The view from the balcony of how to sell your house
Estate agent David Pollock has written a book on the 101 things your estate agent agent should tell you when buying and selling a property. Sharon Dale reports.
IT’S easy to see why documentary makers chose David Pollock to star in their programme Property People.
He’s not afraid of speaking his mind and he enjoys doing things a little differently.
His company, Greene and Co., recognised by the Sunday Times as one of the best places to work, is a proponent of group hugs. It also gives its staff life-coaching sessions and the day off on their birthday.
David, whose offices cover North London, also has an interesting approach to buying and selling houses. He dreamed up the Goodwill Charter, a document he encourages buyers and sellers to sign once a price is settled on. They each agree to stick to their side of the deal.
“Mostly they agree to sign,” he says. “ If they don’t, then you’ve got to ask yourself whether they are entering into the sale in good faith. And the chances are, they aren’t.”
This and others pearls of wisdom are in his new book, 101 things your estate agent should tell you when buying and selling a property. It is full of advice, some of it contentious
Mystery shopping is a certainly a good idea for any consumer, though not many people bother to do it.
“People take their biggest asset and sometimes put it in the hands of a virtual amateur.
“Call the estate agency and see how many rings it takes them to answer the phone, go into the offices and see what the atmosphere and the staff are like,” says David, who also advises knocking on doors sporting sold signs, so you can ask sellers what they thought of the service they got.
He reckons you need to put in an average of three hours’ work per week, over a period of 10 weeks. This involves researching agents, deciding which valuation to accept, following up viewings and chasing up solicitors and agents. “Those 30 hours will probably earn or save you £10,000, which works out at £333 an hour. You’d bite someone’s hand off if they offered you that as a rate of pay, and yet lots of people aren’t prepared to do the work.” He is also a big fan of nagging. “Estate agents work hardest for the people who are the nicest. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t nag them, though. Just do it in a nice way, by prefacing your request with: ‘Look, I know I must be driving you mad’ .”
More controversial is his advice to sellers to change agents if they don’t sell your home within two months, which sounds harsh, especially in this economic climate. “If you are sure they haven’t over priced it and you’ve sat down with them to discuss the situation with no real positive outcome, then I recommend you change agents,” says David, who has also caused a furore for encouraging sellers to take a multiagency approach.
He says the element of competition spurs each agent on to do their best and clinch the sale. Critics will counter that they might just put in half the effort and that it’s easier to build a good relationship with one agent.
“There are certain cases where you might be better off with a sole agency, maybe if you’re selling a big Yorkshire stately home, but overall two agents are better than one. They will compete to outshine each other and create more demand for your property,” says David, who often refers to a strategy he picked up while on a negotiating course at Harvard University. He says everyone in the home buying and selling process should embrace the concept of The Balcony. Although it sounds hippy-dippy, he swears by it
“People let emotions get in the way. Step back from the negotiating process as if you were an outside observer, imagine yourself looking down from a balcony for a clearer view of reality. It works. It’s like watching a play and you can see the mistakes the characters are making. ”
One of the biggest mistakes is pushing for a speedy exchange of contracts. “If vendors push too hard they cause annoyance or scare buyers off completely. In general, you are better leaving buyers to their own devices and you’ll find it will happen.”
The main mistake agents make is telling vendors what they want to hear and therefore overvaluing, but if you think you can do better, then think again. DIY sales have failed to take off for good reason, not least because individuals haven’t got access to contact details of prospective buyers and one of the most effective ways to sell a property is to “hit the phones”. Over 90 per cent of property sales are still conducted through estate agents, though David has included a chapter on DIY selling tips, which ends with these words: “Would I do it myself? No way. Why would I want to sell my prized possession without the help of a professional?”
ADVICE: David Pollock has used his 34 years of experience in estate agency to write a book.