Category Archives: Mental health

There’s more to life than the high street

I’ve always been a bit of a Marmite character and todays’ trade press news has brought responses on both sides of the spectrum in the usual ratios.  I’ve been blessed to receive some wonderful phone calls, emails and DMs’ on social media wishing me the best of luck. Also, haters are always going to hate. They can only hurt you if you place a value in their opinion.

Like most new stories, you only get to see the tip of what is usually a much larger event and the factors leading to that event. This often leads to an understandable mix of responses based on the publicly available information, rather than the wider back story of the people or organisations involved.

Typical of some of the comments is from anonymous Property Industry Eye poster ‘IndAgent’. The questions and statements it contains be taken a number of ways and I felt that it was only fair that I gave a more reasoned explanation and a little more background to my decision. My answer to this question is repeated below.

Readers will know from a previous blog that I have a couple of health issues and these have lead to a number of events and decisions over the past few years and to my announcement last week.

I love estate agency with a passion but I also need to re-prioritise, down-size a little, be kinder to myself and reduce the number of properties I deal with to facilitate other needs and dreams whilst ensuring my clients receive the same high standards I have always espoused.

My other business Ocean3D.co.uk is growing quickly with some highly notable clients already on our books but, equally requiring more of my time and resources. At some point, when the time is right or, I feel that I can no longer look after my estate agency clients to the standards I set due to other business, time or health considerations I will stop listing and selling peoples’ homes. Until then, my clients’ needs remain “number one, not just one of a number.”

IndAgent

Morning Chris. Interesting move. Couple of questions…. What percentage fee/or average £ fee would you be aiming to charge clients?

If you aim to charge more than your local, High Street competitors, what are your justifications for charging more, whilst on the surface ‘doing less’ in the eyes of the general public.

As agents are marketing firms, selling a product, a house, if a client was to ask, ‘where are you advertising my property?’  What would your response be?

My reply:

Our fee is typically 0.25 to 0.5 % above our competitors. On a typical house sale in my area that’s a reasonable sum for a job well done (people still recommend us widely locally and on social media despite costing a little more than some but, equally less than others).

I’m happy to spend some time with you at your premises on how to raise fees if you want to employ me. My industry knowledge has been used quietly over the years by a number of firms and individuals including a good number with far higher profits and turnover than, I suspect, every poster on this forum.

I employ a number of USPs’ including 3D tours, magazine cover style main photograph, excellent social media presence etc. but, most importantly, a more personalised, experienced and friendly service that has a reputation for honesty, integrity and transparency. Heck, our sole agency contract even has a badge to prove it! http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/services/honesty-mark/honesty-mark-holders.html

As for advertising your home, we advertise on our website and the portal that we receive the most leads from, that is cost effective and value for money. We’re not on Rightmove any more because it was no longer a cost-effective way to market clients homes.

If all people are employing you/ your firm for is the fact you can say you advertise on Rightmove, you are simply holding yourself hostage of going with the lowest common denominator.

I’m not in a race to the bottom on fees or service, never have been and never will. We’ll lose some business and some of it will, no doubt, good business but, I’m looking forward to having a little more free time on my hands, developing my 3D tour business, not being beholden to a number of fixed costs and, moving towards my goal of buggering off to the Med’/ Caribbean with my partner as charter and private yacht skippers and hosts in a few years time. After 30 years of working in agency and a few health concerns, I need to reprioritise and re-focus.

A solution to the housing crisis that doesn’t cost councils a penny?

The housing market is in crisis with many first time buyers locked out of owning and, in many areas, being able to rent property at affordable levels. As a country, we also have a homeless problem with a shocking lack of care for the mentally ill and, our military veterans.chris matterport me

Various solutions have been tried over the years and charities have also played a vital role in alleviating some of the need. For years there has been much hand wringing and blame-gaming by politicians for who is at fault but, the problem stubbornly remains.

Owning a home of ones’ own is not a human right but, having a secure place to call home is.

I believe there is a solution that has been staring us as all in the face for many years and it does not require any additional spending.

Local government (councils) currently sit on, and annually invests in, billions of pounds worth of investments, predominantly in stocks and shares for their pension funds. This is almost always invested in major companies who have little to no local connections or interest in the well-being or growth of the area and people whose money they have invested in them. Neither is there any guarantee that these investments will provide any return and, may even lose money.

