Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

Thursday, March 25, 2010 by Ed Mead

The budget was so dull I can’t be bothered to talk about it.

You go into a block to view a flat. You like the block and the porter seems a cut above. The agent swishes you up to the front door, you pause and notice the rich dark blue of the paint and the clink of keys. You’re about to be ushered in to the flat you finally feel sure is the one. Then you glance right and there’s a service door surrounded by yellow and black tape, along with a skull and crossbones and a sign saying “beware asbestos”. Other than persuading my salespeople to put on some weight and stand in front of the sign my hands are tied and even though there’s one pipe with a smidgen of the unpleasant fibres in it it’s effectively killing any chance of a sale stone dead.

Marketing has ceased to be fun, or is certainly less fun than it used to be. Yes, there is supposedly nothing hidden or omitted when you go to see a place, but what about that house on a Scottish Isle recently where the attractive brochure completely ignored the gigantic power station literally right next door. You had to laugh. Trouble is that whatever we say the public think we’re bulshi**ing, and so you’re damned if you do or don’t. Past generations of buyers had no internet, pictures, or floorplans and would take the time to form a relationship with a local agent who they liked. They valued that advice if it was from someone who obviously knew what they were talking about. Then they’d trust that agent to find them what they needed, not wait to trip them up with know it all phrases and shows of one upmanship. It was fun and the onus was on you to do a job, not act as a key holder.

The business these days reminds me of the signs you see in American car mirrors warning the driver that “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” Do we all really need to dumb down to such an extent, haven’t we all learned how to read danger signs ourselves and get a feel for what’s right and wrong. Given the penchant for helicopter parenting, and health and safety, future generations are going to get the property business they deserve, ie dull.

There’ll be plenty who say quite right, and that the buying public deserve all the protection they can get, and of course they do. But who’s the judge of how much is enough and who’s enforcing it. Perhaps the advent of the internet and availability of too much information has turned a majority of the population into mediocre property experts.