An open letter to estate agents

Green house, Folkestone

We know there are lots of you out there who’re doing a good job.  The one who sold our own house was very good indeed; admittedly we haven’t met many like him in this area yet, but we live in hope. For the rest of you, here are a few things we’ve been bottling up for a while.

If you don’t include a photograph of a particular room, we’re immediately going to assume it needs serious work. This is especially so if you’ve included photos of all the other rooms. What’s wrong with it?, we wonder, it must be really crappy if you don’t want us to see it. When we see a picture of the outside of the house and nothing else, we assume the inside is so scary it would need a total overhaul. Even if this is true, it would be useful to see just how bad it is before we decide whether or not to come and have a look. And that pink and black bathroom isn’t going to be any less of a shock if we haven’t seen a photo of it beforehand.

Please learn some basic photography skills – it’s not difficult and I’m talking really basic here. The most important one is to have the picture in focus and not, as in one case we saw recently, so blurred that it’s difficult to even see which room it is – even the floor plan was so blurred that you couldn’t identify individual rooms. Also try not to make the rooms slope; we assume they don’t really, but you never know……

(If you don’t know how to use a basic compact camera, then I’m available for tutorials at very reasonable rates 🙂 )

All we have to go on are the pictures and information you supply. More photos won’t cost you anything and will help us make a decision that might save your/our/the houseowner’s time and energy. Is that really so difficult to understand? You get paid quite a lot when you sell a house, so five minutes spent putting a few extra photos on the webiste is not unreasonable…….and think of the time it will save you in phone enquiries and visits in vain from people who wouldn’t have gone near the place had they known. Four photographs of a 4-bedroom, £200,000 house is just not enough.

Floorplans help a great deal, and in these days of computer technology are surely not difficult to do. Room measurements are even more important. Telling us it has three bedrooms doesn’t help if it turns out that two of them aren’t much bigger than cupboards.  While we’re on the subject, why do you sell on the basis of numbers of bedrooms anyway?  It doesn’t tell us much about the overall space.  Our old house was about 110 meters square and it was too small for us.  We’ve seen two bedroom houses that are bigger than that, and three bedroom houses that are smaller.  Please – give us the square meterage and we’ll take it from there.

Yes, we know you want to present the property in its best light, but leaving something important out doesn’t mean we won’t notice it once we get there. That quarry, for instance….did you really think we wouldn’t see it? Especially as we had to use the quarry road to get to the house? And didn’t you think that it would be a fairly clear-cut thing as to whether or not a quarry right next to the house would put us off? If we’re not put off by a quarry next door, then telling us about it won’t stop us viewing; if we are put off by it, then viewing the house isn’t going to make any difference. Really, it isn’t.  The same applies to the one with the large pylon in the back garden.

Likewise the room without the window. Yes, I know you called it an occasional bedroom/dressing room but we didn’t realise that meant it didn’t have a window. Windows are quite important to us.  And calling an attic space an attic ‘room’ is a tad misleading – even when it is on the same level as the other rooms – if you have to bend double to get through the door and it has no windows and no internal finishing.

When we phone up to book a viewing, and you know that the property is hard to find, giving us directions would be a good idea. After all, it’s your time that’s going to be wasted too when we don’t turn up because we’ve spent 45 minutes driving around trying to find it. Saying ‘oh yes, we have trouble finding that one ourselves’ does not make us feel any more kindly towards you and refusing – when we ask beforehand – to give us a phone number for the person showing us round only makes it worse.

And to the two estate agents who were asked twice to set up viewings over six weeks ago, and who have yet to come back to us, we wonder how interested you are in selling these houses. As it happens, we’ve changed our search area since then and are no longer bothered, but if I were the vendor I’d be very unhappy if I knew about this, and if we’re selling in the future we will not be using you.

When we come in and ask you for advice, we’re doing it because you’ve seen the houses for sale, you know the area, and you might be able to suggest something we hadn’t thought of or give us some good advice. Putting the number of bedrooms wanted, the desired location, and the price into a computer programme and hitting Send is something we are perfectly capable of doing for ourselves on Rightmove. We want more from you.

When we’re considering placing an offer, please don’t try to tell us that we can’t negotiate on the basis of replacing the bathroom. It’s entirely up to us what we negotiate on; your client doesn’t have to say ‘yes’ of course, but no-one can stop us negotiating on whatever the heck we think is significant to us. Whether or not you think it’s significant is not important. You might be happy to live with a bathroom that’s 35 years old and falling apart, but we’re not. Also, the schoolmistressy approach really doesn’t work for us. We feel we should be treated a little better, as we know there aren’t many people like us around – ie, house sold, mortgage approved and money in the bank waiting to be spent…….if only we could find a house we like.

Do try to be consistent. When I am told by you that the vendor will only consider an offer close to the asking price, it’s confusing when my husband is told – also by you – that the vendor is open to significantly lower offers. Which is it?

We know that advice is often ignored, and we realise that perhaps your client is one of those who has chosen to ignore it. However, please do your very best to get it through to them that because the house was worth X amount several years ago, it doesn’t mean it still is now that the property market is in a downward slide. This might help the surprisingly large number of vendors whose over-priced houses have been on the market for as long as two years.

Similarly, all of the following are very off-putting: leaving clear evidence of bad leaks, carpets that smell, anything that smells, obvious dirt or neglect, one whole room being taken up by a screeching parrot in a cage, renovating a three-bedroom house and putting in a kitchen barely suitable for a one-bedroom flat, renovating a house beautifully but not bothering to put in central heating, long-dead birds on the doorstep, single fathers who present their (over-priced) houses warts and all with paper peeling off the walls and tell us we have to see past that, and…..well I’m sure there will be more. It reminds me of Wendy Cope’s poem about men:

There are so many kinds of awful men –
One can’t avoid them all. She often said
She’d never make the same mistake again;
She always made a new mistake instead.

There truly are so many kinds of awful houses and while we’ll never make the same mistake again I’m sure we’ll go on making new mistakes instead. Estate agents, we really want to buy a house from you – how about making it easy for us?  And you.