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What’s your agency’s Plan B?

Planning expert Dominic Dear shares his thoughts on why agents are missing a trick when it comes to winning new instructions.

Dominic Dear

House extension image

SCENE ONE

You’re on a viewing with a couple and they are really interested in the property.

They love the area, the feel of the street, the fact the local schools are good, and the asking price is within their budget, just.

Then they ask you if there is any scope for extending the property, as another home they’ve been shown by a rival agent has potential to ‘grow’ and meet the demands of their young but growing family.

This could be the deal breaker.

How about taking a proactive approach to building relationships with planning experts?

Usually in this situation agents will offer a generic reply along the lines of ‘that’s something you’d need to contact the local authority about’ or a more prepared agent may say ‘well, the neighbours next door has built a loft conversion / side extension / rear extension (delete as applicable.)’

Dominic Dear image

Dominic Dear

But here’s my question.

Why don’t agents take a more proactive approach to planning and build working relationships with local planning experts and consultants? If requested, they will often attend site visits at no cost to the agent or the buyer.

If this was the case the agent won’t be put on the spot by the prospective buyer’s questions. Instead, a planning consultant could step in and explain exactly how to maximise the house’s floor space.

For example, the planner could inform them that they could possibly get a single storey 4m deep rear extension which could provide space for a huge new kitchen and open plan living area.

Or that the loft could also be extended to fit a master suite with en-suite bathroom. They might also consider building a home office or gym in the garden.

A good planning consultant can prove to be the difference between a buyer making an offer – or not.

An alternative response the agent could offer is along the lines of, “We work closely with a local planning consultant, I’d be happy to discuss this on your behalf, or I’d be delighted to introduce them to you.”

I’m sure you can see the three things this would say about your agency.

  1. We’re professional enough to have already investigated this option for people buying this property and arranged for you to meet a planning consultant free of charge.
  2. We have a good network of local experts we work with (I think agents should see partnerships with planning consultants in much the same way as solicitors and mortgage brokers).
  3. We have an attention to detail and are always looking at ways to help buyers.

And don’t forget the marketing potential in offering sellers this kind of service.

SCENE TWO

You’re on a valuation. The couple selling the property want to downsize and move to another town to be closer to their grandchildren.

They are a savvy pair and have done the usual thing of calling three agents in for valuations, advice and to weigh up which agency they think would do the best job.

They are looking for an agency that will maximise their property’s value.

So, you slip into the conversation that you work with a local planning expert who you have already had a chat with about the property and who thinks their home has potential to build a side / rear extension / loft conversion / outbuilding (delete as applicable).

Again, you would be showing a level of proactivity and hunger to win the instruction that is not, in my experience, always the case.

This could be the difference that makes a difference and wins you the instruction.

So, you can see the benefits for the vendors, potential buyers and agents.

IS THERE A CATCH?

Hah! You may say, what will the planning consultant charge me? Otherwise, what’s in it for them?

Whenever I get a referral from an agent I’m always aware it could lead to work for me. Some, but not all, planning consultants will offer a free initial consultation to discuss the idea and look at potential for development.

It’s also important for agents to work with local planning consultants as they will know the intricacies of each local authority and have case studies to refer to.

There are many ways that forward-thinking agencies make themselves stand out, but fewer are easier than picking up the phone and getting to know your local planning experts and consultants.

Dominic Dear runs ADARA, a successful planning permission, architectural and design company in Barnet. He has more than 10 years’ experience in the planning industry – five of those years as a senior planning officer with Barnet Council.
www.adara.co.uk

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