Buying Agent’s Top 50 Property people to follow on Twitter. Feb 2011

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This is intended as a crib sheet for people new to Twitter who either work in residential property or are fascinated by it. I follow 1000 people, so clearly there are many more worthwhile ones out there. However, if you follow all of these people you will kick-start yourself straight into the Glitterati of the property Twitterati.

(1) @Rightmove

Boring and predictable of me I know, but their in-house stats are invaluable for raising debate and they actually engage.

(2) @Zoopla

and @lawrencejhall @kyreniaj who tweet on behalf.

Generally more frivolous in their postings than Rightmove but amongst the Sleb stuff is useful information.

(3) @waellis1868

A small Estate Agency showing the ‘big boys’  how Twitter should be done. Constant flow of really excellent property links.

(4) @anneashworth

‘The’ property writer for the Times Bricks and Mortar. Would be No.1 if the links Anne tweets (which are probably some of the best mainstream property articles out there), were available to non-paywall peeps.

(5) @Tepilo

and @sarahbeeny Lots of interesting tweets for consumers and property professionals.

(6) @grantshapps

Not suggesting you will enjoy this follow, main emphasis seems to be on who earns more than David Cameron. However, would be ill-advised not to follow the housing minister despite it being a part-time (why?) role.

(7) @Primelocation and @property_whore @findaproperty @thomasinagr

Usual portal stuff, slightly less active than those above but nuggets of juicy stuff.

(8) @planetproperty

A surprising high rider in the charts, as they are spring chickens in the Twitterverse. But I always click on the links to their daily pieces and I am rarely disappointed by either the content or the often very well-researched and written journalism.

(9) @propertyjourn

Engaging, interesting and some great off piste blogs as well as his broadsheet pieces, from freelance property writer Graham Norwood.

(10) @andrew_oxlade @thisismoney

Constant high quality pieces on the money side of property.

(11) @melaniebien

Doyenne of all things finance and mortgages within the media and Twitter. Sartorially and financially ‘keeping it real’.

(12) @subutcher

Queen of Twitter in the architecture and construction industries.

(13) @rupertbates

Editor of What?House and Showhouse who’s industry tweets are interspersed with rugby chants.

(14) @henrypryor

BBC property pundit and consultant to many ‘posh’ Estate Agents. His statistical analyses and conclusions of the property market make me judder between head nodding and head shaking, creating good debates.

(15) @shelter

Lest we forget what a mess the housing market is in for many, these guys are there to remind us.

(16) @eatoday

Essential follow to keep up with the intricacies of behind the scenes estate agency issues and news.

(17) @ed_mead

The nearest we have to a celebrity Estate Agent, commenting on the Central London market. Thankfully, honestly.

(18) @propertyjourno

Good straight forward property tweets with humour and personality.

(19) @jamesatupad @avoidthevoids

With a focus on the lettings side, must follows for insight into that side of the market.

(20) @propertyowl

Good and interesting property related tweets.

(21) @thereatandmouse

Interesting round up of the key property stories of the day and very well written.

(22) @davidadamsch

Tweets from Chesterton Humberts on the state of the market in real time.

(23) @marshandparsons

Peter Rollings tweets about the London market, some useful stuff (but sometimes stuffy) and overly PRish on occasion. You have been warned.

(24)  @academyblog and @housingdabble

Essential follows for those in the industry and incredibly helpful folk.

(25) @agencytrainer

Julien O’Dell an Estate Agent and a trainer of them.. essential follow for insights into the back office of agency.

(26) @propertyadd

Immersed in the world of Estate Agency and so are his very useful tweets.

(27) @liambaileyresi & writeaproperty

Tweets from the poshest of the posh, Knight Frank. Important data but could benefit from a warmer approach and more frequency.

(28) @insidehousing

The arbiter of all things related to social housing.

(29) @ricssurveyors @ricspress

Tweets from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Rarely amusing and not profligate with their tweeting but a necessary follow.

