings and the ‘It’s Gone’ board going up (accompanied by the trumpet fanfare of beatific cherubs-a nice touch I think that you would agree).  There is some value in this statement, because without a viewing it is highly unlikely that a property will be sold off the page-electronic or otherwise.  Unless one is in a sealed bid scenario-unlikely in the NP44 demographic-then one viewing, the very first viewing can mean a sale.  Here at Cheshire and Co we had two such scenarios this summer.  Only one person can buy a property, it isn’t a kibbutz.  Again, this alludes back to it being the responsibility of the agent to establish the facts before bringing a person to a property.  Nothing is likely to disillusion a vendor more than 20 people coming to view a house for none of them to make an offer.  Unbeknownst to the vendor is that none were in a position or ever had any intention of making an offer (due to their being on day release, Interpol’s Top 10 Most Wanted etc.)

Feedback from prospective purchasers has also come into discussion.  The feedback of, ‘We want it’ is the estate agent’s equivalent of Simon’s, ‘It’s a ‘yes’ from me’.  Other feedback does have a value, even if it is to reiterate what you as the agent has already said to the vendor, that they have chosen to ignore. “Priceless” and “Invaluable” have been two adjectives that I have recently heard used to describe feedback.  How does one quantify feedback and what makes it so critical that it is beyond value?

Floor plans and video tours of properties are here to stay.  They do not sell houses on their own, that is indisputable.  But as part of a modern marketing package, they do offer the opportunity for a prospective buyer to see as much as possible before picking up the phone or getting in the car.  At Cheshire and Co we have sold two properties this year because the prospective purchaser was able to look at the video online and “It meant that I could get a feel for the property because the pictures can hide a lot” and “I always thought that $%^& was a £$%^&7£ and I wouldn’t have bothered coming to look if I han’t been able to have a look round in the video”.  No one is claiming to be Steven Spielberg, but it is a facility that can play a vital role in securing a sale.

The latest Rightmove figures show that listings are down so stock is in short supply.  Translated into Cwmbranese this means that agents will cut each other’s throats and sacrifice their first born in order to get an instruction.  Thus, it is a great time to be someone with a property to sell.

The new breed of estate agent be they solely on line or a hybrid (such as Cheshire and Co) of a ‘traditional’ office using all the facets of modern technology, have one thing in common; they do not spend money on renting High Street premises but instead spend the money saved on staff and technology, including the best Rightmove package that their budget allows.  Rightmove provides us the agents with really useful information.  I know, I find it hard to believe that me, the Chesh who has only just placed his quill pen into retirement is eulogising about technological data.  The data shows that customers spend time considering if they will contact the agent of a property that they have seen.  This is called the ‘engagement window’.  The longer this engagement window lasts, the higher the conversion rate in contacting the agent.  The engagement window starts with photos, thus the more photos the agent provides, the longer the interested party stays on the page.  In fact, ‘time on page’ (to use the industry lingo), is a commonly used measurement of an online asset.  This does provide me with the opportunity to give an example of how Tatiana and Svetlana with their surgically enhanced assets achieve the numbers of people viewing for such considerable lengths of time…We also know that 9 out of 10 buyers will look for a floor plan.  If they are still interested then they will look for more information either in the written advert or by viewing the video tour.  Time spent doing this gives them greater confidence to contact the agent and book a viewing.

To paraphrase some of my fellow agents, the “priceless” question is will vendors go for the cheap fee agent who doesn’t use many of the technological offerings out there and whose customer service is, shall we say ‘open to improvement’ or will they go for the reasonably-priced agent who embraces technology but combines this with what some now see as the old-fashioned quirk of communicating regularly with their client, be it through the written or spoken word?

In my role of offering public service, I thought that I would conclude the review with some gentle amusement.  Don’t say that I don’t have your best interests at heart.

1.  A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: ”Ugh, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen!” The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: ”The driver just insulted me!” The man says: ”You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

2.  A young blonde woman is distraught because she fears her husband is having an affair, so she goes to a gun shop and buys a handgun. The next day she comes home to find her husband in bed with a beautiful redhead. She grabs the gun and holds it to her own head. The husband jumps out of bed, begging and pleading with her not to shoot herself. Hysterically the blonde responds to the husband, ”Shut up…you’re next!”

3.  My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well, I was amazed, I never knew they worked.

4.  A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named ‘Amal.’ The other goes to a family in Spain, they name him Juan’. Years later; Juan sends a picture of himself to his mum. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wished she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, ”But they are twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Amal.”

5.  There’s two fish in a tank, and one says ”How do you drive this thing?”

6.  When Susan’s boyfriend proposed marriage to her she said: ”I love the simple things in life, but I don’t want one of them for my husband”.

7.  My personal favourite.
The Lone Ranger is ambushed and captured by an enemy Indian War Party.
The Indian Chief proclaims, “So, you are the great Lone Ranger”,
“In honor of the our great gods, you will be executed in three days.”
“Before I kill you, I grant you three requests.”
“What is your first request?”

The Lone Ranger responds, “I’d like to speak to my horse. ”
The Chief nods and Silver is brought before the Lone Ranger who whispers in Silver’s ear, and the horse gallops away.

Later that evening, Silver returns with a beautiful blonde woman on his back.
As the Indian Chief watches, the blonde enters the Lone Ranger’s tent and spends the night.
The next morning the Indian Chief admits he’s impressed. “You have a very fine and loyal horse and are a man who clearly has a passion for life”,
“But I will still kill you in two days.”
“What is your second request?”
The Lone Ranger again asks to speak to his horse.
Silver is brought to him, and he again whispers in the horse’s ear.
As before, Silver takes off and disappears over the horizon.
Later that evening, to the Chief’s surprise, Silver again returns, this time with a voluptuous brunette, more attractive than the blonde. She enters the Lone Ranger’s tent and spends the night.

The following morning the Indian Chief is again impressed and slightly in awe of the Lone Ranger’s seeming disregard for his approaching death.
“You are indeed a man of many talents and are facing death with great courage”
“But I will still kill you tomorrow.”
“What is your last request?”
The Lone Ranger responds, “I’d like to speak to my horse, alone.”
The Chief is curious, but he agrees, and Silver is brought to the Lone Ranger’s tent.
Once they’re alone, the Lone Ranger grabs Silver by both ears, looks him square in the eye and says,
“Listen very carefully, you big-eared, hairy idiot, for the last fricking time, I said, BRING POSSE”