Monthly Archives: June 2011

Mortgage repossession tsunami?

The headline writers have been having a field day today with hyperbole and fear to the fore. Some of mans’ most basic physical and psychological needs are tied up in property ownership and I am sad to say it appears that these needs are being played on to sell cheap headlines at the cost of a lot of people’s genuine fears and health.

There is no doubt that many people could lose their homes if they don’t take responsibility for their debts and take action to reduce them, if rates rise significantly, if banks stop being so tolerant and if the government, who bailed the banks out, don’t  step in and do something. But that’s a lot of if’s.

First ‘IF’ first. In the twenty plus years I have been an estate agent, I have seen and continue to see people who are stupid with money, people who don’t understand money, people who are hit by unexpected events and people who are scared of money. These are the people who are most at risk if rates rise. The stupid people, the ones who continue to spend extravagantly or simply don’t take steps to reduce expenditure knowing they cannot afford to continue for long like that, will always be top of the list and I, for one, wont be losing too much sleep over them.

Those who, through no fault of their own have found themselves victims of circumstance or, those who don’t understand/ are frightened of money should take action now if your outgoings are exceeding your income. www.moneysavingexpert.co.uk, The Citizens Advice Bureau and other organisations provide excellent free advice to help you find the right solution for you. Don’t be ashamed to ask, there are thousands like you and you WLL feel better doing something positive about your worries. Do it now, don’t wait until its too late.

Next ‘IF’. The last time we saw a large increase in repossessions, was back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Circumstances were massively different then as were the interest rates. I do not believe that we are anywhere close to the problems we faced in those dark days and, if we look behind the figures, neither, I suspect, do many others (save those who want you to read/ buy their headline). Yes, repossessions are up and may rise further. That is a sad inevitability of the current financial mess this Country is in. Will rates suddenly leap to over 10% or more? Really? I don’t think so. To talk of tsunamis is pure sensationalism.

Will the government step in to avoid a massive repossession crisis (should it actually materialise). No-one can answer that, not even the government. Gone of the days of dogma and seven-year plans; now, Governments seem to run on focus groups and headlines. It may be that the government has plans to keep the banks from pulling the plug, they may not; they may let us swing. What is pretty much given, is that the government in power, when and if this happens, will take a view on the day/s leading up to the problems and will weigh the balance of a return to the early 90’s housing market with the broad needs of its effect on the economy as a whole – and possibly, just possibly, how it will affect their re-election chances. Am I hopelessly naive? What do you think? Please add your comments and join in the debate below. Thanks

Chris Wood

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards for estate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on LinkedIn  Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Married to Amanda, he lives in Penzance with their children who are slowly flying the nest, his two dogs and his elderly Uncle. In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. He is currently mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

Please support the men and women in my unit, The 1st Battalion The Rifles, who become casualties in the line of service during their tour of Afghanistan by making a donation here www.swiftandbold.org

Is the sharp suit dead?

First posted in 2011

The current mini heatwave this week has caused a few tweets from agents who are unsure how to remain comfortable at work in their suits. If you are not an estate agent, this may seem an odd thing to be concerned about in the current housing climate (no pun intended) but, for many agents, wearing a suit to work is hard wired in from birth. Do I wear short sleeve shirts and risk being confused with someone who works in IT or, do I ditch the tie and jacket and roll up my sleeves and risk being thought of as laissez faire? You have no ideas the agonies some agents will have gone through this morning.

I haven’t worn a suit to work for years now but, I went through exactly those agonies a few years ago having watched so many television programmes and News reports and cringed every time when I realised that the typical estate agent sticks out a country mile in a crowd. I knew I needed to change when my kids started playing ‘spot the estate agent’ and laughing when the suited and booted gentleman that they had identified was, indeed, the agent. But, there was something else that occured to me. If my kids saw estate agents in suits as a clichéd joke, so did their customers.

Suits first started to be worn because they conveyed a sense of businesslike professionalism. It was the done thing, very British and commanded respect from the lower social classes of course. But times have changed since then. We may not live in a classless society quite yet but the ‘them and us’ barriers of expected deference have certainly gone. So what does wearing a suit actually say about us today? In my view, it creates an immediate barrier to business. A sharp suit is now associated with sharp practices and actually seen not as a status symbol, but quite the reverse. It is a salesperson’s uniform; it puts customers on their guard.

