Only accept the instructions you want
Do you ever go to a valuation where you don’t want the property?
Maybe it doesn’t fit with your image or your marketplace; maybe it’s even decorated in a style you don’t want to put on your website? Perhaps it’s too cheap, or the neighbourhood is either far too far away, or just not that great. Maybe the building isn’t that well looked after, or perhaps you don’t want the client?
It doesn’t happen often, but if you feel you simply can’t get fully behind a property for whatever reason, then you will hate dealing with it and the relationship with the client will likely sour. But you don’t have to take every property you see. In fact, there’s a lot of value in being clear with yourself around what type of estate agent you are; the types of instruction you are interested in; and being upfront with clients about whether or no you are right agent for them.
The best example I can give you is when I worked at an estate agent on the South Bank in London, very close to London Bridge and right on the edge of Borough Market. I’d previously been selling Victorian houses and conversion flats in Brixton, Clapham and Stockwell for about 10 years and, although I liked that market and especially the people who lived there, I really wanted to get into lofts. So I found a loft-specialist agency and went to work there.
As well as knowing that I wanted to deal with lofts, I also knew that I didn’t want to deal with regular flats, ex-local authority property or terraced houses, of which there is a fair amount in the SE1 postcode. But lofts were calling me and boy were there a lot in London Bridge, where the regeneration of the South Bank was seeing lots of old industrial buildings – factories, warehouses, etc – being repurposed as contemporary living spaces.
Living in an industrial space puts you in a sort of club of loft-dwelling folk. There is a certain mentality that unites the people living in them, and very often you’ll find the occupant works in one of the creative sectors: a designer or an architect or a marketing something-or-other.
Sensing this mindset, we took the decision to turn down any property that didn’t fit the loft living lifestyle. So anything we thought was boring we gave away to the other agents in the area.
In particular, there was who clearly did well selling local authority apartments so any owners of those were given that agent’s number and a person to speak to – I must make it clear here that we treated everyone with total respect. We were never, ever snobby about our loft specialty; we were just entirely straightforward about it and extremely graceful in recommending people to an agent who clearly had lots of experience and success in selling the type of property they owned.
This strategy made us the number one choice among the owners of loft apartments and live/work units, allowing us to truthfully state that we were not just the loft specialist in the neighbourhood, but that we only handled lofts. This meant we could tell every single homeowner we visited that every single buyer we had registered ultimately wanted a space like theirs.
This was truly powerful stuff. In fact it was the single most successful instruction-winning strategy of our presentation. It gave owners an instant connection with our agency and showed them they had the best chance of selling a property with us and for the best price.
This wasn’t ever about putting other estate agents out of business. It was about making our business successful and creating the property portfolio we all wanted to work with. And if you want the same for your estate agency, the first thing to do is choose your specialism and then start living it.