Prince Charming the Estate Agent.

As a home finder working for buyers it continues to fascinate me how buyers are drawn into thinking that EA’s are on their side. We all intrinsically know that EA’s work for the vendor, but it doesn’t stop us falling into the trap of thinking the nice ones care about us. It got me thinking about how this happens and an EA’s core skills. Yes, they can work out the price per square foot of a rabbit hutch in a nanosecond, (their commission even faster), but what is their real core skill? I could only come up with one word. Charm.

That set me off thinking again and I had a eureka moment. Shrek.. not lovable Shrek himself, but his nemesis. Prince Charming. The dashing, cunning lothario after Princess Fiona’s heart. For love? I don’t think so. Of course we could always have chosen ‘Puth in Boots’ (imagine the Spanish lisp and big eyes), or Captain Braveheart from Blackadder (woof, woof), but for ease of Estate Agent personification I would like to focus on Prince Charming.

My working life is about being on the home-buyers side and the thought of buyers as the prey of Prince Charming bothers me. So here is a little guide for cutting through the charm.

You have seen a nice looking house on the internet- you call up the offices of Prince Charming and ask..

‘ How long has it been on the market?’ PC says..’It has been on the market for a little while, but we haven’t been fully marketing it’

Translation.. Nobody wants to buy it.

You ask  ‘How many bedrooms?’ PC says ‘Three’

Translation… Two, if you want to be awkward and put a bed in.

You ask ‘How big is the garden?’ PC says, ‘It has a smallish garden’

Translation .. Six paving slabs and a potted geranium.

Prince Charming now gets into his stride. ‘It has been totally re-furbished to a very high standard’.

Translation .. a couple of Polish guys have slapped some magnolia around, put down Ikea laminate and fitted a B&Q kitchen.

‘It offers great potential and is full of character’ he continues.

Translation.. it’s horrid. Full of character just means spiders.

‘The owner has eclectic tastes’

Translation.. this can only mean one thing , the owner is utterly barking.

You are convinced and rock up at the house, Prince Charming zooms up in his mini and with a quick slap of his thighs he begins the tour.

‘Note the luxury bathroom’ PC says

Translation….. one of those green glass sinks- 50 quid from Wickes.

‘..And it’s a wet room’

Translation.. constant leaks into the lounge,you’ll be opening an account at ‘Sealants R Us.

You follow PC up the ladder to the ‘as an added bonus the loft room provides extra space for hobbies and un-expected guests’

Translation .. only a bonus if  your unexpected guests are Snow White and the two midgets.

The promised sea view is just about squintable from the attics velux window and the carpets are not ‘that’ sticky. You are quite interested so you go back to the office for more discussion- and a complimentary Bitter Lemon.

‘So’ you say,’ let’s talk about the price.’

‘Well’ PC says, as he leans back in his red fake Corbusier chair, newly bleached teeth twinkling. ‘The Vendor is open to offers’

Translation .. The Vendor is desperate, PC is desperate and you’re the first person in six months to show an interest.

‘What is the Vendors position?’ you ask.  PC says, ‘now, he hasn’t found but he assures me he will move into rented’.

Translation.. No he won’t.. I’ll say that again.. No he won’t.

‘I believe a sale recently fell through. Can you tell me why?’

Study his upper lip carefully at this point for signs of moisture as PC responds ‘the previous buyer had to pull out for health reasons’.

Translation .. just a minor heart attack- after reading the surveyors report.

So you make an offer, it may be low, it may be sensible, it may be high. Doesn’t matter, same reaction whatever… The demeanour changes, the eyes narrow – visualise Puth in Boots about to leap.

PC sucks air through his teeth. ‘I cannot possibly insult my client with that offer’

HOLD FAST

Translation… Oh, God, he’ll probably accept, but he’ll put me through hours of earache first.

Of course not all Estate Agents are Prince Charming. Some may be very nice Rolf Harris types, grumpy Father Teds or even remind you of Julian Clary, (but the Julian Clary’s are generally in Lettings). Nevertheless there is a big ugly moral to this fairy tale.

An Estate Agent is paid by the Vendor and does everything for the benefit of the Vendor- which is great if you are …. a Vendor. As a buyer you need to remember this and not be literally or metaphorically carried away by Prince Charming- a customised mini should not be mistaken for a white charger.

Written for http://www.buyassociation.co.uk

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The ‘How to work with your Estate Agent’ Quiz…

If you are going to pay someone in the region of 1.5% of your major asset, your lifes savings even, it would make sense to know how to get the best out of them. Buying and selling houses is all about people and relationships- I should know. How you handle those relationships is the key to a stress-free moving experience.Well, lets be honest, it will never be stress-free but you can minimise the accumulation of grey hairs.

