The Spectator attacks Estate Agency did they expect us to take it sitting down
Thursday, July 24, 2014 by Ed Mead
Almost a month ago a Spectator journalist, Harry Mount, took a cheap pot shot at Estate Agents with the usual money for old rope populist shout hoping, almost praying, that the internet will give agents their comeuppance. The article showed little knowledge of what we do or the work involved in selling a property on behalf of their owners. The trap was the usual one of assuming that just because someone walks through the door and says they’ll buy a property that they actually will. This assumption is then misguidedly extrapolated to assume that simply putting your property online is enough to sell it. Of those who walk in and offer more than 50% won’t take it to the next stage and instruct a solicitor and of those that do on average 37% will not go to exchange, and that’s in a good market. Most of the Country has NOT been enjoying a good market for nigh on six years and according to our figures only c. 60% of properties we sell are originally seen online anyway. Furthermore
One or two [online] estate agents have been daft enough to say “Estate Agents don’t sell your property, Rightmove and Zoopla do”. They don’t, they advertise them but such a lack of knowledge of what’s actually going on in the process led me to ask why, if it’s so easy, everyone doesn’t want to be an estate agent and why don’t all properties sell easily. I also offered the aforementioned journalist a desk for a short period of time so he could experience it for himself – to date I haven’t heard from him.
My response, which to their credit the Spectator printed as a letter, is printed below.
Sir: Harry Mount’s piece on how the internet could and should bring about the demise of estate agents (28 June) misunderstands that houses are not fast-moving consumer goods and that, as so often in life, you get what you pay for. In 35 years I’ve seen many cash-poor, time-rich people seeking cheaper sales, but despite a mature internet, as I write a mere 10,000 of the 760,000 properties on the market are for sale through online agents.
To compare agents with Turkish prostitutes is a cheap and irrelevant shot given that, in visiting such a brothel, the majority of the work goes into finding a berth, and 20 per cent into the actual performance. When it comes to property, finding a buyer is merely 20 per cent of the work, with the internet simply providing a bigger shop window. It doesn’t do the remaining 80 per cent — getting the money actually into the seller’s pocket — which is what you pay your fee for. To constantly see commentators panning agents as earning money for old rope implies that they’ve never sat in an office and tried to sell a property. If Mr Mount thinks it’s easy, then I’m very happy to offer him a seat for a few days to experience it.
Be careful what you wish for. The internet provides many things, but a personal service is not one of them.
Executive director, Douglas & Gordon London SW1