Thursday, 26 March 2009

Law Society attacks estate agents - bring on the bankers

War is declared! A war to rise from the depths of the public mind. And it promises to be a bloody fight.

Self proclaimed defenders of the ordinary man (Solicitors) have struck against the villainous scourge which is the estate agent market.

Solicitors have moved quickly (in legal terms!) to draw first blood and protect the ordinary man, claiming in the Times (bastion of the legal fraternity) that '... taken with stamp duty, estate agents’ fees account for the lion’s share of the costs of a house sale — dwarfing solicitors' fees from the same transaction...' The President of the Law Society no less (NB to Mr Bolton King - you need a title such as President) goes on to say "... after years of a bull run, their earnings have been quite disproportionate to the cost of everything else in society, whether a loaf of bread, cars or holiday..."

This is sterling stuff and has prompted outrage from the estate agent community. Well, a few bitchy comments on the EAT and a letter to the Times.

I would expect to see bankers come out next to really lay the boot in and blame estate agents for the world economic meltdown.

Reporting from the frontline, your war correspondent signing off.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

60ft penis on parents' roof

What a great story and what a great way for some free advertising to get that property sold.

The BBC reports that an 18-year-old '... secretly painted a 60ft drawing of a phallus on the roof of his parents' £1million mansion in Berkshire. It was there for a year before his parents found out. They say he'll have to scrub it off when he gets back from travelling...' Brilliant!!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Propertydrum, a new magazine - great!

As the current real estate magazines get smaller, print on cheaper paper and offer near on free advertising it is somewhat surprising to receive a press release for a new all singing all dancing real estate magazine.

From the publishers of the NAEA magazine comes Propertydrum, which I am told will be '... a large, high quality printed magazine mailed directly to 15000+ experts in Residential Sales and Lettings [etc]...' (well, that is already a waste of about 4,000 copies given those who have gone out of business).

Anyway, Propertydrum aims to deliver the usual stuff, but with 100+ pages. Wow, my last copy of the Negotiator had about 5 pages and all the others seem to thinning quicker than Elton John. It claims to have articles by leading property journalists, which could be true as they didn't ask me!

The website is currently fantastic, big countdown clock and a loud beating drum worthy of a slot in Stomp. The website would appear to be aimed directly in competition with Estate Agent Today, news feeds, forum and the like.

The magazine and website will be launched on April 6.

This is bold and has balls and I like the idea of the website (so long as they embrace JRA), but a 100 page magazine every month in this current climate is surely suicide and lets hope it is published on super efficient recycled loo roll?!

Anyway, good luck to them. I am off to report them to Friends of the Earth!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Twouble with Twitter

A different look at Twitter, which is a marketing for an animated news channel. Just thought it may be of interest.

the twouble with twitter

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Big Bill McClintock - cutting out the cowboys

The Negotiator magazine reports recently on a call for agents to be registered. Yes, I still read the magazines from time to time, but only if they are free.

Anyway, Big Bill McClintock (the Ombudsman for Estate Agents) is forming a steering committee (various definitions, but I like '... a committee to arrange the order of business for some larger body...') to consider the structure of forming an estate agent registry.

Normally associated with the green leather of the House of Lords and legislation in general, Big Bill's steering committee will seek to understand how best to implement a registry for estate agents.

The issue of agents being professionals and subject to some form of regulation is not a new one. Anyone can start an agency is a common dinner conversation. Indeed, Bill points out, ' of the familiar jibes aimed at estate agency is that anyone can set up as an agent. But many other professionals, such as politicians, have learnt their craft without any professional qualifications under their belts...'

An unwise choice of comparison perhaps, but introducing CPD and registration would be a good thing, would it not?

Perhaps a better starting point would be agreeing to call our industry by a more professional term such as real estate. It sends a more professional message.

Big Bill, Steering, Cowboys - Yeha partner!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Zoopla and Private Sellers

A rather unusual debate is stirring with questions being asked of Zoopla as to whether it is listing private sellers. I say unusual because Zoopla is denying it and responding to questions as if they were politicians, i.e. yes they have weapons of mass destruction and no I never had sex with that woman and then evade the issue.

Alex Chesterman of Zoopla states in the Negotiator that "We do not have private seller listings. We are very clear in our frequently asked questions [section] about how we don't endorse private listings and we push you [buyers] towards agents."

There is the politician 'we don't endorse'... Not endorsing is some way off actually doing and call me stupid, but I am looking now at a property that has a picture and looks as if it is listed by the owner. I can contact the owner directly and ask him if he wants to sell it, which I have done. Perhaps Zoopla can explain who this is if it is not a person?!

Chesterman goes on to say that the feature 'tempt me' which allows one to upload a property listing is not at all saying this property is for sale. No, no, Chesterman states "... it is somebody who says my property is not for sale...". Umm, err, well, ok lets go to war then!

Anyway, this is all by the by, as I don't share the same hatred of private sellers as the likes of Peter Bolton King and the NAEA.

Indeed, it is common knowledge that all the portals are geared up to accept private seller feeds, but no one big has dared mix the two together, save for Tesco who dipped their toe in the water and then ran away (incidentally whatever happened to the Spicer Haart/Tesco virtual agent??).

