Sunday, 16 January 2011

Finding the right Estate Agent

A few months ago I set out to find the best way to market a large Barn Conversion I built and hope to sell.

With over 30 years experience in all aspects of residential property I felt I’m best placed to do viewings and negotiations with potential buyers.

Understanding the need to maximise presentation and appeal to the widest market I located a good Property Stylist, Helen Silver  to help me. I just needed to find the right Estate Agent to get exposure to the market via Zoopla, FindaProperty, RightMove and possibly Primelocation.

I asked friends, family, colleagues and contacts through Social Media and I talked to local and online Estate Agents.  What I discovered was not what I expected.

There was a gap in the market in Exeter, my area – no Agent really fulfilled my very demanding requirements so I wrote a blog  here This triggered a chain reaction and in no time I had a short list of potential Agents to work with – those who cared passionately enough to embrace the challenges and take time out to talk about it.  Two of them were Online Agents and two were High Street Agents with an Online presence.  All were persuasive and impressive and offered varying levels of service.

In the end I not only opted for a small High Street Agency in the best location of Exeter City with an Online presence but also started negotiations about working for them in 2011 to help introduce some of my suggestions.
These are a few of the reasons for my choice:-

1.  I learned that some Buyers don’t really want to meet the Vendor let alone negotiate with them. Others are happy to meet the Vendor but prefer to have preliminary discussions at viewing and negotiations with the Agent.  Vendors can be very emotional and defensive about their properties.

2. The Agent must be able to reassure people about any observations or issues raised in a viewing or survey – a Vendor doesn’t carry as much weight in the eyes of a Buyer and they might be suspicious of the advice and information supplied.

I have experience of this when a Surveyor incorrectly reported on a property I was selling. The Buyer wouldn’t listen to me even though I knew every nut & bolt of the building, they did listen to the Agent who came out to view the problem and report back that it was the Surveyor’s error. The sale proceeded and all was well.

3. The high street Agents had a network of contacts in the area (other Sales and Letting Agents, Solicitors, Accountants, Financial Advisors, Investors, Builders, Developers etc) and seemed better placed to know who is around looking for properties like mine. 

4. The smaller high street Agent was very ‘HUNGRY’ for my business, having more overheads to cover than the ‘pay upfront’ fee takers.  He also demonstrated a passion, enthusiasm and energy that I didn’t find in the larger Corporate Agencies.

5. An Estate Agent is under an obligation to promptly deal with any ‘emergencies’ that might crop up eg burst pipes, break-ins etc – even if you’re not contactable, if neighbours report something your Agent will have to respond.  I found the local Agent was better placed to deal with situations like this quickly.

6. Some Buyers still like to see the face of the Agent they’re dealing with and some prefer to work with certain agents they and/or their families know and trust.

7. I chose an Agent that has both Lettings and Sales offices as they can refer people from one side of the business to the other. If an Agent has a database of tenants they have a pool of potential buyers too.

I may still use one of the Online Agents alongside my chosen High Street Agent as I believe both have merit and the costs are not prohibitive, but the latter has my biggest vote right now.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

A Lesson learned on Twitter about giving Professional Advice freely

I have read a few blogs and forum posts recently about the benefits of using Twitter, Facebook and Forums to help promote your business.

The general consensus is that you can use all of them to some extent but each in slightly different ways.  I'm not a Social Media Guru so I'm not going to try and advise or educate you in any way.  I am learning more each day about the benefits and if I were to sum it up so far it would be thus:-

The forums are specialist areas for debating, learning and sharing. Sometimes including members who don't want to identify themselves for whatever reason and discussions can become heated, argumentative and controversial.   Those that get themselves into deepest water on forums often don't care as they hide behind a false identity.

Linked-In seems to be more of a directory of 'real' business people to build connections with and I'm yet to explore it further.

Facebook is a great place for gossip, socialising, sharing photos and connecting with anyone in your life from friends and family to business people.  You can try to seperate the business from the more private side of your lives but so far my experience with Facebook is the two become very blurred.

To date my experiences on Twitter have been positive.  I have met many intelligent people who have become friends.  I've connected with high profile, like-minded professionals mostly friendly, supportive and informative.  I've learned who to follow for the best quality information and discussions and continually add to my list of valuable business contacts and like-minded friends.

But this week I made an observation that rang out warning bells.  I watched as a regular 'Twit' who has built a network of professional followers asked for advice about something important to her.  Some of her followers chipped in with the Facebook Style 'love & hugs' sort of advice whilst others gave more practical advice.

The alarming bit for me was when a well known and well thought of Professional Twit with relevant expertise gave some private advice - apparently it was not what the person asking for advice had wanted to hear.  She reacted in a bizarre manner by openly Tweeting that she'd received advice and continued to Tweet arguments against the advice she'd been given by Tweeting/Retweeting negative comments about the advice and Profession in general.  Whilst she didn't actually state who had given her the advice it was fairly obvious to many of us regular Twits who it was.

The issue for me is how quickly Twitter took the 'Facebook' style bully approach towards a professional person who had freely offered advice that this ungrateful Twit would normally have had to pay for.  It also brought in to question for me how far people might take something just to get a few controversial tweets out there to promote themselves - was this an attempt to get attention by being the Protagonist?

Maybe this situation is rare and in the minority but maybe we should all be careful about who we give advice to freely on Social Media. If people come to you and ask about your service maybe they should demonstrate that they are seriously in 'buying mode' before you share your expertise.  The commitment should perhaps be two-way.