Death of the traditional Estate Agent?

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Have online estate agencies, the fees up front coloured Lego types really taken the lions share of the market? Are they the way to go? Have they wiped the smiles off traditional Estate Agents faces and changed the face of Estate Agency forever?

Hmm.

To me the issue is the chasm between what is marketing a property and the actual selling of it. Particularly in a market where, to put it mildly, it’s tough.

I am by no means in the thrall of Estate Agents nor a Luddite disliking of change and when I talk of High Street or traditional 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 their stuff Estate Agent. I and every buyer I have worked with does not want to be escorted around a home by the Vendor extolling the virtues of his hot tub. 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 after an offer has been agreed, 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 the 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 refuse to budge.

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. They need to be on top of all parts of the chain, the mortgage offers and the legals. 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. But of course, if you have been paid up front, you really don’t have to.

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.

Weirdly, traditional Estate Agents are really bad at selling the importance of sales progression, the key part where the safe pairs of hands make the difference between selling smoothly or a decade on Prozac. They bandy about their online presence and which portals they are on but they rarely allude to the part after the offer comes in. The part where it can and often does go horribly wrong.

Traditional ‘charge a reasonable fee’ Estate Agents need to get cleverer at broadcasting this USP.  Because in this tough market, a good, ‘proper’ Estate Agent has more value than ever.

 

A few things I muse on when viewing properties.

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How safe would I feel walking home from the tube?
Can the iPhone be visible or would I only venture out in full Kevlar?

How resaleable?
Would even Purple Bricks baulk at listing it?

Structural soundness?
Indoor mushrooms and I am onto it.. more than that, GET A SURVEY.

Sound pollution.
Am I vibrating?

Storage space.
The hoover and ironing board ARE OUT warning klaxon.

Same road as a school?
Six weeks in and you’ll spend night and day plotting Yummy Mummy annihilation.

Garden office.
Sad. Cold. Damp. Sad.

Area – the ‘people like us’ test.
How many sourdough outlets?

Convenient location.
The Ocado, Deliveroo and Uber test.

Attic conversions.
There’s a reason they were attics.

Common areas.
How common?

Mezzanines.
Stupid.

Lower ground flats.
Smell of damp and a view of ankles.

‘Needs updating’.
How bad is the smell of wee?

Neighbours.

LEAVE MEANS LEAVE poster in the window?
The modern day Asda trolley in the front garden.

 

Baulking at the Balkans-a different kind of property investment.

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“Mum” said the footloose daughter in a Skype call. “I am in a ski resort in Bulgaria, Bansko and I am buying a flat, any advice?”

Woah! Serious intake of breath.

Well to start, me and Bulgaria have history. Back in the noughties  I travelled the length and breadth of Bulgaria, in the back of blacked out Land Cruisers – with increasingly scary Russian ex-Majors and Bulgarian Oligarchs. I was being shown building plots and off plan apartments to flog as investments. It still brings me out in a rash. But hey, thats for another night. This is family and property investment alarm bell territory.

I throw the usual questions. Got a good lawyer? “Yeah, the estate agent recommended one” Argh.

The estate agent is apparently a very nice man from Bournemouth – but still. Argh.

Have you checked how long the lease is? The service charge? Ownership rights? Freeholders? Apparently the lawyer has said it’s all in order – and as it’s in Cyrillic, she just has to roll with it. Argh.

Now I should say that my daughter isn’t dim. After ten years in Australia, bored of it’s cultural limitations and distance from family she has designed a globe trotting life for herself doing very clever and creative digital stuff. Years of copy writing and digital marketing has resulted in skills that provide an ongoing online income that keeps her in decent Sauvignon Blanc and clean sheets. This is the world of the Digital Nomad. And whilst she can do it from anywhere (that was the point) she hankers after a home – somewhere to use as a base, leave her gear, decorate and have her own kitchen. Plus, as a property owner after six months she becomes a Bulgarian resident, subject to Bulgarian income tax – and guess what, that comes with EU residency too.

But Bulgaria! Argh.

Why Bansko? She tells me that Bansko is a hub for ‘Digital nomads’ like herself. A community of like minded clever and energised young people (not kids) all making their livings through their wits, with skills generally honed through years of corporate grind. Brought together by a ‘co-working’ centre where an international community taps away on crypto currency, travel journalism and weird stuff us oldies don’t know exists as a work form. Sharing ideas and giving each other support and company. They have gravitated here because of the now internationally acclaimed (in their world) co-working space and the incredibly cheap cost of living. (a one bed flat can be rented for five euros a night).