(30) @jamie_merrill

Property tweeting from the Independent. Sadly doesn’t really talk back but you won’t miss the decent stories the Independent produces by following.

(31)   @tessashepperson

A lawyer specialising in Landlord law. Excellent articles about the legal side of being a Landlord.

(32) @integraps

Estate Agent, surveyor and estate agency trainer, tweeting useful news, information and banter.

(33) @huntwriter

For ‘proper’ writing about eco and sustainable building and more…

(34) @robertaward

Knowledgable blunt tweeting about investing, developing and making money from property.

(35) @neilkurz

Feisty property tweeting from an Aylesbury Estate Agent and EPC aficionado.

(36) @theneg

Does what it says on the tin.. news and views from The Negotiator magazine.

(37) @whatsamsawtoday

Tweeting and blogging from a woman in thick of buying, renovating for investment.

(38) @estateagentdad

An anonymous Estate Agent in the West country talking about how it really is… difficult to be mean about EA’s when you follow this lovely chap. The poster boy for ‘Estate Agents are people too’.

(39) @astleysharpe

An independent Estate Agent in Milton Keynes, talking market and personal stuff brilliantly. The corporates should watch and learn.

(40) @dezeen

An essential follow for the most glorious architectural and design links from their website. Delicious.

(41) @giornalista1

Freelance property journalist who is human and engages… a rarity.

(42) @ewardhunt

A property PR looking after clients across Estate Agency and buying agents. Really good interesting tweets and she chats back.

(43) @pimlico_flats

A landlord with properties in guess where! He shouldn’t be interesting but he is.

(44) @bannerhomesplc

The only developers worth following that I have found. Bags of personality, they even make me click on their new homes links, which quite an achievement.

(45) @dwellresi

A London lettings agent who know their stuff and are happy to share insights and help out.

(46) @peterboltonking

Heads up NAEA, does not Tweet much but access to government means worth a follow for the odd tidbit of important stuff.

(47) @romansauctions

Tweeting personably about property auctions, with the odd ‘frightful’ property thrown in to delight us.

(48)  @aboutproperty

Some good property tweeting and links going on here.

(49) @aceestateagent

Kathy Griffin runs Sawdye & Harris independent EA’s in Devon. Consistently good links and blogs.

(50) @mortgage_mind

Blunt tweeting about mortgage products, tells it how it is along with a very enjoyable dollop of cheeky-chappieness.

Vendors! Take the blo*dy offer.

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Dear Vendors,

Working on the premise that you are a Vendor who really needs to sell, as opposed to a ‘let’s see what can I get’ tyre-kicker, here is my blunt advice:

You have put your property on the market and one of two things has happened.

Nothing.
or
An offer straightaway.

Why is nothing happening?

As there is a lack of good quality stock at the moment, chances are your property is over-priced or there is something wrong with it. Either way, it is over-priced.

An offer straightaway? Great, but I bet if it’s not the asking price you don’t take it. And if it is, I bet you’re screaming that the Estate Agent under-valued it.

Firstly for the lucky Vendors with a quick offer. You may think this is the beginning of a huge influx of ever increasing offers and therefore think you will sit back and await more pennies from heaven. Well don’t. From long experience the very first offers you get will almost always be the highest and the best. Buyers, when they are first to view on a good property will very often make excellent offers to stave off other bidders. Fresh to the market properties are sexy. If that property has been hanging around they don’t feel the need to and worry why no one else has bought it. The longer it is on the market, the worse buyers concerns about it being a turkey, will get and so will the offers. Don’t mess around with that offer, squeeze as much as you can quickly but remember it will probably be the best you get.

So your house has been sitting around for 6 weeks now, dribs and drabs of buyers no offers until one day up pops what you call a ‘derisory’ offer. Ask yourself how derisory it really is. Is it only derisory in relation to the over-inflated asking price? If it really is bad then rent the place out for three years. If you can’t do that then you are going to have to consider it, because the fact is, unless your house is in prime London or worthy of RIBA house of the year, your chances of getting more will only get worse as the weeks go by.

