Monthly Archives: August 2011

The agents keep sending me the wrong property details!

(…But I’ve just made an offer on one)

As agents, we are often accused of sending out completely the wrong type of property to people (only for them to subsequently buy something exactly like that). So why do people reject those properties at the time only to purchase them later?

In terms of estate agency cliché’s, sending out ‘the wrong type of details’ ranks alongside ‘all agents are awful’ yet, agents persist in doing it and, clients persist in buying ‘the wrong properties’. So is it the agents fault, or all of the buyers who don’t seem to know their own minds?

In fact, it’s a bit of both.

The buyers: As soon as buyers have made the decision that they need to move home, they usually have a relatively firm picture of the home they want. This idea is usually, and understandably enough, focussed strongly on the principle reason for the move (an extra room is needed for a new baby etc). Consequently, the initial description given to an agent will be a very clear instruction of perceived needs. However, if a suitable property isn’t found relatively quickly, buyers will often re-assess their needs.

This is either a simple logical process driven by market realities (they can’t afford to buy in the area they ‘had to’ move to so need to consider other options) or, a more complex one. There is often a realisation that their list of ‘must-haves’ are, in fact, not as essential as they first thought; following a re-assessment of other factors involved with the need for moving e.g. not just an extra room for baby but also the need to be near schools; bus routes, play parks, have a garden etc.

The agents: Let’s be honest from the outset; far too many agents are just plain bone idle and don’t listen to buyers. It’s much easier to mindlessly fill an envelope with everything on the list, than take a little time and be selective; after all, if you throw enough rubbish at a wall, some of it will stick; right?

However, there are also those agents who have been around the block a bit and have a good idea of what a buyer actually needs compared to what they say they want, based on the reasons given for moving. Consequently, they may appear to be throwing rubbish at a wall but, in fact, look a little more closely, and you will see a pattern emerging in what has been sent. It’s still not ideal but, it’s understandable.

You then have the agents who will take the time to ask a great many questions of the buyers when they register (whenever possible), and to use this information to build a personalised picture for that buyer. The agents will also explain WHY they need that information and how this will help them find a property the buyer wont put straight back on the market having moved in, as they have overlooked a crucial factor. The agent will also try and show the buyer some other properties and explain why they are sending/ showing these, despite what the buyer has just told them. He is trying to help them save money and find a property that really suits their current and likely future needs. In short; he is trying to find them a home.

PDQ SALES AND RENTAL AGENTS IN WEST CORNWALL

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. Chris lives in Penzance in west Cornwall, 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.

Affordable housing doesn’t work

Local homes for local people, key worker policies, Section 106 agreements. Do they work or do they create more problems than they solve?

Related blog Housing in West Cornwall, an opinion

…instead of being able to sell with perhaps a little profit or, at least a small loss; they are now almost certain to face repossession and subsequent credit blacklisting.

There has been a lot of debate in the media recently about ‘affordable housing’. But what is it? For many, it is trumpeted as the greatest thing since sliced bread; allowing local people or, people who are not so well off, to live in or move to, an area they could otherwise not afford. A helping hand in the dog eat dog world of the housing market. A laudable aim.  But is it that simple?

My solution is that local authorities could lend deposit monies to first time buyers with the same percentage stake being retained in the property by the council.

Politics aside, the first question that must be addressed is that of why we are building affordable housing. Is it a) to ensure that everyone who wishes to can own their own property or, b) to provide housing for people who could otherwise not afford to buy?

If it is a) then we need to ask whether we can afford to do this as a country and, also, whether this is ethically sound. Why do we want everyone to own their own home? Home ownership is not the right choice for many for a variety of reasons in any case.

So, is it b)? giving a helping hand to those who wish to buy (or have been convinced by peer, social & media pressure that it is a good thing) but cannot afford market prices? Leaving aside the ethical and moral issues this, then, begs the immediate question as to how do we decide who receives the helping hand and why. And with that question there is the accompanying unsaid statement and moral issue about who doesn’t receive help and why.

This means that the children of many ‘local’ families, my own included, have little, if any, chance of buying their own home near to where they were born or wish to work.

Whilst it is certainly not unique to the Duchy; in Cornwall, we have a terribly low median salary and very high median property prices. This means that the children of many ‘local’ families, my own included, have little, if any, chance of buying their own home near to where they were born or wish to work. The result is that many live at home, rent or move away. There are knock on effects too. Emergency services such as fire-fighters etc. need to live within a certain distance of their work but this is often impossible. This has led many across Cornwall and other areas (parts of London and other cities as well) to suggest that we have a ‘key worker’ policy for property. But what, exactly, is a ‘key worker’?

A growing number of lenders are now refusing to lend on 106 agreement homes – making onward sale very difficult and further affecting values for the owners

Is a fire-fighter, more important than, say, a shoe salesperson? Is a nurse not a key worker along with a refuse collector? Is a local business owner who provides employment for local people to be denied an ‘affordable home’ simply because everyone assumes that, as a business, she she is automatically wealthy (an odd but pervasive assumption that often defies reason and reality)? Some would argue strongly that people who work in the media, politics or arts are key workers for the important role they play in our democracy and spiritual well-being. In fact, in my opinion, everyone who works for a living and pays taxes is a key worker; no matter which way you value their job. So can you really make homes available for key workers if you can’t fairly define what one really is?