Anyhow, Mother’s due diligence attempts aside, she buys it. Of course. The paperwork is done in two weeks but it won’t be legally hers for another fortnight. The Agent throws her the keys anyway. It comes with all the furniture, bedding, TV’s and teaspoons so he tells her she might as well enjoy, “save you spending on rent”. Novel.

With my property investment head at the fore I ask “I assume you will be able to rent it out for an income when you’re not there?” “Nah”, she says, “it’s swimming in property here, so not worth it..” Marvellous.

So this summer I dragged the husband out on a visit. He showed more enthusiasm on being posted to Kandahar.

Glossing over the hair raising three hour drive from Sofia, courtesy of Lurch’s less developed cousin. (we did start discussing burial or cremation to keep our spirits up). We arrived at the daughters apartment – she had the wine on ice.. good girl.

The apartment consists of two big bedrooms and two bathrooms, it was two penthouse flats knocked into one so daughters bedroom was an entire studio with a deep balcony overlooking the communal pool and the soaring ski slopes.IMG_0262 The sitting room has a bank of picture windows overlooking another mountain range. It needs ‘un-Bulgarianising’, it is all a bit brown but that’s half the fun- poring over Pinterest and Ikea delivery options. But, it was cosy and nice, surprisingly nice.

Daughter had a tight schedule arranged for us, determined to showcase the lifestyle, starting with a mountain bootcamp for the husband the next morning, run by ex-pat Brits.  Trouble with being in the Army is everyone thinks they want to beast themselves all the time (reader, they do). I of course stayed home and prepped the contraband ‘British’ bacon I’d been ordered to smuggle.

That day a picturesque trip up the cable car to high into the mountains, there’s a terrific restaurant, serving hearty portions, surrounded by adventurous activities including the longest water slide in Europe. Husband and the boyfriend partook – apparently it is less fun than water boarding, seems every orifice received a high pressure power wash. They needed medicinal beer.

An overnight trip to the stunning Greek coast close to Thessaloniki, just three hours drive meant delicious practically twitching grilled sardines and octopus alongside azure seas.

A surprise night booked for us in the local five star spa hotel The Kempinski with an awesome spa (no really) and equally awesome breakfast spread was a very unexpected luxury treat from the daughter and frankly unexpected luxury in Bansko.

There was also mountain quad biking, daughter and I were well up for it- until the men folk opted for the ‘hard ride’ tour and we realised neither of us could reach the pedals. We went shopping.

And a few hours girly time in the local beauty parlour for ‘very good value’ eyelash extensions. Little tip ladies – if you want to look like Aunt Sally meets drag artiste, ask for ‘natural’. I did. Three weeks later and I am still seeing the world through two hairy caterpillars.

There were properly delicious lunches and dinners in sylvan glades and town taverns with wood fired ovens. Whole grilled trouts for five euros, meat and potatoes fifty different Bulgarian ways and Shopska salad,  which became a must have healthy choice (with cheesy chips mind). Evenings in the town square with regular free concerts and jugs of very drinkable red wine for the price of a Heston services flat white. The vibrant and bustling cobbled streets and traditional taverns all with boulders of stone, wooden benches and bright red traditional table cloths is oddly intoxicating and really very jolly.IMG_1478

This is summer, in Winter I am told it’s a heaving snowy wonderland, much busier and full of skiers looking for a cheap European destination, with a buzzing apres-ski nightlife.

But Bansko obviously has it’s negatives. Many half built or unsold apartment complexes. Pavements, merely rubble in parts and Romanys towing cows in their horse drawn carts, rooting through bins. All are testament to an extremely impoverished Soviet past and extreme over-building more recently. And you can’t get an avocado for love nor money.

As I lazed on the balcony, sun setting over soaring mountains, daughter bustling around her own kitchen preparing a Bulgarian hot pot in a traditional clay pot. (layered meat, veg, spice, cheese, then bake). I mused on how dumb this all should be in the grand scheme of all things property investment.IMG_1618

But here’s the rub, she paid €39,000. No I haven’t missed a nought off. Service charge a couple of hundred euros, internet included. And becoming a Bulgarian tax payer means she now pays 8% income tax on her worldwide earnings – a 32% saving on her Australian tax.  It will have paid for itself in three months from tax savings alone. Plus she will have EU citizenship, dodging the Brexit bullet.

