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.

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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.

Housing bubble, what housing bubble?.. Oh.

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I’ll be honest, I’m a bit perplexed.
I’ve been on the telly and the radio a few times over the past few weeks. Firstly, about three weeks ago, it was to talk about the Bank of England’s governor Mark Carney. Carney had said that the BoE had tools in their armoury to ward off an over-heated property market should it arise. These tools were primarily based on reducing the Loan to value percentages that Lenders could offer. This caused the press to question if there was a housing bubble.
His solutions to a problem we didn’t yet have, I pointed out, were interesting as they were in direct conflict with the governments Help2Buy scheme, which was addressing people’s lack of deposits by ostensibly encouraging and facilitating 95% mortgages. Strange as the BoE was surely hand in hand with the Government on Help2Buy.
However, I said that it was far too early to talk of a ‘housing bubble’ and it was clear he was merely being cautious. I also said, with conviction that I didn’t feel Help2Buy was fuelling a feeding frenzy. That it merely aided those in need and gently added to general confidence that had arisen with a little more economic confidence.

Then RICS came out with their suggestion that property price rises should be capped at 5%, with the inference that a housing bubble had started. I hit quite a few screens and airwaves that day. By the end of the day the sweeping 5% cap had morphed into ‘well maybe not 5%’ then ‘maybe geographically targeted’ and ended with a general sense of ‘this hasn’t really been thought through’.
Again, I pointed out, the market simply has a bit more confidence and is a bit better than the past few horrendous years. A little more traction allowing more people to get on with their lives and buy, sell, move. Yes, there may be a little blip before supply starts to meet demand but this should level as builders build and more sellers sell.
It was far too early to talk of a housing bubble, I said with conviction.

I was confident that Help2Buy would not create a frenzy. That it was being introduced gently and that it would slowly but surely help the right people access home buying. I was confident that the lenders criteria on who they lent to would be strict and that we wouldn’t be making the same mistakes of pre-2007. In fact only last week the Chancellor had tried to address housing bubble fears by supporting Mark Carney’s earlier position. The Chancellor is clearly concerned not to cause a bubble I thought at the time. Hmm.

Then, on the eve of the Tory conference, funny that, George Osborne comes out and says they are bringing forward the Help2Buy guarantee scheme from January to almost immediate effect. As I spoke to a BBC researcher on Saturday night (admittedly through a haze of Sav Blanc), we pondered why. There could be no good timing reason for this from a property perspective. The market is close to slowing for Christmas. January made sense.

Suddenly there are reports of high street banks staying open late. Mortgage Brokers I know are in a state of panic as phones ring off the hook, (and suggest lenders aren’t ready even for January). Buyers are calling me saying they need to buy quickly before prices go up. Vendors are visibly digging heels in on what last week I regarded as inflated asking prices. My clients with homes under offer are questioning if they have undersold.

The only thing not visibly changing is stock. It isn’t coming on. The estate agents phones may be ringing – but not with sellers. All in a few days.

Now I’m not an economist but I do understand simple supply and demand maths.

Rather than the ‘steady as she goes’ approach to the housing market, we’ve been delivered a political peeing contest: ‘I’ll take your energy price freeze Ed and raise you our ‘mortgages for all’ corker, Woohoo!’ (but ssh about the supply bit).
I can no longer with conviction pooh pooh talks of a housing bubble – a little political oneupmanship and I fear the supertanker is no longer on what I believed was a steady course. I am left with a sinking feeling.

A Chinese Horrorscope

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Chinese clients arriving. A new thing for me, I’m usually found hanging around Knightsbridge with an emergency headscarf and carefully ending my sentences with ‘inshalla’.. Culturally this is going to be interesting.

The entourage consists of Billionaire lady client, I shall call her Miss Chang and her older sister who I am instructed to refer to as Aunty. The two middle-aged Chinese clients are surprisingly tall and tower over me. They sport cords, sensible shoes and hair styling that involved using a bowl. Also attending is her private banker who will translate as neither lady speaks English. This banker is Miss Chang’s doer and attends to her every whim with a permanently petrified expression. There will be a lot of whims. There is also Bill the 11 year old son, who I am yet to meet. There seems to be no Mr Chang, I don’t enquire.

There are a few things we would like you to arrange while we are here, the banker tells me. We wish to move in by the end of the week, Aunty doesn’t like hotels. Secondly, Miss Chang is very keen on the Royal family. Would it be possible to meet them, she has asked her friend the Ambassador but he hasn’t fixed it yet. It would be great if we can meet David Beckham too, Oh and can we go to Tesco’s because Miss Chang has read that is where William and Kate shop.

Leave it with me I say, I might just be able to swing the Tesco bit.

The banker reiterates that what Miss Chang wants, she must get. And that goes for Bill too. Cost is not an issue if she wants it. Having recently bought her a Maldives island, her major task had been to ship a couple of sea turtles that had caught Bill’s eye, to the Beijing back garden. Miss Chang had been ‘extremely angry’ when the World Wildlife Fund had got involved and Bill had had to compromise with a couple of terrapins.

