Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Just a short note to thank you all for reading the Blog over the past year and to wish you a Happy Christmas and better New Year.

And yes, this is not a scheduled post, I am actually sat here on Christmas eve wired into the Net. Will I resist tomorrow, probably not as I doubt Santa will bring me the perfect mobile phone. I now have an iphone and a storm and neither do the job I need (back to the old Blackberry curve).

Anyway, I may disappear for a few days over New Year so the Owl may be a little queit. Back with a bang in the New Year as I am working on an economic plan that will not only save the world, but save the Country and thus the property industry. I will be tackling environmental issues in the Summer!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Bleed the World

Please find it in your heart to give generously to bankers in need this Christmas:

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Connells Group 'helps' estate agents

Shrewd, opportunistic or just plain old vultures?

The Negotiator reports on the Connells Group fee-share scheme.

Broadly translated this means Connells will relieve an agent of their stock for a share of the fee revenue if and when one of the properties is sold.

We are told that agents can expect to receive 30% of the fee revenue generated by their transferred stock, depending on property type and no doubt subject to conditions.

I would like to have a look at the terms and conditions so if Connells or anyone wants to send me a copy that would be great.

Helpful is putting a bit of a spin on it if you ask me. Helpful for Connells maybe, but for the agent it will only help to potentially pay creditors if they are closing under a cloud (and who doesn't).

I have a better proposal. If an agent is at death's door we will give them a website, a back end system, free uploads to numerous portals, no hosting costs, nothing to pay. All they need is a computer at home.

We will only take a cut for our technology when a property is sold and then at a rate that is affordable. Now that is real help, agent stays in business and can continue to market property which also helps the vendor. Indeed, we can transfer a domain name before the bailiff kicks in the door and bobs your uncle.

I need to think this through, but it is a bona fide offer and genuine help for struggling agents.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Christmas message to the nation - we have property portal overload

More and more property portals are still appearing.

I keep banging on about it, but who needs more of them, the industry; the consumer? Neither!

I also keep banging on about how portals have lost sight of the end user so it is very encouraging to read brand strategy from a company that is 11 years old and look at why they called their site

Eammon from (Ireland's leading portal) commented on a property portal watch tongue in cheek post about crazy portal names that their name was very much customer focused and intentional. The post raises two very important points:

1. It speaks volumes when we can look at the industry and comment on literally hundreds of portal names and pick out the crazy ones for entertainment value.

2. We need to create brands/awareness/usability for the 'demand' side of the market, the consumer! Portals spend too much time looking at the 'supply' side of the market, the agent. Indeed, look at what Rightmove are up to, spending millions on building on brand awareness. They don't care that they annoy the hell out of agents because they know they can capitalise on their brand and drive more traffic to their agents. Thus cutting off traffic to the hundred and one new portals.

If Rightmove had the balls to create a free to list or performance based model would the market really need any other portals? (before I am lynched for being pro Rightmove please read this again and think about what I am saying - I don't think they have the balls in any event!)

Anyway, that's enough banging, anyone would think I worked for enormo (the porn company?!)

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Rightmove share sale - Connells out but still in

Rightmove announced on Friday that Connells sold its 18.1% stake in the business.

Rightmove shares dropped further by 11% closing at 163.25 pence.

Although this means Connells are out, it doesn't mean they are not still 'in'. At the same time Rightmove announced that they had sealed a deal with Connells to extend their contract through to 2012. For the full statement have a look at

No doubt the EAT website will be busy on Monday.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Fannie Mae former boss says it wasn't their fault guvnor

They told me I was mad to build a castle on a swamp, so I built one - and it sank, so I built another one .....

Mr Raine, former boss of Freddie Mae, the giant US mortgage company, stated in written testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the housing crisis wasn't Freddie Mae's fault. No no, the world economy was already in free fall. Indeed, losing $14bn and now being run by the government was all the other boys fault mum, honest! The BBC poignantly states that Mr Raines left Freddie Mae following an accounting scandal!!

It strikes me that it was no more than greed all round, simple as that and Fannie Mae happily fed that greed to get fatter. Indeed, big corporate syndrome securing around half of the $12 trillion US mortgage market leads to arrogance and complacency. Let's say that again, $12 trillion!

The quote above is of course Monty Python. One day lad all this will be yours :)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Christmas drinks

Just an idea, but does anyone fancy a drink?

We will heading up to the Windmill pub on Friday 19 December from about 1600 for a few drinks and just wanted to extend the invite to anyone who was free.

All welcome and we hope you can drop in for a drink.

Nearest tube: Oxford Street, but also walkable from Bond Street, Piccadilly and green Park.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

New Poll - How many property portals do we need?

With yet another portal of sorts launched recently I have to ask just how many property portals do we need? launched a match making property site (the clue is in the name) the other week. I searched for the maximum radius from London of 200 miles and found one agent with a link to their website. So how does this help me and why would I pay £500 odd for the service? I am sure there is a little more to it than that, but people are already doing this, are they not?!