I will leave you with this thought. Type into google 'Zoopla private sellers', the top hit is privatehomeseller - one nil and well done to private home seller!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

First house raffle to actually give away a house

I have posted many times about the hopelessness of house raffles, but here is a report of one that has actually been won (allegedly!).

I am a cynic at the best of times and whilst I am suspicious about the actual story behind this 'winner' the more important point is that the developer who organised this raffle let this one go 'at a loss'.

The price quoted for the property is widely criticised as way over the top, which means that if the realistic price is 50% of the inflated figure (as suggested by others) and the charity has actually received £40,000 then they are not selling at a loss, but more likely giving it away. In the circumstances, they would have to sell over 10,000 tickets to just break even on the second property they intend to raffle. History shows that there will not be demand for 10,000 tickets let alone enough for all 10 properties they intend to raffle, especially given there are only 4225 registered ticket sales so far.

I do however think this is great marketing and they should generate some more ticket sales on the back of it so good luck to them. Have a go if you feel lucky.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Foxtons Hookers - Pimp up my flat

It would appear that Foxtons are hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons once again. They are being sued by a Landlord client who alleges Foxtons let her flat to a Russian prostitute.

Not great on the face of it, but it gets worse as the tenant apparently trashed the flat and only paid one month's rent for a three month stay. But, the real shocker is the allegation that Foxtons provided the reference for the Hooker.

It is the oldest profession (prostitution!) and some would argue agents are no different to Pimps in any event. Indeed, you have to admire their response to a depressed market: fill your managed properties with hookers, charge the landlord as per usual then take a large ongoing commission from the tenant. Do not chase the tenant when she doesn't pay and deny all knowledge if challenged. Move tenant and repeat, move tenant and repeat.

Maybe Foxtons have struck upon an idea, why not create a niche agency for hookers?

One for propertyporn I think! I am off to look at flats in Chelsea :)

Friday, 6 March 2009

Things, can only get ....... worse

I don’t normally discuss house price data, mortgage data, stats, Lies, damned lies and statistics, but I have been sucked into the whirlpool of despair that is the current housing market.

I can’t find it now, but I have seen stats for sales in January and I think I read it correctly when it stated only 10,000 properties were sold in January. That is 10,000 for a population of 60 million people, the percentage is too depressing to publish. The Halifax reported a small rise in property prices in January, but this has been largely dismissed as incorrect by commentators and economists. Indeed, the Halifax and Nationwide figures for February show a steady decline in house prices with figures resembling something close to 1994. Ironically, a hit song in 1994 was ‘things can only get better’. It was a bad song then and things will get far worse before they get better.

So these are the stats, but what about real life? Well, I met an old friend of mine recently who is a solicitor. Now don’t hold that against him as it gets worse, he is a conveyancing solicitor. He was happy, why? He had completed on a property, his second this year! Two in two months! His happiness was short lived when I asked how many he expected in March? “probably the same” he said.

Perhaps Seth Godin was right some time ago when he said it was time to quit.

If you insist staying in the business, rentals, repossessions and auctions are the only place where anything will happen.

I am off to write a song!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Every picture tells a story - Property Live

There is an ongoing debate on JRA about Property Live. One issue being discussed is the images they have chosen. The images of agents they are using on the home page and throughout the site have universally been labelled as stock photographs. But now it would appear that these photographs are of real agents. Have a look at this debate for an example of how a person can look different and the image it projects using different photographs (scroll to the bottom of the debate).

For over a year I have moaned about agents taking good quality pictures and here is the 'agents' portal (for want of a better phrase) displaying images you wouldn't put in your passport. What message does this send?!

With reference to good quality property pictures, have a look at this agent's pictures of a property and notice the corresponding email from a prospective punter. Although only a few pictures, they are very good quality and they work. It is not rocket science!

The email from punter:

Message: I have fallen in love with this property and would love to see it!

When is it available?

Many thanks

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Zoopla - And so it begins

Zoopla have announced the acceptance of property listings on a pay per lead basis. An interview with the founder Alex Chesterman on Property Portal Watch doesn't say much more about the offering, but what is worthy to note is the general game plan.

Property Index are of course already in the cost per lead space and have started to build a good following, have a good sales structure and are out there approaching agents. Zoopla appear to acknowledge this and do not see them as competitors per se. Indeed, it is my impression from the interview that Alex is saying teh entire industry will go pay per lead and it will be them and Property Index who are the ones leading it (well he says Zoopla will be leading it, but he would wouldn't he).

It is a good point and one worth considering. If they are correct and the entire industry heads this way, Rightmove et al will eventually be forced to follow suit. The question one is bound to ask is whether these new portals will have gained enough market share when (if) the big guns switch model.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Negotiator Awards - technology, web and portals not recognised

My recent copy of the Negotiator contained a good number of pages promoting the Negotiator Awards 2009.

Great for the industry, but I was a little disappointed to note that once again, portals, web and technology are ignored. How can this be after all that has been said and written about both?!

Indeed, if awards are (a) to recognise players in the industry and (b) send a message to their peers that the winners are the companies excelling in these categories, surely portals, the web and technology have never been more important.

I have moaned about this before (after every award ceremony) followed by a suggestion of running our own awards for those agents and industry professionals that embrace these areas and perhaps now I may just do it!!

Any sponsors out there?