11 things Mary Portas can teach estate agents

10 February 2011

There's little doubt, you have to be a brave or foolhardy business owner to get involved with a show like Mary Portas' Secret Shopper. That said, the doubters on EAT who are criticising last night's episode as an attempted hatchet job have missed the point for me.

The simple statistic that 79% of people don't trust estate agents (and I think that's probably fair overall), shows that there is massive room for improvement. Rather than focusing on the bits that Mary got wrong through not knowing the industry inside out, I wanted to focus on what she got right.

  1. Wasted viewings are a big frustration for vendors. Better that it's not your fault because something important about the property was spun or hidden and/or the buyer's requirements were not fully understood..
  2. .. So qualify buyers for what's really important and where their red lines are drawn!
  3. Constantly being interrupted by callers is rude, as is not standing to meet walk-in visitors.
  4. Lying and applying pressure damages everyone's trust in you. 47 'appointments' at ten minutes each with no travelling time is nearly 8 hours straight. Even if that's true, it's not believable.
  5. Being armed with answers to obvious local questions is basic service, but still impresses. Research the nearest schools, transport links, etc. or better yet - take factsheets with you.
  6. Sometimes the seller knows best - how do you collect and include their knowledge, experience and opinions?
  7. Properties do sell themselves, but you are the local expert there to point out the bits that might get missed. Do your research on the direction the house faces, the year it was built, the boiler, the windows, the square footage, the storage, the possibility to extend, the other houses in the road, etc. See a property through the buyer's eyes.
  8. Cliches are poorly understood, add nothing and best avoided.
  9. An hour of "one mouth, two ears" training isn't very impressive.
  10. A USP of "you have to use an agent to get on the portals" doesn't put you ahead of the competition.
  11. Trophies on display are not cool!

Although your customer is the seller and their needs should be top priority, let's not forget that the buyer is a potential future customer - why waste the opportunity? First impressions count, so if you nail the experience this time and provide an excellent viewing and follow-up, your firm will be in pole position when they come to move in a few years.

Well done to Martyn Gerrard for turning the programme around and coming out of it reasonably well. "People before property" is how this business should be done.

If you missed the episode, you can see it on 4OD here.

Don't forget to look back over 27 things the public want from the perfect estate agent if you don't believe what Mary had to say!

Leave your comment:

What you said:

11 February 2011 16:26:02
think you missed out the 'teach' in the blog post title
11 February 2011 16:34:49
Oops - well spotted James.

(She didn't mention grammar and typos did she?!)

13 February 2011 21:50:04
Whilst there was an element of made for TV, as there always is, overall I felt Portas made some valid points. Especially regarding viewings, telling someone this is the washing machine or this is the kitchen or bathroom, are bordering on the obvious. Advising the potential purchaser of which way is south, the parking facilities,whether the loft could be converted because of the right headroom, the real time distance to the shops etc etc are selling points. I have to agree 1 hour's training is appalling, but in most cases the neg's are powder monkies!and suddenly they become branch managers, because they hit targets. We have a lot to learn from the Realtors in USA of regarding how to treat both sellers and buyers.As I say personalised service = lasting relationships. It works for me.
11 March 2011 15:44:01
There's a blog that Mary Portas and co., might wish to support. It's about what estate agents should do to be more competitive.

At present, the agents blogging in are being highly closed-shop and are trying to boycott the page.
If you want to help, please go:
09 June 2011 04:46:07
have to agree 1 hour's training is appalling, but in most cases the neg's are powder monkies!and suddenly they become branch managers, because they hit targets.
Thanks for post.