Why should I instruct you?
One of the first questions I ask a new estate agency client is “if I was a home owner, please tell me why I should instruct you rather than another estate agent?” The answers are very often the same and include things such as: “long established”, “high quality marketing”, “experts in our area” and “professional.” It really is quite amazing how often these nominalisations are trotted out and what’s more, when I ask for substantiation such as “show me your ‘high quality marketing’” I frequently find it’s no better than any other agent, indeed sometimes its worse. But what really lights my blue touch paper is when an agent describes himself, and his company, as “professional” (which the Oxford English dictionary describes as “doing a certain kind of work as a fulltime occupation”) – every estate agent is a professional, even the really poor ones – if you mean something else then say so but please don’t tell me you’re a professional as if this somehow separates you from the pack, it doesn’t.
I used to think that John McGrath’s answer: “your home is worth more with McGrath” was the best I’d heard but last month, when I spent a week with the senior directors and managers of Romans, (developing a new strategy to help make this brilliant business even more successful), Managing Director Peter Coles said “but that’s rubbish, an estate agent doesn’t define the price, the market does.” We debated this point and came to the conclusion that with the data available from Rightmove, Zoopla and TDPG not to mention the Land Registry and dozens of surveys and reports each month there really is no mystique to house prices any more. The days when an enquiry about the price a property sold for prompted the reply: “well, I’m not allowed to tell you exactly but I can say it was very close to the asking price” are in the distant memory, now every detail, from how long the property has been marketed to it’s original asking price and the history of price adjustments, are all available for everyone to see, agent and buyer alike. The key differential between one estate agency and another is therefore the experience the client will suffer/tolerate/enjoy as they sell and buy or let or rent. And of course as just about every agent will claim they can make it hassle free* (*as possible) the client is none the wiser until it’s too late in many cases.
Although the results aren’t all in yet, The Property Academy’s Home Moving Trends survey, now in its fourth year, is so far showing that 40% of people have lived in their homes for 10 years or more, indeed 10% for more than 25 years. The survey also confirms that people spend very little time looking for a property before putting their own on the market – 30% in fact did so before viewing a single one. What this adds up to is that many people suddenly decide to move, it’s not something they plan a long time in advance, often as a consequence of a life stage event (although in around 30% it’s a lifestyle driver), and despite their lack of experience make decisions around the appointment of their estate agent very quickly, almost instinctively. Indeed, when we asked people why they appointed one agent rather than another 63% said “the one I instinctively trusted the most.”
The key therefore, to winning instructions, is to be trustworthy, which Stephen Covey describes in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as “requiring the presence of both character and competence in equal measure.” However, simply telling people, “I’m a trustworthy estate agent,” is probably not going to work! Instead you have to communicate your trustworthiness in ways which are self-evident. This is easier with the competency aspect as you can prove your expertise through examples of properties sold, market share, etc but it’s harder to prove your character and this is made even more difficult when you consider that over half of the people we surveyed only met with one or two estate agents, which means that you’re being largely judged online and in the media. I think that estate agents need to concentrate much more on communicating their character and appealing to the emotional drivers of their clients rather than the current fashion for simply promoting facts and figures and appealing to the rational. After all, how many rational clients do you have on your books right now?