Mary Portas may be the queen of retail but she really should have done her homework before trying to revolutionise the UK property market.
I am not familiar with Channel 4’s Secret Shopper programme and caught it by chance last night when I was avoiding work (well, watching a programme about the property market could be seen as research…). The show was an attempt to highlight poor levels of customer service among estate agents. I genuinely commend any attempt to improve customer service in any industry so I was naturally interested to see what her opinion would be.
The main players were a firm of London estate agents, who had previously won awards for service excellence. Unfortunately for the firm, there were certainly a few cringe worthy, hidden camera moments and some less than truthful responses to questions; however, within minutes my annoyance passed from the agents to the presenter. Honestly, I was shouting at the television in frustration! This woman completed failed to do any research or gain any basic level of understanding about the industry. While her approach was, in places, refreshing and useful, Portas missed the point of the exercise by failing to identify who the client was!
To be clear, estate agents are hired by and paid for by the seller so the seller is their only client. The estate agents only obligation is towards the buyer is to answer any questions honestly. The buyer must take responsibility to ask the right questions.
I was in complete agreement that estate agents need to have a better understanding of the properties that they are trying to sell; however, I do not believe that they should offer opinions in the décor. In one of the properties there was a feature glass brick wall to allow greater light to the apartment. Portas advised that a note be put on the marketing materials “The glass brick feature wall may not be to everyone’s taste” … Seriously, that’s NONSENSE. I am not an estate agent, nor have I ever been but I am a home owner and I would absolutely fire any estate agent who wrote about my property like this.
The etiquette should really be straightforward; estate agents should concentrate on selling the property for their client in an honest and ethical manner and buyers should wise up to the fact that estate agents work for the seller ONLY and seek professional representation themselves if they feel it necessary. Mary, queen of the shops you may be … but I probably won’t be adding a series link!
I would love to hear what buyers and sellers think of this…