What did I do? Having spent most of my career dreaming of the day I would be able to afford a really nice, hand tailored suit and how great I would feel in it; I went mad and went to work with no tie. Rebel! Eyebrows were raised, expletives were uttered and the mickey was taken by my (female) colleagues. However, I persisted and we discussed my reasoning. The ladies, who were at the time my counsellors and fashion consultants (I was going through my divorce), suggested that I try a genuinely causal but smart approach rather than the half way house ‘Simon Cowell effect’ I had managed to achieve. So, over the course of the next few weeks, I slowly weaned myself of the suit entirely and took regular sounding from my customers, acutely aware that, breaking from the accepted norm could have a real impact on my income if customers didn’t like the new relaxed look.

My main concern was the more senior market. The generation for whom a suit was important. For a while, I even kept a suit at my office to change into just for the occasions when I knew I would be going out to see just such a customer. Looking back, I know why I did it and they were for good sound business reasons; but it sounds ridiculous today. After a few weeks of doing a rapid change out in the back office and coughing loudly whenever I heard one of the ladies heading towards the door; I decided to have the courage of my convictions and ditch the suit entirley.

My bold move paid off. My next appoitmnet was with a dear old soul in Gunwalloe (a beautifully sheltered cove on the Lizard Peninsula). I nervously stepped out of the car in my new casual rig and was greated by the beaming smile of my 80+ yeard old customer and the immortal lines “Ah! Mr Wood, so nice to see a young man (her words, I may be 44 but I moisturise regulalry) who doesn’t look as though he’s coming to sell me something.” The discussion that followed and, with other customers from whom I took soundings, convinced me that the suit in estate agency (with the exception of some niche markets) is dead.

So having made the switch to my now usual work attire of good quality shoes, jeans, shirt and jacket if its chilly; did my business crumble? No. I did initially receive some politely concerned words from  some colleagues at the NAEA during board and council meetings who were genuinely concerned that my dress was… ‘well… just… not really the done thing’ but even these gentlemen, I noticed, started to enjoy dressing down after they became used to the idea.

For me, business suits set up an immediate barrier, they put sellers on their guard. Moving home is a stressful experience without having to worry that you are about to be ripped off by a smooth talking, sharp suited, shark which is; like it or not, how many customers perceive estate agents. Requin

Good agents know that the best way to sell is not to sell at all; it is all about listening, understanding and being able to find a solution to someone else’s problem. That requires trust to be established and, if the clothes you wear create a barrier to that trust being built, then you need to think about what you take out of your wardrobe in the morning. Good luck!

Chris Wood

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards for estate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on LinkedIn  Ecademy Facebook and Twitter He lives in Penzance with his two dogs. In his spare time; Chris sails and likes to keep fit and was a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. He mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade in 2010.

Please support the men and women in my unit, The 1st Battalion The Rifles, who become casualties in the line of service during their tour of Afghanistan by making a donation here www.swiftandbold.org

Are asking prices unrealistic or are we simply seeing a confusion of average prices and market segments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are asking prices unrealistic or are we simply seeing a confusion of average prices and market segments?

In todays EAT the News that Rightmove have reported an increase in asking prices which, depending on your point of view, shows either an increase in confidence in the market or, another sign of unrealistic pricing and desperation in the housing market. Whatever your viewpoint, these average asking prices do not reflect the average selling price listed by the Land Registry, leading some to speculate that we are heading for a stagnated market. This may be true if these figures are accurate but, using average figures can be very misleading.

For example; lets assume my office is asked to sell 200 properties a year. 150 of which are 3 bed semi’s and come onto the market at £200,000. A further 50 instructions, however are two bed terrace homes at just £90,000. The average asking price of my total property stock is £172,500.

However this year, lets assume, that 3 bed semi’s aren’t selling well as everyone wants a smaller home; so only 50 of the 3 bed semi’s sell but 40 of my terraced homes exchange contracts successfully. This means that my average selling price for the year is £151,111

It’s immediately obvious that the average asking and selling prices bear no relation to the actual figures for housing in the two main sectors in my market. Neither do the average figures show that there is a major mismatch between what is actually selling and what is being put up for sale; yet that is very much the case in the imaginary scenario I have illustrated above.

