A great resource for anyone looking to sell their property

Reckless Honesty? It’s Not Brain Surgery

Reckless Honesty?  There's a novel approach.

As I've got older, I've  started to use my brain more than at any time in my life. To the extent that I am worried it will overload and I'll require the services of some brilliant neurosurgeon to repair the damage brought on by an excess of thinking.

Were that the case, my choice would undoubtedly have been Dr. Henry Marsh, author of best-selling books such as Do No Harm and When Breath Turns to Air.

Not because, as one of the country's leading neurosurgeons, he is more than competent.  The best of the best.  Possibly.

There would be no need to check out reviews on FaceBook, or TrustPilot.  Or the N.H.S web site.

His competence is a given.

What intrigues about Henry Marsh is his character.  Now retired, (with that being another story worth telling) his life in the field of neuroscience is an open book.

In an interview with The New Yorker magazine,   Marsh recounts conducting  a lecture to neurosurgical colleagues entitled "All My Worst Mistakes".  It was met with a stunned silence and no questions were asked.

Marsh was interested in his inner life and how it had changed ,over time, by the making of mistakes.

The interview describes how he is "drawn to reckless honesty".

And that, right there, is what every vendor should seek from any estate agency.

Reckless Honesty.

And coincidentally, whilst searching the web for information on this brilliant human being, I was subjected to a spot of re-targeting by an estate agency firm in the West Midlands, http//

Headed up by the free-spirit that is Bobby Singh,   someone who I have noticed with increasing regularity on social media, there are several striking similarities between the two men.

Reckless Honesty

In an interview with G.Q magazine that I read this week in the Dentist's waiting room, Dr. Marsh is described as someone who "can be both self-effacing and boastful, sometimes in the same sentence.  At one point he talks of disconcertingly large royalty cheques that are coming in from American book sales like he might be embarrassed of this fact, which clearly he isn't. Or that somehow he doesn't deserve the acclaim."

Bobby Singh appears to share those same attributes.  Transparency over parking tickets intermingled with refreshing candour about the local housing market, about the profession of estate agency and with his own stories of success and failure. Nothing appears off-limits.

Reckless Honesty.

Would that be right to seek out estate agents with such a quality?

Of course.  In a heartbeat.

Estate agency abounds with tales of some agents deliberately over valuing or under valuing a property. Of contracts that are less than transparent, or fair to the vendor.  Of half-truths that benefit someone other than the client.  A veritable minefield of deception.  Who can a vendor trust?

Honesty and passion as attributes, are easy to claim.  Much harder to demonstrate.  And over a period of time, what anyone says has to have congruence. The stories that are shared have to have a common thread.

Don't tell me you're honest. Tell me your story and let me be the judge.  Tell me about all your worst mistakes.

Don't tell me you are passionate.  I've heard it from every estate agency. Tell me about the utter joy that a vendor felt when you did something exceptional.

Of course, most estate agencies don't share.  Most agencies are cloaked in silence.

They require you to have faith.  And if you can't have faith?

Well, they can always appeal to your greed.

The Truth is O.K

Mostly, if people like us, trust people like us, then it follows that if we can't figure out whether we share values with the agency, we can't trust them.

And most vendors don't.

There is a courage in this brutal transparency.  Everybody makes mistakes.  Henry Marsh has made his fair share and even lectured on them.  I'm sure Bobby Singh has made many more than he has shared to date.

But what matters.  To me at least.  Is not that a mistake was made.  But that, even if it has been a matter of life or death for the surgeon, or something less for the estate agent, they were doing their very level best to make it a success for somebody else.

Most vendors want to know where the service originated, who the people are behind it and how committed they are to delivering a quality service.

A Reckless Honesty is, in my opinion, the best policy.




Poisoned Chalice? It’s The Kool-Aid.



Def: A Poisoned Chalice:  Some thing that harms the person it is given to, although it seemed very good when they first got it.

Def: Drinking the Kool-Aid is a common American expression.  Roughly translated it means "to blindly follow". It usually has a negative connotation.

Homeowners, bombarded with messages on an almost daily basis by estate agents, might be forgiven for assuming that the seemingly innocuous T.V ads are there to amuse and entertain.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The ads are deliberately aimed at those vendors, so easily duped.  They gloss over facts with superficial concern.  "Don't pay commission when you sign up with us".  Not like those 'nasty' estate agents that charge exorbitant fees to sell your home - is the implication.

Well, the truth is whether you pay a fixed fee through these opportunist agencies, or a % of the selling price achieved via a traditional high street agency, you will end up paying for the service.  The point is that you should pay when you receive a great service.  Not on the vague promise of service.

The vague promise from some of these 'local property experts:

"We will try to sell your home.  If you were reckless enough to agree to an attractive valuation.  One that stirs the interests of buyers looking for an absolute bargain.  One that makes our life so much easier.

We can do this.  Just sign on the dotted line and we'll take care of the whole thing.  Once our fee is safe and secure, you're in capable hands.  If we get some interest (on your property, not on the fee), the process is pretty straightforward.  Nothing much to go wrong.  And you have the support of our dedicated head-office team."

This affectation of competence borders on hypocrisy.

Reviews proliferate of this process falling apart once the dedicated head-office gets involved.  for those of a curious mind.

Alternatively, you may have been seduced on valuation by another estate agency and the 'local property expert' has to work that bit harder to win your instruction.  By increasing the valuation above and beyond what others have estimated.  Their internal dialogue might then differ somewhat:

"We won't even try to sell your home.  Now that you've signed the agreement and we've had our fee, the chance of it selling at this inflated valuation is virtually nil.  We suggest, after a respectful period, that you lower the asking price by £5,000 and we're sure that will get the ball rolling.  If you're not happy doing that, we're quite prepared to keep it on our web site for as long as it takes. You never know."

