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Estate agents charge too much for what they do

A recent Which? report looked at the way in which estate agents charge for their services and concluded that estate agents are deliberately vague about what they charge consumers and the kinds of commisssions quoted can vary quite dramatically. Personally I have always felt that High Street estate agents charge too much for what they do. After all, the internet, especially Rightmove, has brought down the cost of finding buyers, yet estate agents seem wedded to their 1.5% to 2% commissions (or more for joint/multiple agency). The good news is that internet is a great democratiser as it enables the little guys (ie. me) as much or – used cleverly – more power than the big guys (ie. the large corporate chains). It also allows companies like mine to innovate, reduce overheads and offer sellers something different at a price below what our competition charges. That’s why when I…

Dirty tricks show we have the competition worried!

Our office in Hertford has been open just five months and already the dirty tricks from a competitor have started. A High Street estate agent in Hoddesdon, who shall remain nameless but who are part of a national chain, has so far booked a valuation and a viewing under false names as a way to find out how we pitch for new business and to waste our time. We had this kind of thing happen when we opened in Somerset so know what to expect.

The elusive Mr Falconio who booked a late evening viewing of a house we have just put on the market aroused our suspicions by refusing to give a mobile ‘phone number and true to form didn’t turn up (so wasting our and our client’s time) and didn’t call to say why. When we called in the morning to find out why we went straight through…

Property asking prices fall, but activity is up

There are two conflicting reports out today that sum up the property market at the beginning of 2011.

The first is from Zoopla and shows that sellers are dropping their prices in response to a lack of sales at the end of 2010. Indeed they show that nearly four in ten houses that were on the market at the beginning of the year have had their original prices reduced, and that on average the drop is 6.6%. In London a third of properties have fallen in price, so slightly below the national average, though by a similar %.

The second report comes from the National Association of Estate Agents who in a poll of their members find that the number of registered house hunters with each of their agents is at its highest levels for 6 months, rising around 10% from December.

This seems to support our view, which is that alot…

Labour admits to getting it wrong – then appoints Caroline Flint!

I had to laugh today when shadow welfare secretary Liam Byrne has admitted the Labour government failed the housing sector while in power.

Byrne  said: “We just do not think we did a good enough job on housing.”

Their solution? To hold a review into what they had got wrong and to put Caroline Flint in charge of that review.

Is that the same Caroline Flint who was housing Minister from Jan 2008 and who said of Home Information Packs ” we were responding to public concern that buyers often had to pay duplicate costs for information that the seller should take responsibility for. I think that desire to stop duplication and have information in one place for people to access is as important today. Hips get a bad rep but I don’t believe that they have affected the market and I think it’s rather cheeky of people to try to drag them…

“They’ll have gone in a couple of months” – praise indeed

Have just heard on the grapevine that a large High Street estate agent in Ware has just told one of their clients – who was taking their home off the market and mentioned that they had been recommended to try BigBlackHen.com – that “we’d be gone in a couple of months”.

I had to laugh. When we started the business in 2005 in Somerset I know of two local agents who predicted we’d be gone within a year. Six years later and we were selling more property than them both and had just come 20th in the Estate Agency of the Year Awards 2010.

They were wrong then and they are wrong now. The reason is simple – we offer clients something different with our client-friendly contracts and low fixed fees – and people really are crying out for a change.

I look forward with confidence to seeing our distinctive hen boards…