Will she ever be able to sell it? With difficulty.

Rent it out for decent money? No.

Will it appreciate? in decades, maybe.

So by every measure of a good property investment, it’s not… It’s cleverer.

In a property world oft guilty of knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing,  it’s a timely reminder that sometimes it’s just a home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Property market predictions for 2017, I guess?

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I read a little piece by Graham Norwood in Estate Agent Today where he touched upon property pundits such as myself and the far more esteemed spending the last few weeks of the year making property predictions. With a lightness of touch he also suggested that this might be a slightly trickier job than us pundits make out. In fact, I could almost make out a sote voce suggestion that we might all possibly be guessing. Guessing!

Oh Really?

Well I’m hurt. Frankly we are all immersed in the property market and talk to vendors and buyers all day long. We have seen it all, been there, done that. Some of us even have qualifications, (not many). Rest assured, what goes around, comes around, the past, as everyone knows dictates the future and we have some whopping crystal balls that we are brilliant at swinging around.

But maybe he has a microscopic point because in order to predict the future one  probably should have ‘been there before’ (I checked, I haven’t) and also one probably has to be a little bit certain about something. Just something.

And there’s the rub. Brexit, of exactly what can we be certain?

Will it be a soft Brexit? (a definite maybe but what does that mean anyway)

Will it be a hard Brexit? (Ooh, I hope not, really don’t like the sound of that)

Will they cancel Brexit? (don’t get me excited)

Will we just pretend we have Brexited? (that’s a thought, I can keep a straight face)

Will Boris Johnson be inappropriate with Madam President and screw all future US trade agreements? (hey ho, who needs ’em, the US will be so uncool without Obama anyway)

Will Liam Fox slip too many buddies into Cobra meetings and Putin gets the nuclear codes? (Army wives really, really shouldn’t joke about that stuff)

Will all our financial institutions flee to Frankfurt? (a little sob from me as all those potential Chelsea townhouse sales tumble).

Will the pound plummet so far that all our overseas holidays terminate at the Isle of Wight?

Will Mascarpone and Parma ham get slashed from the Waitrose Essentials range?

So many questions, however, the big question, the one that constantly chases me down the street, across the social media strata and in the queue at Waitrose is as always, what are house prices going to do?

Well that depends.

It depends on Brexit, it depends on the pound, it depends on people thinking they will have a job next week, it depends on whether they think houses will be worth more or less next year. It depends on how confident people are of their future. It depends on prices at the pump and on the supermarket shelves. And It depends on whether Brussels are feeling really, really vindictive. Above all it depends on our ruling politicians having the slightest slightest clue – and frankly I am not depending on that.

So grudgingly I have to admit that Graham may have a point, I think perhaps there will be a little bit of guesswork going on. Nay, quite a lot, nay, probs wouldn’t trust any of us. Especially the ones who shouted ” Brexit is having NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER”, on July 1st 2016 (oh yes, I remember you).

However, humour me.. I do have one surefire, rock solid, safe as houses property guess for 2017 (but please don’t get excited if you’re outside of Zone1)

In 2017 more foreigners will buy property in the UK than in 2016…

Stick that in your Cuban cigar and smoke it Nige.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A right royal home in Ascot.

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I am a property finder and people pay me to source them very good homes – so I am picky, more than picky, I am flaming awkward. I view and discount thousands of homes for my clients, they pay me to weed out the chaff and to deliver to their taste. In essence I am long in the tooth and I’m not easily impressed.

I have been asked to take a look at a new Cala home in leafy Ascot. I like Ascot, I like the neatness of the high street with everything you need day to day, amazing schools and some splendid restaurants and bars. Not to mention the pick of some of the worlds greatest golf clubs on your doorstep, (criteria number one for him indoors).

I like the excitement of race days when the streets are over run with ladies in their finery tottering from the station in their high heels then hobbling back in their flip flops and worse for wear fascinators

Nice place Ascot, particularly as it is enveloped in the lovely green folds of Windsor Great park with stunning walks and royalty around every corner.

However I am a bit funny about new homes. I’ve seen more than my fair share and I still harbour memories of cheap paper houses with half finished skirting boards and walls so thin you can hear your neighbours scratch. Not to mention rooms too small to swing a hamster with miniature furniture designed to fool you. So it is with a suspicious eye that I swish through the electric gates and do one of those cool one handed turns to park in front of the porticoed entrance. Very James Bond – I’m on a mission.

