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Monday, 23 July 2018
A regular Homes Weekly series sees estate agents from the area write about their day-to-day reality. This week RICHARD SUTTON, above, the local director at the Pangbourne branch of Davis Tate, opens his diary...
I arrive at the Pangbourne office in Reading Road at just after 8am and over the next 15 minutes the rest of the team arrives.
The Monday morning meeting is always a long one. After a large amount of activity over the weekend, there is a lot to discuss.
Tasks are given to various members of the team, including all the viewing follow-ups, and all our vendors and landlords are updated. From Saturday’s activity we are hopeful of getting several offers. We’ll see!
Samantha MacGowan, sales and lettings negotiator, is also tasked with calling all of our vendors and landlords, as she does every Monday, to discuss last week’s activity on their property and plan the campaign for the forthcoming week.
This week, she will also send them a report showing activity on their property from Rightmove. Vendors get a report every week — alternating between a Rightmove report and one from our own system.
Oliver Parker, our senior negotiator, is the follow-up king. He’ll make sure we have feedback on every viewing so that it can be communicated to our clients.
Vanessa Townsend, our country and riverside manager, is with us today and she will be calling all the vendors of our properties priced at over a million to have a similar conversation.
Simon Martindale, our financial consultant is here too. He is our money man. He’s here to double-check that any offers we put forward to our clients are properly qualified.
Compared with the industry average, Davis Tate have a very low fall-through rate (the number of sales that don’t progress to a satisfactory conclusion after a deal has been agreed), and we want to ensure that we eliminate as much risk as possible by doing all the checks properly.
Many of our buyers, and vendor clients for that matter, have also found that Simon’s been able to save them quite a bit on their mortgage payments.
Now we plan our diary. We have deliberately kept the morning free to deal with everything from the weekend but the afternoon is packed with appointments — both viewings and valuations.
Diary management is always a challenge. We strive to make the best use of our time, and that of our clients, by grouping appointments together wherever possible and planning our diary geographically wherever possible. It’s not always possible, though, and often appointments get changed by clients at the last minute. Today’s diary, though, looks like it should work out well.
Now it’s afternoon and Judith Peachey, customer services, arrives.
Every weekday between 2pm and 6pm she calls the vendors of houses we are selling (ones that all the valuers from our 13 offices have been out to the previous day) to do a customer services follow-up survey.
The feedback she obtains is very useful to hone our service. We want to be the best and won’t achieve this if we don’t listen to our customers.
What did we achieve today? That’s always the question at the end of each day. Today was pretty good. We agreed sales on two houses and the rental of an apartment. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
We’re working with a smaller team today. Samantha is not in, but Sarah Wilson, sales and lettings negotiator, is — funny how you never see them in the same room together! — and so is Oliver.
A shorter morning meeting than yesterday — we go over the weekend’s activity again to make sure we have not missed anything.
Everyone has tasks allocated, appointments in the diary carefully planned to make best use of our time.
Sometimes all our efforts are in vain as buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants change appointments at the last minute, scuppering our carefully planned agenda.
Today is one of those days, but a flurry of phone calls later and we are sorted.
This is always “telephone time” — time protected in the diary every day to do nothing but generate new business. Quite challenging today as everyone seems to be out, but Oliver has booked a couple of viewings.
I have booked a valuation for someone who registered with us last week with one of our other offices but lives in the Pangbourne area. It’s well worth doing.
One of my valuations today is for a couple who are separating. Very sad.
They have been in the house since it was built 30 years ago. We go through all the comparable evidence of recent sales and houses on the market and agree on a marketing price between us.
It’s so important to make this decision together rather than just deliver a figure.
Accuracy on pricing is crucial in a market where there is plenty to choose from, as is the case right now.
We agree on a price, book the Energy Performance Certificate inspection, carry out our obligations under the anti-money laundering regulations by checking and recording details of ID for both vendors, complete all the relevant paperwork, agree a marketing strategy and the process for arranging viewings, and agree a time to come back and take photographs.
I leave an advice sheet which will help them prepare the house for the photographs.
Getting the right photos is so important. All our relevant staff are trained to get the best images possible.
This can take a lot of time and effort. We do not want to misrepresent the house in any way (we don’t wish buyers to have false expectations only to be disappointed when they arrive for a viewing).
It’s important for those buyers who “hide” behind the portal sites and only contact an agent when they see something they like. We may only get one opportunity to attract them.
I am constantly shocked at the way I see some properties portrayed online where not just a lack of training is in evidence, and clearly no effort has been made.
Today starts with a directors’ meeting with the managing director Matt Bates and the other directors.
There is more legislation that will affect our business due to come into force in May 2018. As usual, we want to be one step ahead of the game, so start planning our strategy now.
When I get to my office, the rest of the team have already had the morning meeting but we have a quick update so we all know what is happening.
Today, again, is a full and challenging day.
I have a meeting with a developer to discuss a site of 10 townhouses with roof gardens he is proposing to build and give professional advice on pricing and final layouts and specification.
