Simon Barnes says more talking and less technology is the art to finding the right property in prime central London:
I receive between 20 to 60 emails a day from various estate agents with whom I’m registered, but the majority of these are totally irrelevant and simply do not meet the criteria I gave at the point of registering with agents. As an agent, it’s easy for me to sift through what is good and what is no. However for the average “domestic” buyer, the level of junk/irrelevant emails from agents can be overwhelming.
The volume of email rubbish means it’s simply easier to skip them without bothering to read any. For me this means that if there are one or two hidden possibilities I may never actually uncover them.
It seems to me that increasingly estate agents are working to a numbers game theory; working to the law of averages, the more emails you blast out the better chance you may might stumble upon one or two suitable matches. The worrying fact is that in what is a primarily people driven business, fewer and fewer agents are taking time to engage with their applicants and clients by picking up the phone or meeting them face to face.
No gizmos, no gadgets, no apps
When I started out in my property career there were no gizmos, no gadgets, and certainly no property apps. Back then it was all about paying attention and listening to experts talk about streets and properties across Mayfair, and this really stood me in good stead and has stayed with me throughout the years.
Business then was done by meeting and talking, it was the way you gauged a reaction, picked up on a phrase, caught a glint in a buyer’s eye that made the difference, made your search sharper and your success rate soar. I’m sad that asking and listening are two skills that appear to be a dying art across estate agents in London, and I suspect beyond. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re operating at the lower end of the market or the luxury end, for the majority of people their property is the biggest financial commitment they will make, and it seems flippant to believe that a less then personal approach is adequate.
Personal contact and local knowledge
The property I deal with is largely ‘off the radar’; in fact sometimes it is never actually on the market. This is where that good old fashioned ‘ear to the ground’, tap of the nose stuff really kicks in. The knowledge I have squirrelled away about the very specific aspects of individual streets and the information gleaned from asking people the right questions, means I can accrue details about who genuinely lives where, who owns what and will be able to describe the inside of a property from the outside before having crossed the threshold. The market is competitive, there are all too few decent houses in the right streets, so taking the time to find out the story behind the deal is more essential than ever. It’s these private conversations that are empowering, far more so than clicking on a website.
Being able to speak with first-hand experience and offer a fistful of examples will instil confidence in the client and is incredibly useful in buying or selling at the best price and at the right time. It’s all in the detail, and I believe that, despite the technology and its accompanying torrent of rubbish, local knowledge in London is key and the more you have the more your clients will trust you when it comes to advising them to do the deal.