Having introduced myself to the consultant I was delighted to be left to mooch around on my own, I can’t bear being followed around. Viewing houses is about soaking it all up and you can’t do that being harangued by a pushy sales person – thankfully no fear here.

The first thing that hits you is the cavernous entrance hall, it is rather heavenly in its marbley-ness and soars thirty foot plus, divine for showing off seriously large artwork and the best feature chandelier ever. Not to mention shouting out for the largest Xmas tree in Royal Berkshire.Cala homes hallway

But being an awkward sort I have a bit of a check list to go through. Firstly it’s about quality and secondly it’s about how it works for a family. So many new houses are designed for show as opposed to how todays familys live. And that is key. Will I be won over by the luxury and can I see a family living and growing up here, or is it really just a ‘show home’.

It’s silly things that warm my cockles and in this case it’s an oft overlooked room, the cloak room. Bigger and better than you’d find in the best West London hotels, a wonderful bank of bespoke cupboards, ample space for a posh puffa in every colour and leading to a toilet area large enough to practice your Strictly moves. If they haven’t skimped here it bodes well for the rest, I muse.IMG_2616

There’s a great office off the hall which I like, I am not a fan of studys being stuck three flights up in an overlooked area. We all access our computers all times of the night and day so it is great to be in the thick of it.

The reception room overlooks the grounds, elegant but not overly ostentatious and a dining room with double doors faces you as you walk in, lovely positioning so you get to view a beautiful dining suite with the garden beyond as you walk into the house.And probably enough space to feed thirty.IMG_2629

These are all well and good for entertaining in your glad rags but I want to see where the family will live. Have they screwed up and the kitchen is an after thought as is so common these days?

Blooming heck it is a bit fab, L shaped and huge. I can see the family living here all day long. A sofa area overlooking the garden where you’d curl up with the kids to watch TV. On the other side an area for a huge dining table for informal and lets be honest 350 days of the year friends and family dining a la Jamie Oliver, (not a turkey twizzler or fizzy drink in sight).

And then there’s the kitchen.

I like kitchens, it’s my thing and I am awfully particular. Big doesn’t mean better, it is all in the detail. Yes I want a swathe of work surface to spread out on (that’s more than covered here), it even has little shiny bits in the granite which I sadly always find exciting. However, what about that detail?, those things that give you a feeling that you’re dealing with quality not just ‘what they can get away with’?IMG_2618

Firstly the lighting is a big give away. Many developers try to get away with a bit of lighting under the top cupboards and a central light. Not here. The lighting has been designed, properly designed. Layer upon layer of feature lighting, true painting with light, so that when the main lights are off the dark wood kitchen is a sculpted in light. Then the cupboards and drawers, They have that wonderful feeling of quality, opening and closing with a gentle swish. Classy. Behind the kitchen is the utility, accessed from a side door so muddy dogs and children can be deloused before coming into the glossy haven. An absolute godsend.

It’s not the largest garden, it won’t suit those wanting acreage but Dad can get his goal posts out for a proper Dad V Son match and Mum can overlook from the lovely wide ‘gin and tonic’ terrace with something chilled in hand – or maybe that’s just my ideal.

Time to head upstairs and up the magnificent curved stair case. Unusually for a new build it has a rather beautiful turned mahogany balustrade sweeping curvaceously to the first floor rather than an off the peg metal job that I see so often. IMG_2630This is seriously worthy of some Mary Poppins sliding down the banisters moments, only in my dreams mind, because frankly marble doesn’t make a very bouncy landing.

The galleried landing is a bit breathtaking to be honest, wide and with an area for reading peacefully, just three rooms lead off so it isn’t horridly hotel-like with banks of doors.IMG_2637

And so onto the master suite and the killer question; does it work? Is it the go to sanctuary that a luxury home really must offer Mum and Dad? So often they aren’t. Unusually here you enter into a very grown up sitting room through double doors with views onto your piece of Royal Berkshire landscape and beyond. To the right is the bedroom with views out over green and to the left a dressing room seriously worthy of any of the top echelons of the Kardashian tribe – with a marbled bathroom to luxuriate in for hours.

There is no let up in well thought out design with the other four bedrooms either. All with their own en suite bathrooms and bags of storage – in fact ‘bags of storage’ sums up this house. No tripping over suitcases and ski stuff here, there’s more than enough space for even the most hideous hoarder to squirrel away their stuff neatly.

