WANTED: Psychic predictor of market fluctuation and herder of cats

With the demise of some DIY estate agents, Glentree Estates' Trevor Abrahmsohn says 'strategic meetings’ are the best way to achieve results.



Now that we’re in an age where the espresso coffee machine operator is called a barista, shop assistants can be ‘customer relations and finance coordinators’ and delivery drivers are ‘distribution operatives’, perhaps it’s time to rename the humble estate agent?

Appropriate monikers could be ‘miracle worker’, ‘psychic predictor of market fluctuations’ or preferably, ‘herder of cats’.

Let’s face it, an agent on a contingency fee basis can work for weeks, months and possibly years struggling to achieve the terms which are acceptable to the seller, even if, at times, this is a figment of their ambitious imagination. As they (should) say in property sales, “knitting water would be easier”.

Spotty oik in a cheap suit.

I remind our seller clients that any greasy-haired spotty oik in a cheap suit can put up a board, churn out some badly-spelt details and get trigger happy with all the online portals. But you need a different skill to attain the higher figures that are customary at Glentree.

Hooray Henry estate agents retreat behind a party wall of librarianism.

Once a novel threat to the incumbents of the industry, DIY agency services such as Purplebricks are now writhing in their death throes and, dare I say, would not be missed.  As counter-intuitive as it may first seem, true value resides at your local estate agent, particularly as the market gets thornier and ‘forced gravitation’ is needed to trebuchet a sale across the finish line.

Meanwhile, the ‘Hooray Henry’ estate agents retreat behind a party wall of librarianism, corporate branding, and fake sincerity, by only communicating with their sellers via emails and phone calls.#

The establishment teaches them, from apprenticeship level, to avoid confrontational meetings between buyer and seller, on pain of death.

Go forth where others fear to tread.

However, the trained innovative operatives at Glentree who, ‘go forth where others fear to tread’, take this relatively generic process and use powers of psychology sprinkled with some holomorphic functions by using strategic meetings to get their deals done.

Like putting together the kit for smashing an atom at the dinner table, these meetings are difficult to set up, since buyer and seller would far rather remain hidden by the interlocutor agents than be exposed for all to see.

However, this does not help to bridge the financial gap which is the precursor to an agreed sale.

Before one of these meetings, we ensure that all the decision-makers are present, and the buyer has the financial wherewithal to pay a figure reasonably close to the asking price, whatever their qualms about clearing the bank account. No one is allowed to leave the meeting half-baked, and it takes as long as it takes to produce fusion.

To discuss the filthy stuff…

The parties are invited to the seller’s home where they meet and are offered refreshments.  After the preamble, they’re invited to discuss the ‘filthy stuff’, the money.

The discussion is usually quite fluid until the last 10% of the gap between them is encountered.  Up to this point, the agent is relatively quiet and then the buyer is invited to have a private meeting with the agent, in an adjoining room. The agent then moves between rooms, using subtle yet focused negotiation techniques to close the last few percentage points.

Invariably, the agent asks the buyer what price they paid for their own property and how much capital gain has accrued over time. Then the hypothetical question is posed as to whether five or more per cent paid at the time would have made any difference to the net proceeds and by deduction, if a similar percentage is added to their offer on the present, would it not be de minimis?

We have to draw the line somewhere.

Often the buyer hauls out the old adage, ‘we have to draw the line somewhere’ and in response, we remind them that a line on a piece of paper is about two per cent of the space, so it is not definitive but has a spread.

When I am in the meeting with a seller, I remind them that the utopian magic figure for value that they may have had in their minds is theoretical, whilst the offer that the potential buyer has made in the meeting is real and tangible.

Invariably, vendors suffer from that age old symptom IPIS (Idiopathic Price Illusion Syndrome) where reality is unfortunately not as exciting as the imaginary version in their minds. A house, anything in fact, is only worth what someone else will pay. Reality is unfortunately not as exciting as the imaginary.

The penalty shoot-out method.

In one notable case I ran out of options and since the buyer had to catch a private flight from Luton, I suggested that the ‘penalty shoot-out method’ should be used to bridge the price gap.

They all looked aghast when I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a coin in-order to settle the £500,000 difference in price between them. The banter stopped instantly when all eyes focused on the result of the spin and unfortunately, the seller lost out, but the property was sold.

Once the financial gap has been bridged, buyer and seller are invited back into the room and the deal is spelt out to them in tortuous detail. Only then are they required to shake hands on the terms that have been agreed which is what we, at Glentree, call a moral contract.

Whilst this helps to doubt-stitch the deal, it could still fall apart if the vendor gets a gazumping bid of more than five per cent of the agreed sale price.

It is this level of shuttle diplomacy that has provoked a comment that Glentree is the ‘Goldman Sachs’ of the estate agency world, as deals get done which to others seem highly improbable.

As William Clement Stone once said, “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect”.

Trevor Abrahmsohn (main picture) is founder and MD of London estate agency Glentree International.

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