Sunday, March 25, 2007

Estate agents become too trendy by half

You may have noticed how estate agents - certainly in fashionable parts of London - have been enjoying a makeover in recent years. It started with the upmarket Foxtons chain, but has now extended along the high street. I've nothing against the new logos and flash furniture, but some of them are taking things a little too far.

Mrs W visited an agent recently and asked for a property newspaper or "particulars" of houses they had on their books.

No dice. They just didn't do that kind of old-fashioned stuff any more.

The Mrs was encouraged to use a touch-sensitive plasma screen in the window, which can only display one property at a time. She pointed out that the sun was shining on the screen for most of the day, which made it impossible to read. This didn't seem to trouble the agents unduly. Presumably they know that getting people to squint in the streeet is a far more effective way of selling houses than inviting them in and showing them a printed floorplan. Another great wheeze of this particular firm is to make all their properties "Price on Application" and to give a price range for the potential buyer, which might be, say, £300 - 360k. What the hell does this mean? If I were the buyer, I'd go for the £300k option, thanks very much. In fact, I'd make my offer £299,950, just to show that I'm very shrewd about this kind of thing.

Meanwhile, a mile down the road, there's another agent that's divided its properties into two categories. Some are classed as "Premier" and the details are posted in the window on bright yellow paper. Others fall in to a non-premier category. They're in a separate window in plain old black and white.

You'd be delighted to find your own gaff in the black-and-white section, wouldn't you?

The idea was made worse by some kind of arbitrary cut-off point between the two worlds, which looked like it might be £400k. Trouble is, round where I live, a £400k house is no guarantee that you won't need a rottweiler for company when you walk out the front door. When the local council first built some of the premier properties back in the 1950s, I think they would have been rather surprised at the way things would develop.

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