Finally there is an exciting little addition, (I don’t mean little!) that my clients are always absolutely desperate for – above the garage with it’s own entrance is a self contained studio flat. Designed perfectly for the au pair or for keeping the in-laws at a decent distance.

As I said, I am terribly suspicious of new homes – the small rooms, the shoddy workmanship and the lack of understanding of how familys now live.

But Hurlingham delights. It has one of the best master suites I can remember seeing. And the detailing that many developers just don’t bother with, such as the hand made balustrade, the incredible lighting in the kitchen and the practicality of the second entrance and the boot/utility room. Plus the bonus of the separate ‘guest’ accommodation. It all adds up to a big bundle of well thought out quality. In two words- it works.

Plot 3, Brockenhurst Road, Ascot, Cala Homes Thames

Plot 3, Brockenhurst Road, Ascot, Cala Homes Thames

So if a client comes to me who wants to live in a home fit for a King, near to the sport of Kings and frankly near plenty of Kings – but they want (as most do) a true home to bring up their family, then I will be marching them in, as this is a right royal home indeed.

As Jamie might say, through a mouthful of quinoa and freshly squeezed kale juice. ‘It’s pukka!’.

Footnote: More details can be found about this home (Hurlingham, Brockenhurst Road) and other Cala homes here – but before I managed to get the ink dry on writing this it was reserved – it wasn’t just me who liked it…

Estate Agent Types..

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Foxy looks great in his House of Fraser suit and wears his pointy D&G shoes with pride, particularly as he got a right deal at TK Maxx. Foxy is driven to sell. Partly because he is on £8k a year basic and a shared flat in Shoreditch doesn’t come cheap. Partly because if he doesn’t he knows he’ll have to stand on a table at the morning meeting and recite ‘I am a loser’ while his colleagues (enemies), jeer and spray him with Perrier. If an unknown number comes up between 8am and 12pm it will be Foxy – ‘calling out’. No matter you found 12 months ago, he was just checking you were happy in it because if you need to sell….

Catchphrase: If you throw enough *!@&..
Likes:  His database.
Dislikes: Loooo-sers.

Caroline is single, she wasn’t always. She has left a number of husbands in her wake. The latest woke to find his suits sleeveless and a Facebook photo of him, a goat and an unverifiable accusation. Caroline is not to be messed with. She rules her Agency with iron talons and only hires young men or women older and fatter than her. She wears power suits in jewel colours, very very high heels and has long swishy hair, which she swishes, a lot. She rarely wears tights on her long fake tanned legs and when in the company of men could give Sharon Stone a run for her leg-crossing money. Caroline prides herself on a new brand of feminine Estate Agency, thus the office has pink accessories, Designer Guild cushions and black and white photographs with motivational quotes.

Catchphrase: Fab after Fifty.

Likes: Carole Middleton.

Dislikes: Younger women.

Michaela is more careful about showing off her tattoo since being promoted from receptionist, although the fake tan has sadly dulled it anyway. She has also splashed out on a couple of Next suits. Michaela would like to live in every property she shows and she tells every buyer. Sadly this is just a pipe dream since boyfriend Gaz was made redundant from Kwik-Fit. Still, his Grandma is ill and she’s got a lovely retirement bungalow in Bognor, so there is hope. Michaela has Heart.

Catchphrase: It’s alright for some.
Likes: Loose Women
Dislikes: Anyone abov’emselves.

Christine looks Mumsy but she has seen it all and let me tell you, it was all negative then and it’s no flaming better now. The only people she likes are her son, who is perfect and the Manager and district Manager, who she bakes cakes for. Those young ruddy negs in the office are a constant irritant and they ain’t picking up the phone first or getting their bleeding fingers on her applicant list if she has anything to do with it. They can do her viewings though.  Christine only likes buyers who are male, middle class and flirt with her. Do not bring children to viewings, that steel eyed stare will cause them nightmares.

Catchphrase: I spoke to that applicant first.
Likes: Strictly Come Dancing
Dislikes: People.
Dave is to be found south of the river offering ‘sell your house for £500’ deals from his one man office above Greggs. ‘It’s all about volume innit. Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap didn’t do Tesco’s any harm did it?!’
Dave is a bit stressed, quite a bit of the time, because he isn’t piling them high and frankly he’s not selling them neever.
You can find the Greater Spotty Dave on Rightmove. His properties have the toilet seats up and the washing up takes centre stage. If you look even closer, there he is complete with flash in the bathroom mirror.
Dave drives an Astra but he really, really aspires to a Vectra.