If we were to look a little deeper behind today’s headlines and use mean and modal figures to analyse the results rather than relying on the oft overused and unintentionally misleading average figures, I suspect (but I have not seen the in-depth figures) that they will show that there are many higher priced properties being put up for sale but, that the majority of sales are actually lower priced, smaller homes.

Does this mean it is a stagnated market? Nationally, it is difficult to tell without looking at historical but accurate data from the Land Registry; to get an accurate picture of what is happening in your area/ region today, your best bet is to speak to a good local agent. All I can say from my area down here in West Cornwall, is that there are larger numbers of people making viewings, trying offers, agreeing sales and looking at our website and Facebook pages; this indicates to me that, in my area at least, we are seeing a gentle recovery and a returning of confidence in the market.

Chris.

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards for estate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on LinkedIn  Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Married to Amanda, he lives in Penzance with their children who are slowly flying the nest, his two dogs and his elderly Uncle. In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. He is currently mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

Please support the men and women in my unit, The 1st Battalion The Rifles, who become casualties in the line of service during their tour of Afghanistan by making a donation here www.swiftandbold.org

More reasons to start using social media in your business

I previously posed the question: ‘Does your agent Tweet’ as a blog aimed at customers. The flip side to that blog is written for you, the estate agent.

Quite apart from leads which have landed us some very lucrative deals as a direct result of conversations on Facebook and Twitter (deals, we simply would NOT have even been aware of without being actively engaged with the these two sites), the statistics speak for themselves. If you are not using social media actively as a business then you are losing out.

I am, I confess, a self-taught social media user for business; I have never attended a seminar or event on the subject but, the principles of good customer service, estate agency and business in general are, it would seem, pretty much universal. Learning how to make the most of them is fun.

Since opening my business, I have always measured results and plotted trends. It’s not that I am an anorak particularly, it’s just that I know that by watching what works, what doesn’t and what might be behind those effects; I can achieve better results with less effort and deliver higher standards of service to my customers (I also enjoy my job more as a result – bonus!).

Our website www.pdq-estates.co.uk  is no different in that, I have kept a close eye on how many people visit, from where, how often and what times of day are most/ least popular. By using this information, I have been able to target offers to the right people at the right time to generate the maximum response*. The advent of social media (Twitter and Facebook predominantly in my case) with a whole new range of information, adds a whole new dimension to the mix. Now, I can deliver useful, interesting and hopefully, occasionally, amusing property information to my existing customers and a whole raft more new ones. New customers that would have cost me thousands of pounds to generate by traditional means.

How do I know this is working? Just using the statistics from the beginning of this year to yesterday (16/06/2011), I can see that activity levels on our main website has risen by over 65%. I’m quite pleased with that, even allowing for the usually quiet start to the year, I can see that interest in my business has grown substantially. If I then add in HOW those visitors came to my site (were they referred by another site or search engine; did they come directly etc?) I can see that referrals from our Facebook  page to our main website have increased by over 1,300% (yes, that’s one thousand, three hundred percent) since January. From this, I know that, in addition to providing a popular service to the public and my customers, my Facebook page is now creating hard bankable business.

Twitter, too, has driven some traffic to our main website but, I don’t expect Twitter to drive many customers to my estate agency and lettings business. For me, I have discovered, Twitter’s main effect has predominantly creating contacts and opportunities for my business to business arm of my company (as well as allowing me to chat and learn from some very interesting, kind, funny and knowledgeable people).

* I can use the information from Facebook to tell prospective Landlords, for example, that the vast majority of the thousands of page views we receive on a weekly basis are of the age groups who are most likely to provide tenants for their property. The same statistics, also tell me that the more mature users of the internet spend a fair bit of time reading what we have to say and I can, therefore, ensure that what I put on my pages, has a well targeted appeal for them; even at what time it is best to post that article. Better still, I know pretty quickly how popular an article was/ wasn’t and whether it sent more or less enquiries than usual to our website.