Anyway, I have asked the question before, but not on the poll. So there it is: how many do you think, none, one, more than one, more than ten etc etc. My opinion for what it is worth is that the agent and the public only need one and it should be free! Challenge this and ask, why do we need more?

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Academy - Peter Knight's top 20 ideas for next year

Shortly before the Estate Agency of the Year Awards 2008 Peter Knight ran a seminar through his organisation ‘The Academy’ which was entitled, My top 20 ideas for the future (or along these lines).

Basing his concept on ‘having a plan’ and using the catchphrase ‘doom and bloom’ his talk was very much about preparing for the better times and making sure you are ready. He indicated that we are actually in a V shaped recovery which would mean a sharp recovery, opposed to a U shaped recovery. Apparently, this was the wisdom from the chief economist at HSBC bank, so who I am to argue with this, but 2 years is 2 years whether you say it is a V or a U or a W in my book.

Pleasantly, Peter emphasised the importance of the online space and the fact the landscape had changed dramatically (an understatement!!), but stressed the need to be cautious. I thought words of caution about the online space were a little unnecessary and of course I wanted him to stand up there and bang the online drum like a Japanese Taiko drummer. I felt he was restrained in his comments, perhaps by his audience.

Anyway, his top 20 were as follows. (my italics)

- have a plan for the recovery

- Measure and analyse statistics. (fundamental)

- New innovation (agents should not be cautious, but should lead, innovate, embrace, adapt, pioneer)

- Are you marketing your properties or marketing something else. You should be marketing the property.

- Are you marketing homes or just investments? (know your customer)

- Confused public (agents need to be experts, and need to provide better customer service. I have written about this before and all agents lose track of the actual end user the punter, portals are also guilty or forgetting the punter)

- Learn from your competitors (I would add to this, share. It may seem alien to some companies who were brought up stealing competitors for sale signs, but liaising with your competitors, working with them, sharing technology and ideas will benefit the punter and your business in the long term. If two agents have different skill sets, work together and provide your punter with an all round better service)

- Get vendors to buy

- Ancillary services (maximise the value of mortgages, conveyancing etc etc)

- Look at your sales structure, get the right people

- Look after customers – effective crm

- Buy when it is cheap – buy software etc (absolutely, we have slashed prices and so has everyone else. Never a better time to buy)

- Communicate through social media etc – these are your customers. (embrace the Internet. Have a look at for how this works within our industry, a social media for estate agents).

- Learn more

- Contribute to the Estate agency foundation

If you made it this far you will realise it is not 20, but I missed a couple along the way, sorry!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Daily Mail group buys Metropix

Metropix is a company I have always admired so I am pleased to post that they have just let me know that EDR Landmark Group Ltd, a subsidiary of publishing company Daily Mail and General Trust, acquired the company last Friday.

Apparently it was a bidding process and Landmark won the day. No word on amount, but I am sure that will leak out in due course.

This of course puts Metropix in the same stable as Prime and Finda and one wonders whether one of the groups is looking to build the ultimate all singing all dancing package for agents and puntere alike?

Anyway, Metropix say business as usual (after a short trip to the Caribbean no doubt) and I would like to pass on my congratulations.

Bidding for the Owl blog is still open and I have only one sealed brown envelope at the moment. Not sure if it is a bid, dodgy photos and a blackmail note or a polite invitation from the tax man. Scared to open it either way!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Property Owl Christmas Cup

Tired of the traditional Christmas works do? This year we decided to add some entertainment to the Christmas drink up and after much deliberating in the pub (of course) we came up with the Property Owl Christmas Cup.

The rules are fairly simple, based on a points based league each athlete (and yes we are) has to pit his skill and physical might against his opponent in a selection of herculean challenges. These games are as follows:

Air Hockey
Arcade motorbikes
Arcade punch bag

These six disciplines will obviously test the highly tuned athletes on skill and endurance. Held over approximately eight hours this is a long course and your guide to betting is as follows. Fixed and spread betting available. Our two fillies have dropped out as we refused to include the teeny boppers dance game in the Cup so this will be an all male affair. The course:

Two pubs, one arcade, one pool hall and a casino.