However, if local and national government were required to use a minimum of 50% of existing pension funds and new contributions to invest in their own local housing needs, this would have immediate, medium and long term benefits. This investment would be in the form of, but not limited to

  • Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available

  • Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing

  • Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates

Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available. This would operate by offering qualifying local residents secured loans for private property purchase to be used as deposits. Deposits would be up to ten percent of the purchase price and would be based over a ten-year period. The homeowners would make affordable capital repayments with no interest over the first 10 years (e.g. £20,000 loan = £83.33 per month for 10 years) guaranteeing local government a minimum return on their investments and a source of income.

Any remaining initial loan amount plus interest would be repaid in whole or in part on the sale of the property (most buyers move home 2 to 4 times in their lifetimes though this figure varies) or, become due after ten years. The interest rate would be calculated as a percentage rate of the median house price inflation over the term of the loan for the Council area as a whole as using ONS or HM Land Registry figures. Homeowners who did not need or want to move after the ten year period would have a commercial interest rate calculation made for the previous ten year period (set against Bank of England rates) which ould be payable as a lump sum or, spread over a further ten year period at a variable current rate of interest.

To protect the homeowners and facilitate the flow and turnover of housing stock, the maximum chargeable interest would be capped at a set amount of any house price inflation. To ensure council pension investments were assured of a return (unlike at present), the minimum interest payable would be at an agreed minimum percentage; (for example, this could be set at 1% below Bank of England Base rates over the period.

Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing. Self-explanatory. Councils would again have funds available to invest in their local housing needs to bring back derelict and unused housing stock into use and, to build new housing stock for social rent.

Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates. Not only is looking after this countrys’ homeless a moral imperative, there are also sound financial reasons to help people back into society and a secure home. By utilising existing pension funds and contributions to invest in these buildings, existing expenditure on policing and emergency accommodation can be utilised elsewhere or, saved.

If implemented, I believe the above innovations would build happier communities and good, better-maintained cities, towns and villages. The positive consequential advantages would be many. A happier society tends to be healthier, crime drops, jobs are created and wages increase.

From purely a cold investment point of view, the above paragraph outlines how I believe this will help ensure local property prices remain stable and grow, bringing in good returns for the pension funds who have invested in them. The greatest returns though are for our society.

“Domestic abuse. It affects everyone”

In my Twitter feed this morning, I received the following link and excellent article about domestic abuse which I share below, along with some thoughts and advice of my own.

Domestic abuse: not just a tenant issue From Inside Housing @insidehousing ABUSE-MIN

The above article is a powerful and pertinent piece that is, statistically, almost certain to affect or have affected everyone at some point in their careers (even if they may be unaware of it) either directly or, via a family member, colleague or friend.

“Domestic abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime.”

Every victims’ experience will be unique but there are some common factors they may well experience. It is a deeply humiliating, often terrifying and usually dis-empowering act/ pattern of behaviour perpetrated on the victim that often leaves long-lasting emotional and physical wounds. It happens to men and women almost equally and people in same-sex relationships.

If you recognise the behaviours listed below either as someone on the receiving end of abuse or, as a perpetrator, seek help. It is out there.

Some facts surrounding abuse in the UK

Source ‘Living Without Abuse lwa.org.uk

Domestic abuse:

“Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime

Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year

Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police

Has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)

Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2002)

In 2010 the Forced Marriage Unit responded to 1735 reports of possible Forced Marriages.

In addition, approximately 400 people commit suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, 200 of these attend hospital on the day they go on to commit suicide”

What is abuse?

Official UK government definition:

Domestic abuse in a relationship: recognise it

There are different kinds of abuse, but it’s always about having power and control over you.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you might be in an abusive relationship.

Emotional abuse

Does your partner ever:

  • belittle you, or put you down?
  • blame you for the abuse or arguments?
  • deny that abuse is happening, or play it down?
  • isolate you from your family and friends?
  • stop you going to college or work?
  • make unreasonable demands for your attention?
  • accuse you of flirting or having affairs?
  • tell you what to wear, who to see, where to go, and what to think?
  • control your money, or not give you enough to buy food or other essential things?

Threats and intimidation

Does your partner ever:

  • threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • destroy things that belong to you?
  • stand over you, invade your personal space?
  • threaten to kill themselves or the children?
  • read your emails, texts or letters?
  • harass or follow you?