Property wise, I have had a brief which consists of finding them an ‘up-scale’ apartment or house close to the son’s new boarding school. Aunty will be living in it as his guardian. Aunty has never been to the UK and will be deposited here when the rest of the entourage leaves in a week. They don’t find this odd.

We look at a house. First question, which way does it face? Banker and I stand there shaking our iPhone compasses for all it’s worth. Miss Chang’s face gave the answer. The wrong way.

Onto next house. I am forewarned, compass at the ready I brightly inform them it faces the RIGHT way, (can’t remember, so don’t ask). Smiles all round and we proceed inside. The Feng Shui analysis and my lesson in spirits (not my favoured kind), begins. The garden slopes the wrong way. The bedroom mirrors will steal her spirit in the night. There are unhealthy looking plants in the garden. Bad. The back door faces the front door, this will allow a strong rush of Chi out of the house, (closely followed by me at this point). It is not square enough. Bad. Bottom line, it’s a bad house and Miss Chang eyes me ferociously for having shown it to her. On the bright side, they liked the cowskin rugs and want some shipped back to China. Can I arrange?

Nevertheless it takes an hour in this wholly bad house and then we head for refreshments. What year were you born? asks Miss Chang through the banker. I tell her. She visibly brightens. Miss Chang is happy. This is good. I am like her, a rabbit. Miss Chang says we will all get on. She likes rabbits. We all smile and nod happily.

It is Tuesday. I finally show them a flat on the Thames close to their hotel, one I have had in mind since talks began and they like it. In fact they want it and they want to move in on Friday but Bill needs to see it. He is 11 years old he is referred to as the Master. He will decide. I’ll worry about the ‘move in Friday’ bit later.

Bill is brought out of school to view the apartment. He is a personable young man with good English. The entourage stand quietly watching with baited breath as Bill walks around the apartment. Touching surfaces and jumping on the bed, Bill gives nothing away. Having exhausted all possible properties, let’s just say I want the kid to like it. Bill goes to the river view window and clocks some swans wafting along the water. His eyes open and he looks at the banker, points and says something in Mandarin. The banker pales visibly. Something is going on. He then speaks with his Mother. They are buying the flat.

They want the furniture, a price of £60,000 is quoted. I think this is high but the banker points out her handbag was £20,000, she’d arranged shipping from Paris herself, so it really isn’t an issue. Hmm, a twenty grand handbag and a £4.50 haircut.

I negotiated as much as I could off and set to work on moving them in 48 hours. I won’t bore you with the mechanics but with an amenable developer and a rather good lawyer charging three times his usual fee, we were on course. Paperwork driven between lawyers, texts from lawyers at 11pm and ‘views’ taken on various parts. It was a blooming joy.

At midday on Friday our lawyer arrived at their hotel opposite the apartment with exchange and completion papers in hand. Duly signed,  I watched as he stood on the highest part of the bridge outside to get a signal and completion took place.

With much hand shaking and smiling, we deposited the entourages belongings with the porter and handed him a twenty. He duly pushed the luggage trolley across the bridge to the apartment along with the gaggle of excited Chinese. I followed behind, with the Tesco carrier bags full of toilet rolls. Yes, we were looked at.

Leaving the clients in the flat, the banker insisted we went for a coffee. I am assuming a congratulatory exchange but I don’t get one.

“Miss Chang is very disappointed in you,” I am told (my mouth may have dropped open at this point). “You have failed to arrange meetings with any of the Royal family or David Beckham and haven’t organised the cowskin rugs. However,” she says, face breaking into a conspiratorial smile, “You can redeem yourself with one very, very important task.

“What Bill liked most about the flat were the swans. They want some shipped to Beijing. I need it sorting, a minimum of two, no excuses.”

Ironic, I think. First I’m berated for not arranging a Royal meet, then they want me to nick some of their swans.

“Leave it me with I say,” and leg it.

At home, trying to make sense of the past few days, I idly Google Chinese horoscopes. Turns out I am not a Rabbit, I am a Tiger. Funnily enough, this is a very bad match.

If you’re looking for a London property finder, visit our website at www.bdihomefinders.co.uk.

Ten good reasons why NOT to use me as your Buying Agent

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Bullet If you’re younger, slimmer and prettier than me, you may find I spend our days out with a pinched expression.

Bullet If you like laminate flooring I may have to stay in the car.

Bullet If you think you can buy something good at 40% below market value I may laugh quite loud and quite long.

Bullet If you want me to tell the Agent that you’ll pull out of the deal if you don’t get the dishwasher, I may go into spanking mode.

Bullet If you want a house 30 minutes from London with no noise I will present you with earplugs.

Bullet If there is even the suggestion of Feng Shui I will turn into Ninja Buying Agent.

Bullet If you look like you knit your own yoghurt I may suggest you call Kirstie Allsop instead.

Bullet If the amateur surveyor friend you bring on viewings says ANYTHING, I will stiletto him into the lino.

Bullet If you and your husband have a 50% disparity in budget, be aware that my relationship skills are wholly restricted to being smarmy to Estate Agents.

Bullet I don’t have a double-barrelled name, a signet ring on my pinkie and I have been known to wear Clarks sandals.