First off, whether you write/broadcast about hockey, business, fly fishing, greyhound racing, or in my case, property; no friend or relation will ever take your verbal one-on-one specialist advice too seriously. This I guess, is because they know you first as a big brother, father, son, school mate, colleague or whatever. So in their heads, you are that person first. Not so much to them the expert or commentator in whatever field you write or broadcast about. Of course no badness is ever meant by it.
But the strangest thing is that when they find that exact same advice proffered elsewhere, in print or online, on radio or TV; only then they are impressed by it. In fact sometimes so impressed that they’ll ring/text you.
“I just thought you should know about this interesting article/programme/ podcast /thing I found online.” And stranger still, it sometimes turns out that they are talking/texting to the very person who wrote/broadcast that “thing” in the first place. But they didn’t see the credit on it. With me, it’s most usually a particular family member and one of my close friends who ring up to tell me to read an article that I have written.
But I don’t worry because I’ve talked to doctors, accountants and all sorts of consultative professionals over the years who all say the same thing: when they give family or friends medical/accountancy advice, it’s not taken as seriously as the very same advice published or broadcast elsewhere, or given by another doctor, accountant or whatnot. These professionals too are often fed their own opinions back by family and friends, only when they’re reaped elsewhere.
The additional bother with the property game is that almost everyone owns or rents a home, so people genuinely believe they know better when it comes to buying and selling; even more than the professional estate agents they hire.
As a long time observer of the property market, I have noticed certain common traits displayed by successful buyers and vendors, and also those most commonly exhibited by unsuccessful buyers and vendors.
Unsuccessful vendors in particular will blunder on and ignore advice from their estate agent, leaving their home unsold for long periods. Then bizarrely, they go to another estate agent who usually gives them the very same advice as the first. Then they dump their first estate agent to hire the new one. I never get this.
I tell downtrodden agents who complain about this that people have been coming to me personally for property advice for almost 30 years. But as far as I can remember, only one friend/family member has actually taken my advice. As it turned out he cut his price significantly just before the last crash and saved himself about €500k.
Agents also say they find it handy if their advice is replicated in print, or broadcast. Sometimes (but not always), their vendors will take it, because they see it elsewhere. So for estate agents everywhere in Ireland with know-all vendors who are not taking your advice, here is your key advice right back to you:
1. Don’t appoint your estate agent solely on estimated price.
Get three agencies to give a price evaluation opinion and then choose who and what seems most plausible. If one agent says your home is worth much more, tie them into an agreement that reduces their fee per reductive step in your price. Don’t be duped by a dodgy operator preying on your greed, who believes they can secure your business, remove the competition by offering an unrealistic valuation and then work you down over time to the same price the other agents suggested.
2. Don’t ever, ever skimp on photography
Online and newspaper listings are the first point of contact a possible buyer has with your home. They are your home’s CV application. Home hunters scroll down through these at speed, and will choose which homes to view based on the pictures. A professional photographer will not cost much more than a few hundred euros.
Around 60pc of vendors ignore this advice. Dark, badly composed photos taken with smart phones lead home hunters to believe yours is a dark home that they don’t want to buy. Without good pictures, you fall at the first hurdle.
3. The market only decides what your house is worth
Yes we know you spent a fortune putting in that floored attic and that the kitchen alone is worth 80 grand. But the whole package is only worth what someone else is prepared to pay for it today. Whatever the property price register says. If your lower to mid range home is unsold after three months you need to lower your price. If it is high end and unsold after six months, ditto. You are wasting your time and your agent’s.
4. Get rid of the stuff
We’re not just talking about a good tidy up. We mean the stuff. Magazines, fridge magnets, washing baskets, pets, their stuff, toys. Strip every room back. Hobby stuff. Anything that isn’t functional. Imagine your home as a hotel suite. Remove anything that would seem out of place in a good hotel suite. Get storage.
5. Get the place properly clean
This means a good scrubbing. Skirts, walls, everything. Remove all grease, all smells, all dog hairs. Again think hotel suite clean. Remove bins, weed the garden, bribe the neighbours to do the same. But don’t leave bleach smells.
6. Let the agent do the dealing
An estate agent’s best skill set is best described as financial diplomacy. They always say that most of their daily work involves keeping deals alive. Let them take care of the negotiations and stay off their case. If you really do know better, then do it yourself.
*Hey Dad and Graham, check the topline credit before calling, ok?