Does the perfect estate agent exist?

Thursday, April 29, 2010 | by Ivor Dickinson

How do you find the perfect estate agent? Does the perfect estate agent exist? When trying to work out the answer, it is important to consider the criteria. In an ideal world, your manager or senior negotiator should have worked in their office, or at least the area, for a minimum of five to ten years. That way, they will know the area like the back of their hand and will probably have sold most houses in the area, sometimes two or three times over. Well it’s simple then. In fact, it’s not. Firstly, if the perfect estate agent never moves, then it’s rather difficult to employ them. Secondly, the painful truth is that girls are better sales people than men – don’t argue, they just are. They have more energy, more empathy and are less trouble. It’s not an exact science, but looking back over 23 years at Douglas & Gordon, a higher percentage of my very best people have been women. However, bearing in mind my opening statement about the perfect estate agent working in an area for a long time, the simple fact is that it is difficult to keep a female manager in the same office for that many years, mainly because they quite rightly have other priorities and it’s called having children.

What about the second dilemma – if a manager or negotiator has been in the same place doing the same thing for many years, more often than not, they start to lose their drive, that cutting edge, that ambition that every young, newly promoted manager has. So which is best, a male manager who knows his area like the back of his hand or a young, feisty, female manager who has everything to prove? In the immortal words of Harry Hill, “There’s only one way to find out – fight!”

I know of an estate agent south of the river who makes great play of the fact that they only employ people if they live in the area. That’s a nice idea, but let’s be honest, not a particularly good business strategy. If I had the choice between a brilliant negotiator who lives in Fulham for my Battersea office and an average negotiator who lives in Battersea, I’d go for the brilliant negotiator every time.

Finding really outstanding people is immensely difficult. Being an estate agent is like any other profession – there are thousands and thousands of actors, footballers, entrepreneurs, salesmen and indeed estate agents who are good. But only the top 2% are truly outstanding. As an employer, that’s what I’m looking for 24/7. If you want the very best (and at Douglas & Gordon we do), you have to be broad minded. You can’t restrict your personnel search to where people live, how old they are or what sex they are (apart from anything else, you’re not allowed to). Every now and again, that Oscar winner, that golden boot, that extraordinary sales person will come into your office. Firstly, you must recognise that greatness on first sight, which is not as simple as it sounds. Then you have to put away all your carefully considered reasons as to why they should be offered a job and trust your instincts. Above all, employ them there and then, whether you have a job or not. These are rare beasts indeed.