Thu 20 Mar 2008
It’s amazing how much this industry has changed since I first started in 1982.
In the early days many London agents were, if truth be known, complacent and lazy. They opened their offices at around 9am and closed at around 5.30. Viewings in the evening were unheard of and Saturdays were a very half hearted affair (if at all). Fees were higher and whilst service was charming, it must be said that in many cases it was pretty ineffective. When I first started at Foxtons in 1985 our hours of opening were 9am until 9pm, 7 days a week - now this was revolutionary and I absolutely believe that we had a huge part in changing the face of UK estate agency. Some may mourn the passing of the old ways however the people that really matter, our clients, do not.
The ‘old ways’ also included no websites or portals from where we get more than two thirds of our enquiries, no mobile phones (how did we run a business without them?), limited and hugely expensive magazine advertising, no branded cars (!), no text messaging, no Property Misdescriptions Act and therefore ridiculously ‘flowery’ property descriptions and generally longer opening hours to cater for our clients not ourselves. How times have changed and, in most cases, for the better.
Our clients want pro-active sales people acting on their behalf, they want a great service where they can trust the integrity of the agent acting for them, they expect intelligent marketing, evening and weekend appointments and a good result, in short they want to enjoy the experience AND the result. Buyers want to be treated fairly and honestly and benefit from the service necessary for us as agents to win the business in what is a very competitive market place. It is my opinion that in many cases (but sadly not the majority) both sellers and buyers get what they want and get great value in the process.
There are still very few industries that can do so much for their client with absolutely no guarantee of payment at the end of the day (no sale – no fee) and spend endless hours ‘chauffeuring’ prospective buyers around without charging a penny for the pleasure.
In my view there are still very few estate agency practices that have got the balance right. In some agencies you may enjoy the experience as the people are ‘nice’ but you’re not quite sure if they’ve got you the best result whilst in others you hate the experience but consider the outcome pretty good. Surely as an industry we can do better than this and this is my focus at Marsh & Parsons—the two outcomes are not mutually exclusive, you can enjoy the experience and the result, and the longer our competitors do nothing about it, the happier I am!