Anthony Wood of Samuel Wood and Co looks at estate agency in the media.
Once again the television cameras have been peeking into the working lives of estate agents. The latest BBC 2 fly-on-the-wall series called Under Offer (Wednesdays, 8.00-9.00pm until 7th May) has become required watching for many. So how are the estate agents in the programme doing?
Many documentary and reality TV programmes covering matters like this do look for the worst side of the story – and find it. But it is rarely the whole story. It might be a difficult truth about an occupation that the public loves to hate but the vast majority of people in estate agency are not on the side of the baddies. It’s just that it never comes over very well on TV. As we can see in the programme agents differ greatly depending on which community they reflect. They can also be rather brash and overbearing, and one or two you might prefer not to have round to dinner. But that goes with this territory. Some agents can be indescribably arrogant, base and blunt to the point of rudeness, for which there is no excuse whatsoever. But others are not. Others are charming.
This fly-on-the-wall notices the other side. No matter in what price range the agents are dealing, and how many times their behaviour may make the viewer cringe, the camera also sees them trying to do their best for clients - who can, by deed of happenstance or nature, be very demanding.
We expect our vicars to be humble and our doctors to be painstaking and honestly sympathetic. We expect our teachers to be ideal role models and our policemen to uphold the law and not pervert it. What do we expect of estate agents? Well they are not Mother Teresa or rocket scientists. Their stock is not as high as they would like and they are often seen as brash and pushy. But that is the job. It needs push. The trouble is that many people don’t like pushy agents - until those agents are working for them. At which point the agent can be as pushy as he or she likes as long as the property gets sold at the right price and in short order.
So what we are seeing in the TV series are people genuinely trying their best for their clients – whether it is for £50,000 or £50 million. When a house is sold against the seemingly impossible odds presented by highly constrained lenders, ultra-careful surveyors, over-worked and under-manned solicitors, interlinked chains of other precarious deals, demanding sellers and, all too often, fickle buyers, it seems a miracle that any deals are ever done at all. But these people in the TV programme, just like thousands of agents across the country, do care. Which is why, in the main, people do get to move when and where they want to. Call agents brash. Call them pushy and overbearing. But when all’s said and done these estate agents are not merely pushy negotiators. They are closers. And what anyone wants when selling or buying a property in the UK today is a closer – and a pushy one at that.