What do we actually do as estate agents to serve our wonderful public?
Some might think we go out, value houses, advise on a sensible position in the market, and sign up the vendor.
But I contend our function has changed, and so has the purpose of the visit to a potential vendor’s house.
With so many online tools available to them, the majority of homeowners have probably worked out what they think their property is ‘worth’.
They have invited you out for a cup of coffee (white, no sugar) just so you can tell them how brilliantly they have done and they are absolutely right. They don’t recognise that you have spent a good hour before your visit assessing the market, what else is out there that matches their home, and where that places their home’s real value.
When people ask me to go out to appraise their home, I ask them what they think it’s worth so I can be armed with the right argument to support my findings.
Invariably they respond it’s for me to tell them and argue until they are blue in the face that I am wrong if my figure doesn’t coincide with theirs – unless they have erroneously gone too low in which case the chocolate digestives might appear.
I see the purpose of an appraisal these days as more of an exercise in advising them how to market their home effectively by explaining the tools we use to get potential buyers round to view. The success rate is widely influenced by the number of portals you use but there are other influences, including local newspaper advertising and editorials.
The biggest killer then is the fee. For years we have promoted properties for no upfront fee. Effectively we test the market for free on behalf of vendors who then want to try to get away with a 0.5 per cent commission. That doesn’t work with me.
Part of the problem is that people still believe we do nothing to earn our money whereas the reality is that we have better juggling skills than any circus performer. Our skill in keeping those balls in the air to justify at least one per cent is what we should be making more of.
The nature of our business is to be brilliant at marketing. We can do it for the homes we sell but not for ourselves. It’s time we began to be a little less modest and just a tad more upfront about our expertise. After all, no-one believes estate agents are shrinking violets when it comes to self-promotion so why do we disappoint them so often?
In answer to the question in the headline, I haven’t heard it either but the joke really is on us!
*Colin Shairp is director of Fine and Country Southern Hampshire