Friday, 20 January 2012

In which I write an open letter to estate agents

Dear estate agents,

I’m sure I don’t understand the ins, outs and particulars of your jobs. I’m sure I couldn’t begin to comprehend how taxing it is to have to deal with people looking for a house AND those looking to get rid of one. There must be much, much more to the thing than meets the eye, because that’s the only reason I can think that explains the shoddy level of service that you universally seem to provide.

So let me iron a few things out for you.

Whilst catchy (well, it’s not, but let’s not quibble the point), location, location, location is a phrase used for emphasis. It doesn’t mean you can hear one location from your client before showing them properties in two others. If I ask for flats in Brixton, I’m expecting the properties you suggest to be in Brixton. Not Kennington, not Peckham and certainly not Orpington. If I’d wanted to live in those places, I’d have asked for those places. I didn’t, and whilst I’m sure they’re lovely, I don’t.

I have a finite income. Whilst I’m not on the breadline, it’s not as large as I’d like, so when I give you a budget, that’s what I can afford to pay in rent. I know you’d like me to pay more, because you take your commission. I understand that, I do. But if I tell you my budget is x, and you only show me properties that are one and a half times x, I’m going to ignore your calls; think you’re an idiot; and use one of your competitors instead, leaving you with y% of 0, instead of y% of x. And then who loses out?

I have specifications. If I want a one-bedroomed flat, I want a one-bedroomed flat. That is not the same as a studio flat. And a one-bedroomed flat in Brixton is not a studio flat in East Dulwich. Just sayin’.

I have a job. It’s a full-time job. It’s how I’m able to pay the rent (that’s the rent of x, let’s be clear. Not one and a half times x. See above). You have to let me do my job, or I’ll be fired and then not be able to pay the rent, and then you’re out of your job too. Factors that comprise “letting me do my job” include arranging viewings after 6.30pm and making use of my answerphone facility when I don’t answer the phone instead of further relentless calls every four minutes.

I have a job. It means I have to do the things I’m paid to do, not chase you endlessly because you haven’t been in touch. If I see a property on your site, only to be told, when I call you that you’ve had it on the books for several days and it’s already been let, I’m going to get cross. And the crossness will be directed at you. And that makes for an unpleasant day for the both of us.

So to recap: please tell me (once is enough) about properties that meet my specifications, in the area I want to live in, for the price I want to pay, that I can see after work.

Not too hard, surely?

Much obliged.



Lost_Linz said...

It's true, they're all the same! I asked for places that are walking distance from my work, they call me with places two towns away???

Foodycat said...

Real estate agents are a dire subset of humanity. And the ones who work in rentals tend to be the lowest of that subset. They are almost as bad as recruitment agents.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

You don't get those problems when you're looking for a house in North London*.

(*you do)

HC said...

So, Denmark Hill then?

Brennig said...

Oh, you mean *Brixton*! (have they started showing you property in 'Angel Town' yet?

Yes, Myatts Fields is lovely (I lived there for three years), but no, it's not Brixton. Yes, this flat in Kennington has a terrific view over the cricket ground, but it's not Brixton. And this other flat is so far up Acre Lane it's actually in Clapham.

I don't envy you any of this, Blonde.

Mud said...

I'd probably write something similar for recruitment consultants (some of the big names anyway). Back in my days of working in management consulting in central London I remember being phoned up by a very excited chap determined t offer me a job as an accountant for a branch of MacDonalds in Croydon.

The answer was emphatically no.

Jackie said...

Oh dear lord it's universal. "So that's a three bed house with parking in TW11? Certainly. Here's a deluge of emails for flats, two-bed houses and 6 bedroom mansions in Hounslow, Whitton and Richmond. You can either wade through them all yourself (because heavens that's not MY job!) or block every estate agent in the vicinity because we're all the same." This is why we haven't moved in a decade.

Lizzie said...

Oh I feel your pain, I do. We were taken to houses over £300 a month outside of our budget and then told "oh no, the landlord won't drop by that much..." I looked at the agent agape and she had no answer when asked why I was taken here.

Honestly. These people.

(I almost took a job at an estate agent on my first job out of school. Imagine!)

Ben said...

The problem is that it's a high turnover model and it's not repeat business (you only do it very rarely). So there's no value in cultivating the kind of service that you're looking for, and they are desperate to show you lots of properties in the hope you fall in love or are so desperate you'll take whatever they're throwing at you. All the incentives are wrong, and that's why it's a nightmare. Plus there's not (yet!) been a comprehensive review site or consumer watchdog about it, like Which!. That's about the best hope that there is - something which makes them care about reputations. One day...

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