Remember why you are bothering to instruct an Estate Agent. It should be for these reasons:

  • Marketing A great marketing reach, so your home gets to as many potential buyers as possible.Maximising your market means maximizing your price.
  • Negotiation skills You rarely buy or sell a house. An Estate Agent will have sold hundreds. A good one will have the experience to negotiate a much better price for you than you can.
  • Management of the sales process. Having a broker liaising between solicitors, mortgage companies, chains and buyer should make the process far more watertight.The more watertight the deal the less worries you will have along the way.

So onto our quiz and today we are focusing on Kevin, a rather good Estate Agent. You like him, you trust him you have instructed him. If you don’t like and trust him, stop reading now and go and get a different one.

Kevin and you discuss the asking price.Do you?

A. Look carefully at his comparable evidence showing homes just like yours and what they sold for. Reach an asking price that you are both comfortable with.

B. Point out forcefully that you spent twelve grand on the stone-cladding, so yours is worth more

C. Kick him out with a flea in his ear for insulting you.

Kevin suggests a quick once over with a lick of paint. Do you?

A. Spend a couple of weeks sprucing it up so it’s clean and tidy?

B.Tell him people will just have to look through the junk and dirt to find the hidden gem.

C. Ask what the heck he’s on about- keeping chickens in the kitchen makes your house stand out from the crowd.

Kevin wants to put a sale board up. Do you?

A.Listen to the statistics of how many more people may be aware of your property as a result.

B. Tell him no, because the neighbours are so flaming nosey.

C.Tell him no, because your house is far too posh for one of them.

Kevin wants keys. Do you?

A.Have assurance they will be kept safely and get them to him sharpish.

B. Refuse to let him as you will ALWAYS be in.

C.Peer at him suspiciously, say ‘I know your game mate. You’ll be having parties here’. Refuse point-blank.

Kevin calls and wants to do a 9am saturday viewing. Do you?

A.Have an early night and clear off out.

B.Leave the kids in bed and the take-away all over the kitchen.

C.Say no, because you’ve got a really ‘Heavy’ friday night.

Kevin is coming around at 12. Do you

A.Pop out with the dog and wait until he’s finished

B.Leave the dog loose.. he’s great with strangers.

C.Stay in and closely follow Kev and the viewers around the house.

Hurrah! Kevin has an offer. Do you?

A.Consider the buyers position, the price offered and discuss whether he thinks he can get you more?

B.Loftily dismiss it out of hand, saying ‘there will always be another one’.

C.Berate him and the buyers for daring to insult you with such a derisory offer.

Kevin has sealed the deal. Great buyers and good price.The buyers want to bring the in-laws around.Do you?

A. Use it as an opportunity to develop a friendly relationship with your buyers.

B. Refuse, until they exchange. ‘You can’t trust anyone these days, I want to see the colour of their money’.

C.Use it as an opportunity to tell your buyers about the hideous racket the neighbours make.

Kevin rings to tell you that the survey has come back with ‘a few things’. Do you?

A. Consider the points carefully, if necessary have your own specialists look at the issues, then reach a grown-up compromise with the buyers..

B.Metaphorically throw your toys out of the pram and tell the buyers to put up or shut up.

C. Tell Kevin, to tell the Buyers that all Surveyors are rubbish.

Kevin rings to say that as you are near to exchange the buyer wants to set a completion date. Do you?

A. Ask when the buyer wants and try your best to make it work

B. Tell them the date you insist on is non-negotiable  due to nephews up-coming  Bar Mitzvah.

C. Tell Kevin to tell buyers you couldn’t care less if they are getting married the week you chose. ‘It’s my way, or the Highway’

It’s human nature to take any criticism of your home personally. Do try to put the Ego away and look at the end goal. A move to a nicer place and as stress-free a move as possible. Sensible compromise, without of course being taken for a mug, is the way to achieve that.

By the way, if you haven’t worked out that you should have ticked all the A boxes then I shall bow out gracefully….whilst hitting my head against the stone-clad wall.

The A-Z of a middle-class home.

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I am so often being asked, soto voce and bashfully, ”what can I do to make my home look middle-class”. To save the blushes of all you aspirational middle-classers, I have put together a helpful little guide. A hard copy is available and can be delivered by courier in discreet packaging.

Let’s go on an alphabetical stroll through a middle class home and see what you need to do. Continue reading