2 bed flat, off road parking and walk to work please!

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2 bed flat, off road parking and walk to work – this was my brief to local estate agents in Lichfield recently. Home is in Norwich now, but work is in Lichfield during the week. 

I think that’s makes it fairly clear what I am looking for, let me know if you disagree, but I am fairly confident that is a clear brief.

I work with data every day and I try and make sure that at a simple level I am talking to customers about things they are interested in, sadly that has not been my experience of buying the flat. The service had been ‘patchy’ at best as well.

Now I used to be a surveyor and work in an Estate agents, so I know it can be a tough job but I have been completely amazed by the lack of attention to the following simple tenet: that you are likely to get a better response from people if you talk to them about things they want to know about and do so in a friendly helpful manner. 

My story starts when I actually walked around the estate agents in town – a bit old school I know – but I enjoy thumbing through sales particulars, usually in a pub with a pint of lovely lager beer and a sandwich and a big map. I’ve moved a lot more than the average person over the years, I guess, so it’s become a bit of a ritual.  

But I hadn’t moved for 8 years and the world has changed – a lot – it would seem !

Mortgages – this seems to be the priority – getting you in front of a mortgage broker ASAP before someone else does.  This is not just to organise a mortgage it’s also prioritising your insurance needs as well. And they don’t mind at all if you buy from someone else of course, the service is independent of the actual flat buying I was reassured on many occasions. 
Legal services – this is a clear second priority it would seem, why? Well again it’s a fee earner for the estate agent that actually does not rely on you buying from them. 
Tyre kickers – evidence I was a credible buyer with the necessary means to buy a flat was a clear priority – this is a poor feeling, buying a new home should be exciting  and not a drudge to prove who you are and how much money you have in your account – yes, I get that I will need to do that, but up front, almost before appointments are made? It weakend, in many ways what for me, is still a 121 experience. 
Data collection – I was surprised by the level of this, in part due to the tyre kicking problem I realise, but the detail was significant. Which makes the details of the wrong type of houses in the wrong location sent to me, even more irritating. Kirstie & Phil are strangers to Lichfield I suspect !
The internet – I have been, on occasion, heard to repeat the phrase, I live in the cloud, and I tweet, I Facebook, I link in and I write 2 blogs.  So clearly I like the internet but the lack of personal interest vs the referral to the excellent Right Move app and website belies the desire to organise my mortgage, insurance and legal services for me.  Nor does it build an all important trusted relationship. 
Social media – I am glad you have Twitter and Facebook pages, but that’s not helping me greatly to be honest, unless you can highlight for me the two bed flat that has off road parking  and is walking distance to work !

So all in all I am a little disappointed, as it happens I did find one good estate agent – and luckily they listened and they had a 2 bed flat with off street parking that is a 10 minute walk to my office. 

But …
– to the estate agents that sent me details of 4 bed properties over my budget 
– to the single estate agent that said just log on to our website every week
– to the estate agent that still just sends me a list of everything they advertise each week
– and to the estate agent that keeps inviting me to show home openings the other side of Birmingham … 

I implore you to follow some simple guiding notes from one of your potential customers;

– listen to my needs, I will accept that errors will occur every now and again but please try and get it right
– explain in greater detail why you need to collect so much personal data – and then reassure me how you will use it, because if you get the type of property wrong I will suspect you will get other things wrong too
– remember how exciting buying a house is … please … It’s a ‘biggy‘ and being pushed off to the web is no way to deliver a service that is so important to the buyer, and, you know what? when I sell the flat in the future I will remember you !
– keep in touch proactively – email is fine but I had no proactive contact from most estate agents at all – again when I want to sell my home I will remember that too
– don’t just prioritise your fee earning – think about this as a move of a home not buying and selling a house, and to quote my favourite film (Roadhouse) “be nice”.

The poor use of so much rich data has really surprised me in the last few months, I like to think the firm I used to work for would have had a better stab at the relationship with its potential clients. I know when I was negotiating a sale I tried to develop a relationship first … that way I stood a chance of getting a purchase this time and a sale and possible purchase the next time round and that meant more money in my pocket and that of the company. Very simple CRM. 

As the market is seeming to pick up the success stories will come from the companies that develop relationships I feel, rather than those directing you to self service. I don’t mind that when buying beans, but a 2 bed flat, with off street parking that is walking distance to my office is a different matter altogether!

Paul
28 January 2014

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