There are a myriad of Social Media experts out there who have far more detailed and extensive knowledge than I but, if you are an estate agent and would like to talk more about this subject with me; I am offering my estate agency consultancy service free for a short period. All I ask in return is that you make a fair donation for my time to www.swiftandbold.org My contact details are available via my consulting page on my main website. Regards Chris

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

Chris Wood of PDQ Estates Ltd

PDQ Estate Agents website

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience. His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter and was a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

Please support the men and women in my unit, The 1st Battalion The Rifles, who become casualties in the line of service during their tour of Afghanistan by making a donation here www.swiftandbold.org

New women-only estate agency franchise launches

 

http://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/New-women-only-estate-agency-franchise-launches

I was going to blog about this but was wondering how I could do so without falling foul of various equality Laws or, the freedom of speech we are supposed to still enjoy in the UK today. Thankfully, British humour in all of its wonderfully diverse colours, sexual persuasions and genders has come to the fore and done the job for me on EAT’s ‘comments’ column. Well done to everyone who contributed. I hope that you are not censored by some twitchy HR lawyer at EAT towers; though I am sure that Rosalind will do her best to prevent that if I am right.

Chris

New Harry Hill company raises millions on stock market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Hill

 

http://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/New-Harry-Hill-conveyancing-company-raises-millions-on-stock-market

So, which is better at coaxing property sales through all the stages of the English conveyancing process to completion: my new conveyancing service or traditional high street firms…..?

There’s only one way to find out!

 

 

 

 

No offence meant but someone had to do it 😉 Chris

Signposting your service

In my blog ‘Delivering on your promises’ I touched on managing customer expectations and in this article, I’d like to explore that a little more deeply. I call it signposting your service.

When a customer walks into your office, they usually have a pretty good idea of what they want to achieve. They haven’t thought of it as a journey but they clearly know that the ‘destination’ is either to buy, sell or let a property. You can help make that journey a pleasurable one or, at the very least, a great deal less stressful by ensuring that the customer is aware of what to expect in advance and, kept well advised during the process.

To deliver service levels that customers rave about is simple. All you have to do is exceed their perceived expectations. In estate agency the perceived level of expected service is usually rather low which means that it is usually rather easy to be seen as ‘good’ and not much harder to be seen as ‘great’. That may sound cynical but it also happens to be true. However, service levels do seem to be increasing across the board, so good agents need to up their game and great agents need to keep one step ahead of the game as well.

So what is signposting? As the name implies, at the earliest opportunity, you establish the destination with the customer (in this example I am going to use the sale of their property as the ultimate goal). You then explain how you and your company are going to get them to their goal, what they will see on the journey, what problems they might encounter (surveys, chain problems, deeds etc) and, how you will overcome each of those problems for them should they arise. You also explain that, like a sat-nav, you will be on hand at every stage offering regular directional tweaks in the form of advice and warnings of potential problems ahead. It is also important that you ensure that the customer is aware of others they may meet on this road such as surveyors and solicitors; how they function and affect the journey and that ultimately, whilst you may have influence, they are outside of your control. What metaphors you use to explain this is down to you. What some may find impressive and business-like, others may think is cheesy or patronising.

During this initial route planning exercise, you should also explain that although you will be contacting them on a regular basis (agree a reasonable schedule between you) they are free to ask your advice at any time and that you encourage this.

Now comes the simple part. Stick to what you agreed! Contact the customer as regularly as you agreed during your signposting chat; update them of potential problems and opportunities and provide honest advice that is of benefit to them (even if not to you). Make sure that you regularly remind them, but not TOO often, just how they are progressing down the road that you told them they would and when you hit the potential problems you warned them they might. Remind and reassure are the key words. By reminding them, gently, of what you have promised from the outset, you will create a very strong sense of trust and confidence and, with it, a greater appreciation of your service and skills.

On the day of exchange or completion, after you have thanked them for their business, give a very brief reminder of the journey you mapped out for them and ask if they were happy with the advice they were given/ what you could do better next time. Good luck. Chris

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards for estate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on LinkedIn  Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Married to Amanda, he lives in Penzance with their children who are slowly flying the nest, his two dogs and his elderly Uncle. In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. He is currently mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

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