Catchphrase: I just want to offer punters value for money.
Likes: Greggs sausage rolls and Boots meal deals.
Dislikes: Any Estate Agent with a listing.

Sheila is to be found in the shires, Sheila is upper middle class and upper middle aged with hair sprayed so hard you wouldn’t get through it with a toffee hammer. Particular specialties are equestrian property and being scary. Expect the Spanish Inquisition if you try to book a viewing, so for ease of passage change your name to Camilla, honk a lot and have equine worming tablets visible in your handbag.

Catchphrase: If Daddy hadn’t lost on Lloyds I wouldn’t be here.
Likes: Princess Anne
Dislikes: Commoners.

Rupert
Can’t miss him out!
The older generation Rupert wasn’t quite bright enough to go to University but young men from frightfully good families do need a profession with a business card and the City was picky back then. The younger generation have Land Management degrees from St Andrews, Durham and of course Cirencester. Dead handy because they never know if Papa might pop his clogs and they’ll have to take the reins at the family large-holding.
Never try jokes or irony with a Rupert – they won’t get it. However, they ‘won’t get it’ with the most impeccable manners.

Catchphrase: Do you play Rugger?
Likes: A blo*dy good pheasant shoot
Dislikes: Being called an Estate Agent.

So, due to concerns of biting the hand that feeds me, let me make it clear that these character are not based on anyone living or dead and bear no resemblance to any Estate Agent I have met in the course of my daily life. In fact I shall go as far as saying I have made it all up and that all Estate Agents are made of sugar and spice and stop for hedgehogs crossing the road. Apart from Rupert of course, who shoots them.

Quiz – How to work with your Estate Agent

If you are going to pay someone in the region of 1.5% of your major asset, your life 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. 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 do due diligence on the buyer’s position at the outset and 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’. and 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.

Another Estate Agent type…

Caroline is single, she wasn’t always. She has left a number of husbands in her wake. The latest woke to find his suits sleeveless and a Facebook photo of him, a goat and an unverifiable accusation. Caroline is not to be messed with.

She rules her Agency with iron talons and only hires women older and fatter than her. She wears power suits in jewel colours, very very high heels and has long swishy hair, which she swishes, a lot. She rarely wears tights on her long fake tanned legs and when in the company of men could give Sharon Stone a run for her leg-crossing money.

Caroline prides herself on a new brand of feminine Estate Agency, thus the office has pink accessories, Designer Guild cushions and black and white photographs with motivational quotes.

Catchphrase: Fab after Fifty.

Likes: Carole Middleton.

Dislikes: Younger women.

The aspirational A-Z of a middle class home… Allegedly.

Featured

A   Annexe. For ‘the help’.

B   Boot room. Only Dubarrys allowed.

C   Corian worktops. White. Ribena banned.

D   Dualit toaster. Purely for show because carbs are BAD.

E   Emma Bridgewater mugs. Fifteen quid a pop. Mugs?

F   Fruit and veg juicer. Only used once due to cleaning ‘issues’.

G   Glass box extension plonked on the back of your Wandsworth semi.

H   Hens. Ex-battery, housed in a plastic Joseph & Joseph looky-likey Eglu.

I    Induction hob. For creating a real buzzzzz in the kitchen.

J  Joseph & Joseph everything.

K  KitchenAid mixer. Cos life’s too short to hold an electric whisk.

L  Lutron lighting. Because sometimes you’re in a pink mood but other times mauve.

M  Music. Sonos etc. Or as we used to call it, piped.

N  Nandos. The middle classes KFC.

O  Ocado. No moving to the country unless they deliver.

P  Pantry. To store all your Quinoa.

Q  Quooka- boiling water tap, because your life’s too busy to boil a kettle

R  Riedel wine glasses. One for every type of wine. Like that’s gonna happen.

S  Shutters. AKA plantation blinds – because who needs light?

T  Tub. Stand alone in middle of the room. Shiny metal or egg shaped plastic. Silly.

U  Umami. Allegedly adds taste to Quinoa.

V  Vitra Eames stuff. Copies of design classic furniture. Copies.

W  Waste disposal. Quinoa disposal.

X   Xander. One child at least should be called this.

Y  You – think of something.

Z  Zebra hide rug. Cos there’s nothing nicer than walking on dead wildlife.

…and before you ask, I ONLY have eight.