The very fact that you aren't paying for results means that the local property expert isn't obligated to deliver a result.  They can claim to be anything and everything.  As long as you are convinced that this really is a 'good thing', you will sip from the poisoned chalice.

And, at that precise moment, there is no turning back.

If you've made an error of judgment, it's painful.  It's expensive.

You've flushed away the best part of £1,000. It can sometimes take months before the effects of the 'poison' are felt.  No viewings, no communication from the 'expert'.   Back to square one.

Or, you've sold your home for less than a premium price. "Was it really that easy? The buyers made us an offer at the asking price.  We saved thousands by not using a high-street agency."  Everything seems fine.

Until the neighbours, with identical specifications,  got £10,000 more for their home.  Just a month later.


If you're going to drink from the poisoned chalice, be prepared.  It's not life-threatening, but it doesn't feel so good after the first sip.


The traditional high-street agency is not without fault.  They, too, can persuade you to drink from the chalice. Especially when it comes to a deliberately inflated valuation.  But, you have to feel some compassion for these agents. Incapable of winning your trust by fair means, they resort to trickery and false hope.  Eventually, they hope to persuade you to lower the asking price.  But, unlike the 'local property expert', these agents have not been paid regardless of the result.  It's more annoying that you got fooled by these agencies and wasted time.

But the option to walk away is still there.  A narrow escape.  Many drank the Kool-Aid and never recovered.

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Spare a Thought for your Neighbours – Not Your Fee.

Spare a thought for your neighbours.  Not your fee.

There are a few.  Well, a few thousand, in fact.

Homeowners, up and down the U.K who show little regard for anything.  Other than getting their home 'sold'.

Nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to move.  But it's how you move that should be of concern.

Seems that it might be of very little concern.

Since there's a noticeable trend.

Vendors making irrational choices when it comes to instructing an estate agency.

These vendors, unable to think for themselves, are being seduced by bland and misleading T.V advertising.

"No commission.  Save yourself thousands on estate agency commission" claim the PurpleBricks ads.

A commission by any other name would never smell so sweet.

It's a fixed fee.  It's manipulative.  Above all, it's misleading.

All of those things.

More importantly, it's a mechanism designed to suck the life-blood out of the U.K property market.

The tragedy is that unsuspecting vendors promulgate the very message that will ultimately cost them, and others, dear.

Externalities:  def.  A consequence of commercial activity which affects other parties, without this being reflected in market prices.  Can be positive, or negative. 

Let's dissect that definition. And, consider the consequences.

A consequence of commercial activity which affects other parties.

Estate agency is a ruthless, competitive environment where many agents will say and do whatever it takes to win an instruction.  So, on the face of it, there's freedom for any agency to cut its fees.  Many do.  Many suffer the consequences.

It's not the fees, however, that are of concern.

It's the valuation.  

When any agency cuts their fee, they need to do one thing very well.

Sell the home quickly.

And one way they sell the home quickly is by under-valuing.  Might be a few thousand.  Might be more.  But either way, it's got to be attractive to entice buyers.

So, an agency that deliberately sets out to reduce the traditional fees associated with selling your home is likely to under-value your home.

Of course, it's a false economy for you to believe that you 'saved' thousands on the agency commission. Especially if your home didn't sell because of poor marketing or poor customer service.  And, you paid up-front for the privilege.

The low-fixed-fee agency also needs to sell your home quickly (at a low price) in order to move on to the next 'mark'. No good them hanging around waiting for better offers.  No need for them to negotiate a higher offer.  That takes time.  Oh, and as we mentioned, they've already been paid for what little they do.

There is another factor to consider.  

If your under-valued home did sell, that has set a dangerous precedent for others wishing to follow suit.  The comparable evidence now suggests that this under-valuation was 'the norm'.  Other agents are simply trying to flatter us with their higher valuations.

We weren't born yesterday.

Turns out.  You might have been.

Not only have you lost out financially yourself, you are aiding and abetting this opportunist hybrid agency to fool more of the people.  More of the time.

And because none of this negatively impacts the estate agency in question, their share price continues to soar.  Fooling even more people into believing they are successful.  Generating even more investment from 'useful idiots' in the City. 

The vendor has lost out.  The neighbours are now adversely affected by association. Reputable, hard-working high street estate agencies are presented with a conundrum:  reduce their fee, increase their valuation, or potentially lose business.

And the culprit in all of this malaise rumbles on.


Externalities at their most negative.

There cannot be any vendor that wishes to sell their home for less than it might realistically achieve.

There are some agents, however, that need to sell your home for less than it is worth.

Their business depends on it.

The market will be negatively impacted in the long-term if this stupid practice isn't halted soon.

Enough now!






Episode 35 – Philip Tottenham –  Aubrey & Finn Estate Agents, St.Albans, Herts.

"A theatre for someone's life...."

Be in no doubt, photos sell homes. First impressions last.

If the images any agency create are less than favourable, it's always going to be a struggle.

Our guest today, Philip Tottenham, had an early career in photography. "Enthusiastic to the point of O.C.D " is how he frames his passion for photography.

Photos have to present a true reflection of a home and bring the property to life.

"It's important to me that I 'get' what makes this such a beautiful home".

Rightmove and Zoopla are littered with examples of agencies that care little for the image. It is vitally important. As is much of the work that goes unseen in high-street estate agency.

The more I listened to this episode, the more detail I uncovered. About the agency. About our guest.

I hope you enjoy

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