Few people hold estate agents in high esteem. And depending on your own experiences, you may like or loathe them. However, the industry’s less than favourable reputation often overshadows just how stressful a job estate agency can be.
The process of buying or selling a property can be a testing time for anyone and being humans, we all handle it in different ways – some better than others. So with that in mind, here’s a collection of stories from the other side of the estate agent’s desk, about how a few buyers and sellers managed to raise the blood pressure of everyone who dealt with them.
Best and final offers
Nowadays, in the all too common scenario of competing offers on the same property, estate agents must assess each buyer’s ability to proceed with the proposed purchase. Once that’s been done, all interested and eligible parties are usually asked for their best and final offer – often in writing.
When one couple’s best and final offer wasn’t quite enough to secure the property, they came forward with another. So what? You may ask. Perhaps the couple found the extra money from the bank of mum and dad. In fact, in this case, that’s what happened. All very plausible and as the increased bid was enough to buy a decent family hatchback, any seller would’ve been tempted to switch buyer, and this one did. Four weeks into the transaction, the couple withdrew from the purchase, citing a reassessment of their finances as the reason. When the estate agents telephoned the original buyer to ask if he was still interested in the property, they were told to “go away” (although not exactly in those words)
One man, when outbid on a property by another buyer, was so upset that he reported the estate agency to the Office of Fair Trading, accusing them of favouring the other buyer on the grounds of racism. This claim sparked an investigation, which was immediately halted when officials discovered that the other buyer was of the same ethnic origin as the man who had raised the complaint.
Carrying out viewing appointments can be an enjoyable part of estate agency work. It gets you out of the office, meeting new people and seeing different properties. Time passes quickly, and if you come back with an offer—result!
Some viewing appointments, however, can be incredibly frustrating and also a complete waste of time.
One particularly stressful viewing was when I arranged to show a house to a young couple who brought their extended family along. The property belonged to an elderly lady whose health had deteriorated to the degree that she could no longer live on her own. She put the house onto the market, and the proceeds of the sale were to help pay for her stay in a residential care home.
I was inside the house chatting to my client when the buyers arrived—husband and wife, the wife’s mother, the sister, and her two children. I greeted them and showed them in to the lounge, where I also introduced them to the owner of the property. The elderly lady gave a friendly smile and said, “Please feel free to look around, and if you have any questions, this young man [me] will be able to answer them for me.” The seller barely finished her sentence when the buyers were off in different directions. The husband and his mother-in law were in the garden looking at the exterior of the house. The sister in- law didn’t seem to care that her children were trying to swing from the dining room curtains, while the wife was on her mobile phone, inviting her cousins round to view the property.
We’d advertised the property as needing refurbishment, and I can understand prospective buyers not realising the full extent of required works until they view. However, what I didn’t like was that these people were rather indiscreet with their comments on the condition of the house. They could see that the owner was a frail pensioner, and yet they didn’t seem to care, but I did. I brought the viewing to a close, saying that I had to leave for another appointment and that they should call us if they wanted to see the house again. They never did, and we sold it to another buyer.
During the buy-to-let boom of recent years, almost every other viewing appointment was a first-time property investor.
A retired couple had arranged to view a repossessed flat that had just come to the market. The property generated a lot of interest, and so prior to using “open days” we staggered the viewings for every fifteen minutes on a Saturday.
At their viewing, the man went up and down the kitchen opening and shutting the same cupboards rather aggressively. I remember thinking he’d cause damage, when at that moment one of the doors came off its hinge. He waved a gesture dismissing what he’d done, followed by his partner claiming: “It was already like that!”
The intercom buzzer signalled the arrival of the next viewing, and I went to answer the door. On my return, I found the man attempting to lift the carpet in the lounge. When I asked him to stop, he voiced dissatisfaction at his viewing crossing with that of another buyer’s. He and his partner then stormed out, saying that they’d never deal with our estate agency again.
On another occasion, a woman requested a viewing for a flat saying she and her daughter were investors. At the property they pulled up in a high-performance vehicle, heavily made-up and draped in designer wear. I greeted them and showed them into the flat. They spent the duration of the viewing each chatting on their mobile phones. And from what I could gather, the conversations were not about property, although one of them was blatantly talking about me. I waited patiently for them to finish, and when they did, having only seen the entrance hall and lounge, they told me the property wasn’t suitable.
I remember arranging a viewing appointment for a couple who agreed to meet me at the property at six o’clock in the evening—the time we normally closed. At five past six, a colleague called me to say the couple were running late and would be another fifteen minutes or so. At half past six, they pulled up outside property. They apologised for being late and followed me up the garden path. I opened the front door, and we walked into the house. Just a single step into the hallway, the woman paused, looking rather nervous. “Someone’s died here, haven’t they?” she asked, with a quiver in her voice.
“The property is a probate sale being sold by the relatives of the deceased, but I honestly don’t know if the person passed away in the property,” I explained.
Appearing to ignore what I’d just said, the woman looked up; her eyes moved across the ceiling from wall to wall. “No… someone’s definitely died here. I’m not living here, Brian. Come on, we have to leave,” she said to her husband before turning and walking out. Now I was spooked! After a quick glance in the direction where the woman had looked, I too decided not to stay at the property any longer than necessary. My buyers were thirty minutes late and the actual viewing lasted all of sixty seconds.
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