There’s also a telephone meeting with another developer to have a similar discussion about two very large houses proposed on a prime site locally.
Oliver has a couple of valuations and there are a number of viewings booked for the afternoon.
We discuss the offers that came in yesterday, including a very cheeky offer of 25 per cent less than the asking price! Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to work on that one, but Sarah has managed to agree a sale on one of the other offers received and hopes to agree a let from the activity yesterday, subject to agreeing timescales with the landlord.
We have also scheduled a meeting this afternoon so all the staff in the office can update each other on the progress of all the transactions that are currently moving towards exchange of contracts.
This will ensure that the necessary calls are made to chase up solicitors and buyers and try to resolve any problems before they become a major issue.
Our operations director has sent an email out to all the offices telling us that we must do a fire drill today as well. This shouldn’t take long.
“Fire!” I shout, and within a matter of seconds we are gathered on the pavement outside the office. I have recorded the time taken in our health and safety log.
It’s a lovely evening so I try to leave early so I can get in a reasonably long bike ride before supper...
I have the usual screen full of emails to deal with before our morning meeting. One of them is from a client who is seeking advice on several different extension plans he has for his house.
He is trying to work out which will be most cost-effective and needs my help in assessing potential values when completed.
This will take quite a bit of time, so I set aside some time in my diary for later today.
I reply to another email, this time from allagents.co.uk — the TripAdvisor for estate agency.
They’ve got in touch to say that, once more, I have been awarded the gold award for best estate agent in Pangbourne for the year, with the highest number of five-star reviews from happy customers.
Whilst we strive to be the best at what we do, it is always gratifying to see that our customers really appreciate our service.
There is also an email from a company acting for a bank requesting a ballpark value of a property that they are sadly considering taking into possession. They don’t want us to visit the house, but fortunately I am familiar with it.
The sun is shining! There have been some properties for which we have been awaiting the perfect weather to improve on the images we already have.
One of the houses could do with an elevated image to show the house and its wonderful rural location all in one shot, so the mast (a device that enables us to get elevated images of properties) is collected from our Henley office and deployed.
We come back with some fantastic images.
Telephone time is reasonably successful today, with Oliver being the star of the day, with the highest number of results. I’ve no idea how he manages to achieve this given the time he spends eating biscuits!
Of the appointments booked in today, we are meeting representatives from the TV programme Location, Location, Location at two of our properties for sale.
Our clients’ permissions have already been granted for these visits. If selected, either or both of these properties could be welcoming Phil and/or Kirstie in the coming days!
In the middle of the morning it’s a delight to get a visit from a couple whose home we sold, as well as selling them their new house.
They were so thrilled with the service they received that they had a cake baked and decorated with our logo!
We have such great customers — it’s a pleasure to do this job most of the time. Mind you, we’ll have to hide the cake from Oliver or we won’t see any of it!
We have completions of three properties scheduled to happen today.
Friday is a popular day for people to move home as it gives them the weekend to sort themselves out before having to return to work on the Monday.
This means that solicitors are exceptionally busy ensuring that all the monies are transferred in time. Very occasionally, things go wrong.
One of our transactions is involved in a chain. At the bottom of the chain one of the solicitors has not ordered the funds from the lender in time and the money does not come in!
Everyone is very stressed. It’s getting near the end of the day and the removal teams want to go home. No one can gain access to the homes they think they have bought because if the money has not come in at the bottom of the chain, it cannot be transferred up the line.
Luckily, the wonderful conveyancer Laura Franklin at Davis Tate Conveyancing, who is acting for our client has come up with a solution.
Everyone will move in “under licence” which means they are effectively renting their new property on a daily basis, with the costs being borne by the solicitor at the bottom of the chain who made the blunder.
Completion will legally take place when the money is finally transferred on Monday, but there is relief all around as everyone is able to move in for the weekend.
Thankfully, situations like this are extremely rare, and it is only the third time I have come across this in the 37 years I have been practising as an estate agent.
There is a busy diary tomorrow and we want to hit the ground running in the morning, so Oliver and Samantha re-confirm all the appointments in the diary, then prepare brochures and keys for all the viewings, together with any necessary alarm codes.
With high demands on our time, it is crucial that the diary is planned meticulously.
While we build in some flexibility for people being late, some people get lost or get stuck in traffic and this can have a serious knock-on effect for the remaining appointments, so we let them know in advance how much flexibility we have on the time of the appointment.
We have an open house viewing session planned for tomorrow on one of our properties and have 12 viewings booked at short intervals.
It is likely there will be more than one offer and we may need to adopt a “sealed bid” strategy. This will be decided in consultation with our client, depending on the amount of interest.
While buyers are not always keen on this process, it is generally the fairest way of dealing with interest from multiple buyers and good for our clients to know they have gained the best possible price in the market.
At the close of business, being a Friday, the team gets together for a drink to unwind and discuss the challenges and achievements of the week. Overall, quite a good one again. Long may it continue!
l Richard Sutton is the local director at the Pangbourne branch of Davis Tate