Diary of an estate agent: Sevenoaks
I am asked to value a sweet cottage with my colleague Louisa in the Sevenoaks area this morning, where the very thorough vendor, who has invited seven estate agents, assesses us all with a clipboard full of searching questions. A real test to start the week, but I feel we come through with flying colours — helped by the fact that one of the vendor’s daughters went to school with Louisa. In my office, 90 per cent of the team have lived in Kent for most of their lives, which gives us a distinct advantage over our competitors when it comes to local knowledge and on-going relationships.
Today the BBC wants me to value a property in Wrotham for its Homes Under The Hammer programme. No problem, you would think, for a chatty, extrovert estate agent who normally loves the limelight. However, my knees go weak and I am very scared of the camera. I get away with mumbling something about the value, the herbaceous borders and providing better kerb appeal to buyers, before leaving to mop my furrowed brow. Not something I will agree to do again in a hurry.
This afternoon, I visit a popular part of Sevenoaks for a valuation with a disgruntled vendor. Unfortunately, the property has been on the market for six months with another estate agent who overvalued it — something to be very careful of in this market, as it usually means you are stuck with no sale and everyone wondering what is wrong with your property.
I come in to the office at 8am to find that the buyer at the bottom of a four-tier chain is threatening to pull out due to an issue with a defective lease, which could potentially stop all parties being able to move. The owners of the property are horrified to find their solicitor completely missed the issue when they bought it.
With buyers being nervous about the market, it is becoming increasingly important for vendors to ask their solicitors to collate the contract papers even before putting the property on to the market. That way, when you do find a buyer, the process is quicker and the buyer is less likely to pull out. Your solicitor can also check the title and establish early any issues that may surface during the conveyancing period. If your solicitor refuses to do this until you find a buyer, find a different solicitor.
A very painful day. I tour a delightful property, but the owner decides to let his new pit bull terrier in to meet the nice estate agent. The dog greets me with a sharp bite to the left calf, leaving me with ripped trousers, teethmarks in my leg and a hole in my arm from the tetanus shot at A&E, not to mention seriously hurt pride. I soldier on by trying to deliver a thorough and informative pitch to the client through gritted teeth and a determination not to cry. I phone another partner immediately after, who finds the whole thing very amusing.
I would like to say I am winding down for the end of the week, but unfortunately I have another full day to come, as we always have a senior person in the office on a Saturday to manage any issues. Saturday is also a great day to meet clients and buyers when they are feeling more relaxed.
This afternoon, a colleague exchanges contracts on a rather tricky sale, with a buyer and seller who throughout the process disliked each other more and more until the deal became fraught with suspicion and mistrust.
A big part of our job is keeping deals together through negotiation and communication when relationships begin to fray. The day ends at 6.30pm with a Michael Bublé love song playing in the office: “I just haven’t met you yet…”
Matthew Rothery is a partner at the Sevenoaks branch of Strutt & Parker (01732 459 900)