The runners (in no particular order)

Andy – fancies himself as a poker player, apparently played pro once and would no doubt be Frankie Dettori's choice of mount. Expected to excel in Poker, but like his horse racing tips has yet to show any form. Should not be judged on past performances however and is due his day. As a lightweight drinker (his favourite tipple is white wine spritzer) he may not have the legs for such a distance. Odds: 7/1

Hugo – will always do well and is (according to his trainer) a veteran of long distance, but has shown on a number of occasions that he is partial to a little too much wheat and barley. The distance is the key for Hugo and it is his maiden outing for this distance. Unknown quality when reaching his limit and could improve or simply turn into a raving lunatic and flee the course. Not to be underestimated and at good odds makes for a great each way bet. Tipped to win the dominoes. Odds: 10/1

Richard – on past performance is the bookies favourite, but there are many new disciplines and since becoming a father he hasn’t been allowed out. This will seriously effect his drinking prowess and may see his knees shot after half a pint instead of his usual one and a half pints. Never judge a horse by its drunkendness however as whilst looking and playing like a clown on LSD he has the stamina to equal the course record. Needs to stay away from the rail as has a tendency to upset owners and croupiers and could be banned for showing the whip too often. Odds: 6/4

James – the serious competitor of the bunch and will be busy analysing the form of the others, types of dominoes, the ground etc. He will probably walk the course before hand and make notes. A dedicated athlete and strict nutritionist, his pre match preparation will be either a crisp baguette or a microwave burger. Tipped to win the punch bag. May be effected by recent emotional failings of Arsenal. Odds: 11/4

Peter – 2nd in a number of previous competitions he feels cheated and will be secretly gunning for top spot. Champagne is his Achilles heel and it is strongly suspected that the other competitors may lace his feed before the race. Could be strong if kept away from what he sees as performance enhancing substances. Has endured many long distances races, perhaps too many, and given his age may not have anything left to give. Over the hill or one last race in him? Odds: 9/2

Colin – his only competitive performance to date involved the construction of paper aeroplane. As a pilot, he was tipped to take the title but on the day managed to come last with what was, frankly, not worth the paper it was folded on. Will prepare methodically for each discipline and will assimilate each event with aeronautics, quantum physics or the drop in grain prices in the far east. Stamina is not his strong point and has been known to enter himself for all night races and fall at the first hurdle. Also known to offend women in a French/German accept both directly and indirectly. That said, his poker is on form and as rank outsider definitely worth an each way bet. Odds: 12/1

Non runners – Jo (she is very fast, but too young for the competition and her trainer has held her back), Nichola (injured), Nick (off to the glue factory), Adam Smith (made up name for sales calls so can’t compete).

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Private Sellers on Property Portals

When we posted the poll 'should portals list private sellers?' we expected to receive an all out barrage of absolutely not, not on my life, over my dead body type response.

It was therefore a little surprising to find 63% of the vote saying 'yes', private sellers should be listed on portals. This comes at a time when Upad are getting a bashing over in the forums of the EAT for listing private sellers.

Peter Knight of the Academy was also recently speaking of changing times within the foundations of the industry and how business is conducted using Zoopla as an example. Indeed, times are changing dramatically and it is surely probable that one will see most, if not all, of the portals listing private sellers in some way shape or form within 2009.

The votes speak for themselves:

Monday, 1 December 2008

Estate Agency Awards 2008

I have to say that simple survival in the current market deserves an award, but at the annual Estate Agency Awards 2008 on Friday those agents that had gone a little step further were rewarded.

Credit to all at Estate Agency Events for organising the event and I believed Peter Knight when he said that they were not making any money on this event and no doubt running it as a loss leader. He stated that they had thought about cancelling it due to the current climate and I was at first unsure that proceeding with the event was a great idea. But being there amongst the agents made me realise that it was the right decision to have these awards ( the wine and champagne helped as well). The choice of compare was also excellent and Melissa Porter was fantastic throughout. If she is reading I may have that London flat she was looking for!

There were of course about 100 categories, but the one I was particularly interested in was the Best Technology and Web category. Bronze winner was Nest, Silver winner was Xperience Franchising and London Executive took the gold award. It was fantastic to see Nest, an online agent in the mix and keywords from the judges findings indicate they awarded points for clarity, good design, ease of use, good use of property photography/images. London Executive were rewarded for providing a site that can be read in Russian or Chinese (presumably two of their strong client base).

Nest has a great site and a good model, their video is also worthy of a look. More minis, but very well done and now on JRA.

What does this tell others? Well, it says what we have all been saying for some time now, provide a site that is useful for your client base, works well and has nice images. As an industry we are still not there yet however and first we need to get the basics right. I am sure if you looked at this section in the American equivalent there would be awards for creating iphone applications, interactive map searches and other such issues. In the UK will are still at the stage of building a simple, clean, efficient web site. That said, the recognition of Nest is a huge step in the right direction. There are of course others in this space and I have often banged on about the online agent and I would expect to see this as a category next year. There was an innovation category, but not for online innovation per se.

With Nick Leeming (founder of propertyfinder as it now is) being presented with the excellence and achievement award in estate agency I saw this very much as technology finally being acknowledged/accepted. I would expect to see new categories next year to reflect the online revolution within this space.

Karl Tatler took a number of prizes along with the coveted estate agency of the year award 2008 so congratulations to them.

Next year I hope to see more online categories, best portal/search/etc. Maybe the Owl will sponsor/judge a category?