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Belvoir Approach to House Viewings

Is your agent truly engaging with potential purchasers?

A few days ago, I accompanied one of my vendors on a viewing of a property he was considering buying upon completion of his sale and upon which he valued my opinion.  It was on the market for around £800,000 and being marketed by a prestigious agent.  It’s the sort of agent that specialises in more expensive properties.  The sort of agent that charges premium fees and the sort of agent I had believed that we should aspire to be like. 

If it remains unsold I have every intention of approaching the vendors myself to offer our services and the more I could understand about the property, the more likely I am to be able to have a sensible discussion regarding the subject of why it remains unsold, in this particular case, after 6 months of being on the market.

We arrived at the appointed time and were met by a very well presented member of their staff.  Talking to her, it transpired that because they were so busy, they had called her in to do this viewing.  It would appear that she was a “Saturday” negotiator who didn’t usually work during the week. 

Judging by the fact that she was opening doors, having a quick look inside and then announcing what was beyond the door, I gathered that she hadn’t been to the property before.  No big deal you might think, but then if one of my negotiators or I am showing somebody around a house with which we are unfamiliar, we make a point of arriving sufficiently early to be able to familiarise ourselves with the layout of the property.  In fact, we arrive early in order to ensure that toilet seats are down, (in this property 1 wasn’t!) that lights are switched on where appropriate and curtains drawn.

Their negotiator was asked a number of questions by my vendor, none of which she could answer.  It would have been easy for her to call her office in order to clarify the issues, but she chose not to do so.  And, a matter of a few days later, my vendor is still none the wiser. 

In addition to the house, I was also quite interested to see how one of my competitors dealt with a viewing.  I’m reasonably experienced, but even with some 10 years under my belt, I am quite prepared to accept that I don’t know it all and am quite happy to pick up tricks and habits from other agents when the opportunity arises.

When I conduct a viewing, I am actually performing two tasks.  I am trying to ascertain whether or not the property is suited to a potential purchaser, but at the same time, I am gleaning as much information as I possibly can from the viewer.  It’s not an interrogation, but for example, I try to establish how many children they have and their ages, whether they have pets, the number of cars, where they work, where they currently live and whether or not their own property has been sold or indeed is even on the market.  Of course, some of this information we may have already discovered prior to the viewing, but it’s surprising the number of times that upon seeking further clarification, we are able to uncover slightly more information that is useful.

In a property of this nature, being in a rural location, whether a particular bus runs from the end of the road, the location of the nearest school and whether or not there is a village shop doesn’t tend to be particularly important, but in the course of a conversation, it may well turn out that there are other matters which will prove to be of interest.  Without such a conversation however, I won’t get an opportunity to add anything of any value to a viewing and I won’t have a chance to discover what really are the drivers in a particular purchase. 

They might have said that they need 4 bedrooms, but it may be that 3 will suffice if there is a study or a garden room of some description.  Perhaps with some minor alterations, the house could fully meet their needs but it might be that an idea hadn’t crossed their minds.  A large bedroom might easily be split into two.  An en-suite might be relatively easily added.  Sometimes, viewers have no idea of the cost of relatively simple jobs.  One of the benefits of managing a significantly sized portfolio of rented properties is that we have first hand experience of refurbishment works and indeed even have contractors we can recommend.

It may be that the property I am showing is actually entirely unsuitable for some reason and, by delving a bit deeper, it’s possible to pin-point another alternative property to which someone is better suited.  Whilst it might seem as if I am not doing the best for the owner of the property I am selling by suggesting something else, by the same token, I might have shown the viewers a different property and this viewing might only have come about as a result of a previous conversation held at a different property.

This isn’t rocket science and I am certain that most decent agents do something very similar, to one extent or another.

With a property of this value I’m happy to spend as long as the viewer wants to spend there.  Indeed, it’s not at all uncommon for me to spend a good deal of time, preferably in the best room of the property trying to establish whether or not we have a potential fit.  And, what better time to try and elicit an offer?

This particular agent, however, spared less than 15 minutes because of a further viewing at the house.

My vendors are selling a very large property which they vacate for each viewing.  Since I ring them when I am finished to let them know that the coast is clear, they are well aware that on occasions I am there for as long as an hour and a half.  When I call in for a de-brief following the viewing, I am able to tell them an awful lot about the potential purchasers.  They are made aware of the circumstances of the viewer, they are told what the viewer liked or didn’t like and sometimes we decide upon little things that might help future viewings.

Some properties will linger on the market for a considerable time; expensive properties in particular can do so.  There are far fewer prospective purchasers for £1m+ properties than for £250,000 properties for example.  Surely then, a far more engaging approach to dealing with prospective purchasers at this level is required?

Coincidentally, I recently asked my sister to ring another agent and request a brochure on a £1.6m property.  The response she received was to “download one” from their website.  Let’s assume for the moment that the agent is charging 1% to sell this property.  That’s a fee of £16,000 that they will pick up if they manage to sell it.  For £16,000, I would personally hand-deliver a brochure if necessary!  And it’s worth remembering that the vendor is also paying VAT, so as far as they are concerned, they are paying £19,200.  My staff would certainly put one in the post first-class and think nothing of it.  What has actually happened is that my sister has been bombarded with emails that she specifically asked not to receive, for properties bearing little or no resemblance to the one for which she had requested a brochure. 

I’m not naming either of the agents concerned in these issues.  There’s no way that I would like them alerted to the fact that they have become complacent and don’t do a very good job.  I will, however, be speaking to both of the vendors.

If you would like to have a chat with me to discover what we might be able to do for you in the Basingstoke or Winchester areas, please feel free to call us on 01256 811220.  Alternatively, email me mike.jones@belvoir.co.uk

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