Why online intelligence cannot replace a property viewing
followers have retweeted the glad tidings.
I doubt there would have been quite as much enthusiasm had Twitter been as popular in the dark days of the housing crisis five years ago when there was widespread gloom and decreasing property prices.
When we examine the widespread view that prices across the country increased over the last quarter, we must strip out the distorting effect of the central London market. Growth in Yorkshire is considered to be around one per cent over the same period. This hardly constitutes a booming marketplace, but yet some commentators and economists are now talking of the dangers of a housing bubble.
I recall that only 12 months ago, a number of these individuals were questioning whether the recovery of our economy could be sustained. Surely, it is good news and if proof is needed then the manner with which our tweet has been greeted is testament to that.
Buyers and sellers are willingly entering the market and are negotiating to their strengths. Modern technology means there is a vast array of data available to justify prices. Historic property prices from the Land Registry are available on a raft of websites and there are even some that seek to use this information to give an automatic valuation of a property.
However, when a seller is told this suggests his or her house is worth X rather than Y, they are very quick to point out the amount of money they have spent since acquisition and duly dismiss the process. It clearly doesn’t work.
I was intrigued recently when a client understandably took this stance when selling, but was then genuinely surprised when the owner of a house that he wanted to buy was equally dismissive of the same data source he quoted and, ironically, for the same reasons.
My own due diligence does not just extend to price, the likes of Google Maps and its ground base equivalent, Google Street View, allow buyers unprecedented access to a property before they have even crossed the threshold. Add in colour-coded floor plans, good professional photography of the interiors and you would think that modern technology would allow buyers to make an immediate decision on whether to view and buy.
But Google technology does not always tell the full story. In fact, it can be misleading and, in some instances, fundamentally wrong, when it transpires a scratty farmyard is in fact a smart courtyard conversion. Potential purchasers believe the Google map, resulting in the client making a notable request that Google should re-photograph his property.
The use of modern technology is both an essential and necessary business tool in the modern world. For estate agents, the last five years have seen a dramatic change in the way that property is offered for sale and I would like to think that we have been one of the strongest advocates in the sector, with a multi-lingual website and an award-winning iPhone/iPad app among a raft of initiatives.
However, for agents, buyers and sellers, the use of modern technology will never replace the traditional art of selling. So if an agent calls you and suggests that he or she has found the perfect house for you, go and have a look at it. Despite what your online intelligence tells you, you might actually like it!
Tim Waring FRICS is a partner of Knight Frank and leads their estate agent team in Yorkshire, www.knightfrank.com/harrogate