Physical abuse

The person abusing you may hurt you in a number of ways.

Does your partner ever:

  • slap, hit or punch you?
  • push or shove you?
  • bite or kick you?
  • burn you?
  • choke you or hold you down?
  • throw things?

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, whether they’re male or female.

Does your partner ever:

  • touch you in a way you don’t want to be touched?
  • make unwanted sexual demands?
  • hurt you during sex?
  • pressure you to have unsafe sex – for example, not using a condom?
  • pressure you to have sex?
  • If your partner has sex with you when you don’t want to, this is rape.

Have you ever felt afraid of your partner?

Have you ever changed your behaviour because you’re afraid of what your partner might do?

If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, there is help available.

English National Domestic Violence Helpline

0808 2000 247

Estate agency – purpose built for manic-depression

Following the tragic suicide of one of my favourite comedians, the comedic genius Robin Williams, I decided to publicly come out as someone who suffered but had sought treatment for depression in the vain hope that I might encourage others who have, or thought they might have depression, to seek the help that can be lifesaving in some cases.

I should say at this point that I don’t have bi-polar disorder as manic depression is now often referred to and I am not in any way qualified to give advice on depression or any mental disorder or illness. However, I have received treatment for and do suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder*) and depression and what follows is written in good faith.

Mental health used to be very much a taboo subject but is now, thankfully, becoming more widely understood and sufferers receiving better understanding. So why do I say that estate agency is purpose built for bi-polar?

Estate agency, as with many sales related jobs, is one of targets, pressures, endorphin fuelled highs when a sale comes together and, often crushing despair when it falls apart. It can be a cruel career choice and destroyer of nerves on occasions.

For anyone who has ever wondered how they are going to feed their children, pay the mortgage (or your colleagues) simply because, through no fault of their own, a buyer has changed their mind, a customer neglected to mention the property has no building regulations approval until ‘now’ or, a solicitor has simply ‘forgotten’ to send the commission cheque in time; estate agency can be a veritable roller-coaster of emotions.

Throw into the mix that estate agents are often dealing with people who are themselves going through other highly stressful life events that have triggered the need or desire to move (marriage, divorce, pregnancy, death etc.) and agents are having to do so with sensitivity and, often, great patience. It can be a recipe for depression. No one is immune.

No one with depression has it easier or harder than anyone else and everyone deals with it differently. As an estate agent, I’ve battled the black dog for many years as both an employed agent and a business owner. As an employee, I had the ability to take time off had I chosen to. However, as a negotiator on a low basic and commission and as a father of two small children within an unhealthy relationship, I did not feel that this was a realistic option for me so, I had to work through it at the time (storing up more problems for later as it transpired).

As a man, you often feel additional social and self-pressure to be a provider, be strong and to “man-up, knuckle down and just get on with it”. As a business owner, you may also place additional pressures upon yourself to set an example to your colleagues, earn a living and to keep your business in profit and so, on occasions, I have often quite literally shouted at myself to get out of bed as I would have done at a recruit when I was an NCO; when all I really wanted to do was crawl into a ball under the covers and cry. 

Depression is not easy to deal with. It can affect anyone and in many different ways. At its least severe, it can be a general feeling of unworthiness, failure or inability to function at a level you are used to. Depression at its worst, can become a debilitating illness with a total inability to function normally, get out of bed, work effectively, be a good father, mother, wife, husband or partner. Dark thoughts can become the norm rather than an easily dismissed and ridiculed. For some, this sometimes leads to self medicating with drink or drugs, self-harm or attempted suicide. However, if you recognise any of these feelings, can I assure you that people do care about you, you have a value in this world and are valued and, that seeking and accepting help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Its’s rarely easy but it will and it does get better. Speak to your GP. There is some excellent advice from the mental health charity ‘Mind’ here.

Good luck

Chris.

*My PTSD is not combat related as some have thought due to my time in the reserve forces.

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 and was included in the Daily Telegraphs’ list of the UK’s top 20 best small estate agents “who go above and beyond to help their customers” in 2013. He is currently championing the fight against #PortalJuggling in the media along with a number of other agents, journalists and agency suppliers.

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 has previously competed in the National Laser sailing championships and, as a Sabreur with a top 300 UK ranking in fencing. 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 but was medically evacuated back to the UK before deploying to his forward base with his unit and is now medically discharged from the army.