I am being so blunt on the basis that the market is surprisingly buoyant at the moment for Vendors but only due to lack of supply and low interest rates. It won’t last. This lack of supply is very likely to change as the year progresses due to un-employment, rising interest rates and general economic woes. When more properties come onto the market and the demand doesn’t rise, the chances of you getting the price you are offered today will decrease faster than a spider down a plughole.

If my house was going on the market tomorrow and I needed to sell this year, I would be pricing it very realistically, perhaps even under-pricing to create interest. (buyers love what they perceive as an under-priced property). If I had no offers after 3 weeks full marketing with a good Agent I would be dropping the price and I would be looking lovingly at any offer from a buyer with cash or a low LTV mortgage.

To heck with price indices and ‘what it’s worth’. A property’s ‘value’ is only ever what someone is willing to pay for it. And shortly, there will be fewer people who want to pay anything and more for them to choose from. So don’t puff out your chest and allow your ego to run negotiations.

Grasp the nettle and take that decent or even half decent offer… indecently fast.

The day I went to buy an island

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Hey Trace’, starts the call. ‘Know anything about islands?’ It’s the Manager of a pro-golfer I work with and he’s found a possible golf course site in Scotland.

It is no coincidence that the manager was a Scot. Even less of a coincidence that the island was next to where he grew up. I had a sneaky suspicion that the Managers sentimentality was driving this, but what the heck.

‘Leave it with me’ I tell him and start leafing through the Filofax for anyone with a Scottish sounding name.

I’d like to say it was difficult to find a chartered surveyor who specialises in Islands but it was strangely straightforward. Serious smugdom. I booked him to meet us on the island.

With trip booked, the Golfer,  takes a look in the meantime.  In a plane. More fly-by’s than drive-by’s when Slebs are involved.

It’s a few years back and without the benefit of Google Earth and with Street View not even embryonic, I have very little idea what I will find. I am told there is a mansion for Golfer to ‘chill’ in, a lighthouse and a caretakers cottage. My role in all this is to verify value and to check out the ‘big house’ and see how it could work as a country retreat for Golfer. A watery pied de terre away from the pressures of Slebdom.

There are three of us at Glasgow airport. Mark the Manager, Ben the golf course designer and me. Now I’m not quite so stupid as to have worn normal garb, I am wearing jeans and a pair of biker boots. My only nod to vanity being a pricey blow dry and a full face of slap. More than can be said for the other two who are suited and booted. Ben is a portly chap with ruddy cheeks. They are going to get ruddier.

Hire car picked up and quick stop at a petrol station where ‘the boys’ buy up a trolley load of sweets. Off to the coast, it’s spitting and I’m wondering how much frizz-ease the hairdresser used.

We arrive at a sailing club and we can spy the island across the water. Quick professional assessment. Yep, it’s an island.

Brawny men approach us dressed up in black and red survival gear and bobble hats. ‘Ye lot gooin ovah too the wee island then?’ head brawny man asks.

I hadn’t quite thought through how we were actually getting over to this island, think I imagined a bridge or something but the ‘rib’ , rigid inflatable boat, had not crossed my mind, I’m quite sure of that. What came next hadn’t either.

‘Ye all need to wayer these’ (he’s Scottish).

Flaming Nora. Survival suits, one size fits all. If you’re a Yeti. They have also provided me with a bobble hat for extra stupidness.

Clambering onto the boat, Captain brawny directs me to behind him. ‘Yee’ll get leess wet’, he says. Less??!.. Less??!. And off we go. No warning, full throttle, nose in air. Thorpe Park white water ride without the safety belt and the photo at the bottom. Nails embedded in the bench, wind whistling up my bobble hat and a sea water facial.

Ben the portly golf course designer winks at me, bully for him, he’s not got eyes awash with  ‘waterproof’ mascara.

The islands caretakers are waiting for us. A couple in their thirties who are keen to please,  in their minds, we could be their new boss. We peel off our survival suits and our bobble hats. Bad hair day doesn’t do it justice. Dundee cake and mugs of builders most welcome in their rather cosy little hut turned bungalow.

