The ringmasters who try to remain ‘swan like’

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The ringmasters who try to remain ‘swan like’

I have recently attended a Management Training Course and on arrival grabbed the obligatory cup of coffee and enticing pastry. Having taken my seat and duly written my name on a card to face our speaker, he then promptly asked me what I did for a living. “I am Chartered Surveyor and Estate Agent in Harrogate” was my formal response, “Okay, let me ask you the question another way” was the reply “what do you actually do that makes a difference to your clients?”
Fortunately I was given some thinking time whilst delegates from a variety of other professions were equally placed under the spotlight. If you will excuse the pun, I then had my lightbulb moment. “I take the stress out of moving house” was my more casual response when asked again. But then I started to think, maybe it wasn’t as flippant a response as it might have first seemed. Those 8 words really do sum up what an estate agent should aim to achieve however reasonable or indeed unreasonable the demands made by buyers and sellers alike.
I am aware some consider estate agents are a necessary evil, and nowadays there are a variety of selling options available from full service agencies such as my own that handle the whole process for you, taking a percentage of the price negotiated, to those being solely online charging a fixed fee, often upfront, with service extras that can bought in addition.
It will not come as any surprise that I advocate the former rather than the latter. But I recognise both have their place, perhaps depending on the extent of involvement a seller wishes to have personally during what is widely regarded as one of life’s most stressful events. I liken the role of an estate agent to that of the ring master keeping a close watch on proceedings from beginning to end, bringing influence to bear where needed, making sure (hopefully) the right things happen at the right time with the minimum of fuss. But as with any carefully laid plans, things don’t always happen as they should and with human nature being as it is then frustration, arrogance, impatience and yes stress can soon start to show their true colours. You may be lucky and find your next move all happens like clockwork and you therefore think moving home is something of a doddle. However you will be in the minority if current trends are anything to go by given us agents spend an increasing amount of our time managing the expectations of all involved in the buying and selling process.
A good agent should have an amalgam of skills that help keep everybody’s stress levels at manageable proportions. Knowledge and experience are essential but an agent must be capable of creating trust and understanding between the parties, and be willing and able to solve the inevitable problems and complications that can arise with the joys of the English subject to contract selling procedure. Add in a dose of empathy, occasional counselling and a sense of humour and you should have the perfect mix.
As one client said recently, “I don’t know how you manage to do this day in day out” when we had a particularly fraught sale that had a rather large number of complications including a chain involving 4 other sales. Well it can be stressful for the agents as well but hopefully we come across as calm and swan like on the surface even if on occasions we are paddling like mad below the waterline.
Tim Waring FRICS is Head of Residential at Lister Haigh Tel: 01423 730700