…in my opinion, everyone who works for a living and pays taxes is a key worker; no matter which way you value their job.

So let’s move away from the tricky subject of key workers and try another angle that is often tried: local homes for local people. Again, we then have the problem of defining just what is local. Is it to be by mere accident of birth/ a demonstrable lineage within an area for a set number of generations? Or, perhaps in Cornwall and Wales at least, it could also be by genetics?

Being born locally: now is this to be physically born in the town itself (a home-birth) or, to parents who lived in the town at the time of birth and, what if you were born in the town but moved away as a child; do you still qualify? All sorts of problems there so; maybe a demonstrable lineage from an area is better? Well, that immediately creates problems for those whose families have actually married outside of the local gene pool at some point in the recent past so that idea falls at the first fence.

Genetics it is then! But even here in Cornwall, where the remnants of the oldest tribes to inhabit Britain reside, the Celts, we also have a problem. For thousands of years, the Cornish have been  miners, seafarers and metal-traders and, like most sailors and traders, they haven’t always played at home, ahem. Consequently, proud ‘Cornish’ families bear the now anglicised names of Breton fishermen, survivors from the Spanish Armada and miners from all over the world. And, no doubt, scratch deep enough, and there will be genetic evidence linking many of long historical descent to the pre-historic traders from the Mediterranean who traded tin, silver and gold with our distant forebears. So that’s out too… unless you bring in a ‘racial purity’ clause of course. Anyone feel comfortable with that?

Leaving aside the minefield of whether we should and can build affordable housing and who we actually give the golden ticket too, what happens to those people who have been given one of these cheaper than average houses? Often, such properties are sold with a great deal of red tape tied in with them, often as what is called a ‘Section 106 Agreement. Sadly, in my experience, these golden ticket holders soon find themselves trapped in a home they cannot sell and are usually forbidden from letting out; that no longer suits their growing family or personal circumstances. Cornwall Council 106 page

Sadly, in many years of dealing with these properties, I have seen these same people who were supposed to have been helped by this well-intentioned piece of meddling with the laws of market forces; suffering real hardship and distress as a result:

  • Couples who need more space for a new baby, unable to sell at a price that enables them to trade up without moving out of the area; stress, just when they don’t need it.
  • Families who are splitting up, tied to a property that they can’t sell at a price that allows each side to move swiftly on with their lives – causing more tension and stress at an already emotionally charged time.
  • Home-owners who, having lost the relatively low paid job they did have, now unable to sell as no buyers meet the buying criteria {update – A growing number of lenders are now refusing to lend on 106 agreement homes due to the restriction clauses making onward sale difficult and further affecting values for the owners}. Consequently, instead of being able to sell with perhaps a little profit or, at least a small loss; they are now almost certain to face repossession and subsequent credit blacklisting. Much as the champions of affordable housing might hope; market forces have the final word.

Affordable housing is, as I have said above, a highly laudable ideal if you believe that everyone should be encouraged to own their own homes. Making it work effectively has, so far, proved to be counter-productive in almost every case I have encountered. Is state/ local authority owned social housing due for a return perhaps?

My solution is that local authorities could lend deposit monies to first time buyers with the same percentage stake being retained in the property by the council. The stake would have to be repaid within a twenty five year period or, on the sale or transfer of the property. At that point, the stake would be repaid plus interest at a set rate above the base rate or, at 25% of the area average house price* increase over the period since purchase – whichever is the greater figure. This would provide an excellent start for first-time buyers without onerous re-sale restrictions and, would be an ethically and financially sound investment vehicle for councils.

What do you think? Share your views below

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.

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  In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is 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.

*using HM Land Registry Data

You’re talking to a person first, customer second

How often do you get exasperated with a customer? They just don’t seem to understand what you are on about. They don’t GET the situation that faces them. They’re not unintelligent people but they seem to have recently taken a sound thrashing with the stupid stick. But who’s the real fool?

In most industries, but in service industries like estate agency especially, it is too easy to forget that we are dealing with people; not customers. Yes they may be customers as well, but, they are people with needs, fears and expectations first and foremost.

In estate agency, we are dealing with people who are making one of the largest emotional commitments in life; often due to another life-changing change in personal circumstances – job, divorce, death, pregnancy etc. It is a hard fact that the stresses and emotions involved can cause mood changes and depression so it’s hardly surprising that the business of buying or selling a property is an emotionally charged minefield; for them and us.

In earlier blogs, I have often stressed the need to ask questions, find out information and to listen more than you talk and to manage expectations and they are all key to making your job easier and, more importantly, your customers experience a positive one.

In estate agency, I often find we play many roles apart from salesperson and often, chief of these is that of a counsellor. By asking the right questions, finding out WHY someone is moving, WHY they need to be in quickly, WHY they have a certain aversion to an area (in one case I know of, the customer’s very unpleasant ex in-laws lived around the corner). Crack the ‘why’ and everything else is plain sailing.

It’s only once you have found out someone’s motivation for moving and the reasons behind and surrounding it that you can really begin to offer a truly helpful and personal service and understand just why this apparently otherwise intelligent person has taken temporary leave of their senses…..It’s quite possible that due to the stress of everything going on in their lives at the moment; they really have. Be nice 😉

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. 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 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 Klout 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. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.