The surveyor turns up on a boat from his base in Mull. Introductions made we head off to view the ‘big house’.

Damn, those photographers were good. Hadn’t sussed it was a 1950‘s build. Did wonder about no interior shots though.

Hallway big and bright. Antlers on wall.. check.

Reception room, electric fire and tartan carpet.. check.

Kitchens… industrial deep fat fryers… check.

And onto the bedrooms down woodchip papered, gloss painted corridors.. Lots of bedrooms. Lots of bunk beds. Lots of bathrooms with mouldy shower curtains and vacant/engaged on the doors.

It’s a bloody youth hostel.

Mark looks sheepish. ‘How much would it cost to get it up to spec?’ he asks me. Get it up to spec? Is he having a laugh. Entirely depends on what DemolitionsRus charge these days.

Drawing a polyester veil over the house, the next step is to ‘walk’ the island. Over the top we go, heading for the lighthouse the other side.  I’m given ownership of the sweets as I have a fetching Peter Storm with deep pockets. Men in suits don’t. Not sure what the eating protocol is here but I tuck in anyway.

I notice seagulls as we trundle up the hill. I notice more seagulls the further we get. They are really quite noisy and getting noisier. They don’t seem amused to see us. In fact they are bloody livid. Swathes of them start swooping at us. Dive-bombing.  It’s tricky waving your arms in a scary way whilst trying to protect your head. And seagulls are bloody big. It’s a cheap analogy but we are living the Alfred Hitchcock sequel.

Ben is getting pinker. Mark is striding purposely with the expression of a man who’s idea all this was. Determined only to see the positive.

‘What’s the score on culling them’ I yell at both them. Ben doesn’t answer, he’s concentrating on swinging his arms and breathing. Mark shouts ‘protected’. Well, this is going to make a golf course with a flaming difference.

We make it to the lighthouse. Mark is quite excited and starts ascending, but poor Ben, poor ruddy, nay, crimson Ben just plonks himself on the grass.

Mark wistfully explores the lighthouse and picks the surveyors brains for a costing on refurb. Even I know the surveyors blagging it. He may live on Mull but he’s from Esher.

We take the circuitous route around the island back to where the boat is. None of us want to experience the seagull blitzkrieg again.

Back at the caretakers cottage, I take in the view. I notice something, don’t know how the hell I missed it.  It’s gargantuan.  Grey and glistening across the water. Not so much glistening as radiating. It’s Scotlands answer to Sellafield.

Even Mark had to throw the towel in on this one now. Much merriment was had discussing warm waters for paddling and fish with two heads.

Back into the survival suits, back into the boat. ‘D’ya fancy having a bit of foon?’ asks Captain Brawny. (He’s Scottish). This fun involved throwing the rib over wakes and seeing what angle he could tip the rib to before it dumped us. Think banana boat in radioactive waters.

Oh how we laughed.

Winner!!!!! Primelocation Favourite User Blog 2010/11

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I am delighted to announce that Buying Agent Blogs the sister site to this with the same blogs as here has just won Primelocation’s favourite blog. This is the only category of award that was voted for by the users. Absolutely over the moon. All those nights and weekends fitting around the day job, struggling for the ‘mot juste’ has been worth it.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me. Now all I need is an Agent or publisher for ‘the book’. That may be trickier but feel that lot’s of loo’s in Britain might benefit from my musings. However, Primelocation did describe me as unapologetically opinionated, so I guess I would say that 😉

Oh and as I keep forgetting to mention, I do find people houses for a living, so do shout if you want to chat about that. here

Yours, delightedly

Tracy

The Death of The High Street Estate Agent…

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The last few years have been a roller coaster for the Estate Agency industry. It’s not house prices per se that effect an Estate Agent’s bottom line, it’s transaction levels and those have gone through the floor. Coupled with that has been the rise in technology as a marketing tool and an explosion in geeky competition and low cost rivals to the traditional Estate Agents model. The death of the High Street Estate Agent has gleefully been on everyone’s lips.

Let’s take a look at all of the things which have ‘signalled the death knell’ in the past few years.

Google maps enters property search.

‘It’s the death of anyone who doesn’t sign up’

They gave it eight months and threw in the towel. Rumour has it that the data being submitted was simply too erroneous, nay, inaccurate for Google’s reputation to risk hosting. Some may even say the adage often attributed to free databases is prescient.. ‘sh*t in sh*t out’. The fact they couldn’t work out how to make money out of it was the key factor I suspect.

Self sale sites such as Tepilo.

‘revolutionises selling your property, with an easy to use consumer site’.

With the greatest respect to Sarah Beeny and others, this has been a damp squib.  Although certainly not helped by a very nervous housing market erring towards a more certain selling solution.

Tesco’s and Spicer Haart’s fixed price agency.

It has spawned many a witticism including ‘buy one get one free’ but that seems about all and it seems to have bogof’d itself now. Along with many similar.

So why are all these new competitors not really denting Rupert and Darren on the High Street, when it makes perfect sense to sell your house for free on Sarah Beenys site or pay £1000 to one of the new guys?

The dire state of the market is one reason. Vendors coming to market are generally doing so because they need to. They don’t want to mess around with creative models they want the property sold. Note the rise in popularity of auctions as another example of this.

The main reason however is that Vendors seem to recognise, particularly in difficult times,  that there is more to selling a house than whacking pictures and floorplans on the worldwideweb. Getting a viewer through the door is relatively easy, getting that house to exchange is not.

There really is a chasm between what is marketing a property and the actual selling of it.

I am by no means in the thrall of Estate Agents nor am I a Luddite and when I talk of High Street Estate Agents, I of course mean good ones, which is a whole different blog. The fact is that buying and selling in the UK (excluding Scotland) is a flaming nightmare.

Truth is, that when I buy and when I sell I want to use a good traditional, knows his stuff Estate Agent. I and every buyer I know does not want to be escorted around a home by the Vendor extolling the virtues of his hot tub. And as a seller I don’t want to see people traipsing through my house inspecting my cupboards.

I don’t want to have to negotiate with the Vendor on his main asset, it gets emotional. And as a Vendor I know it’s a darn sight easier for the Estate Agent to say ‘I have loads of interest’ and get the best price, than me trying it on with a sheepish expression.

But that’s the easy bit.

The tricky stuff comes when the mortgage companies, surveyors and solicitors get involved. These days their role can most often be described as ‘problem finders’. Someone in this sticky mix has to be the ‘problem solver’ and that is the Estate Agent ( and buyers representatives when used).

What happens when the mortgage company insists on a piece of paper from 1977 which doesn’t exist and they won’t accept an indemnity policy?

When the survey says there is a 20k damp problem and buyer and seller are diametrically opposed.

When the chain starts to break at the bottom, who is trying to put it back together?

Vendors threatening to pull out if we don’t exchange tomorrow and mortgage funds aren’t ready.

Just some real examples of deals of mine in the past 12 months where without the Estate Agent sweating bricks, and managing the issues delicately, the deal would have died.

Before everyone starts throwing their toys out of the pram, I know there are exceptions and I know a bad Estate Agent is worse than dry rot. I also don’t think they have to be on the High Street, there are some excellent ones based in local trading estates. But the key is that they need to be on the ground, know the property business and manage the sale like a hawk. When they do, the process of buying and selling generally works.

It costs money to manage a 3 months sales progression professionally. I don’t see how a fixed £1000 or £2000 fee can cover a business to do this properly.

Until we have a conveyancing process whereby all issues have been ironed out before the offer and it really is a simple transaction, it is a people and relationship driven process. And when you have people you also have the words emotional, irrational, selfish, greedy and many others. These things have to be managed by people who know what they’re doing and quite simply, you get what you pay for.

The failure of more creative models to break the mould seems to say clearly that Vendors think the same way.

The death of the High Street Estate Agent has been rather exaggerated…