My name is Michael and I’m a Viewber: And this is how I see things

A Viewber’s Tale

I’m Michael and I’m a Viewber as well as being an early retired technical consultant to the global pharmaceutical industry.

I’ll be upfront and disclose that I’ve received close to £1,000 in fees as a Viewber over the last 15 months, and earlier this year I purchased £3,000 of Viewber shares in the crowd-funded portion of their latest raise.

Weekend viewings appear to be a contentious subject in the industry, but I’m sure that sometimes the lack of flexibility must hurt agencies.

Fifteen years ago I was selling a property in a remote corner of northern England, but living (in a company rental) and working abroad, whilst in the market for a four-bed townhouse in inner London (presently valued in seven figures).

Once or twice a month I would fly into Heathrow on a Saturday morning and manage a couple of estate agent accompanied viewings before being reduced to pushing notes through sellers’ letter boxes to attempt to secure viewings for the Sunday.

One recent reader comment on this site expressed the view that if a sale can be agreed on a property without the need for weekend viewings, why bother with them.

Surely the holy grail in the industry is to reach the point where the outcome is a bidding war between prospective purchasers.

There again, possibly the fact that the London estate agents couldn’t cross-sell anything to me reduced their motivation to facilitate weekend viewings.

Viewber offers the industry a solution to fulfilling viewings at a time of the customer’s choosing subject to the property owner’s or tenant’s consent.

It was perhaps no coincidence that my busiest day as a Viewber was the Saturday in July when England faced Sweden in the afternoon.

I’m going to be honest and admit that after almost 50 viewings predominantly over the summer months of 2017 and 2018 I’m a bit jaded and disillusioned. Why ?

Mainly due to being asked the same questions by viewers on almost every viewing, and the steadfast lack of answers to such common questions being provided by the estate agents either in their online marketing of the property or in the notes provided to Viewbers.

“How many years are left on the lease?

“What is the annual ground rent, and how is it increased?”

“What is the annual service charge and what does it cover?”

“What council tax band is it ?

“Is there an allocated parking space included?”

Whilst I can happily talk about the local supermarkets, cinemas, restaurants, parks, leisure centres and libraries, it’s the lack of answers to the more important questions that frustrates viewers and Viewbers alike.

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the rationale behind using a photo set and floor plan of a completely different apartment albeit in the same building on the online marketing, or the lack of action when the “mistake” is pointed out.

I don’t doubt that virtually all readers here put professionalism first and foremost, but I have found the role of estate agents in each of my four house buying experiences in different parts of the UK immensely frustrating.

After conducting viewings on behalf of 14 different estate agencies as a Viewber, I can only sympathise with viewers’ frustrations.

The vast majority of the viewings I’m asked to do are, I think it’s fair to describe as, towards the bottom of the mass market in the London Docklands area, so typically £400k-£500k (£1100-£1450 pcm rentals) studios and one- and two-bed apartments, either ex-local authority or in a very tired condition.

With many similar properties to choose from at this pricing point, no-show viewers are frequent, and viewers turning up 15 or 20 minutes late is the norm, not the exception.

Am I prepared to stand around outside for half an hour in winter waiting for viewers ? The simple answer is no, especially as keeping my balding head warm in any of my smart (and expensive) padded winter hoodies would contravene Viewber’s dress code.

Stating the obvious, I would not have invested in the recent funding round if I didn’t believe in what Viewber are doing, and of the longevity of the concept.

Nor would I continue to act as a Viewber (at least during the warmer months) if I didn’t get “something” out of it (money is not the central driver in my perhaps unusual case).

However, I think there are dangers ahead for Viewber.

The Viewber operations team (“controllers”) are the oil that allows the business to function day to day, and whilst most are brilliant at troubleshooting in real time, this year’s expansion has perhaps created challenges for Viewber in recruiting individuals with the ability to problem solve rapidly while being mindful of the implications of any particular course of action.

The potential for disillusionment of Viewbers and their subsequent dis-engagement feels to me the biggest risk. The concept needs both width and depth in the pool of Viewbers.

It may simply be coincidence but it feels to me as if at present there is less competition amongst Viewbers for requests in my area than has been the case, with me conducting a recent Saturday morning viewing several miles outside my normal patch.

I’ve mentioned the lack of regard many estate agents have for the questions viewers want answering during a viewing (leases, service charges etc), the discourtesy of many viewers in turning up very late or not all, the standing around getting cold, but have avoided the subject of remuneration.

The fee paid for Viewber services by estate agents has to cover many bases, and I suspect that over time Viewber will hope to decrease the proportion of that fee that reaches the individual Viewbers.

For each new property, a Viewber has to research the property, its location, travel to it (in London and other big cities even a couple of miles can take 30 minutes-plus), pick the keys up (often some distance from the property) arriving sufficiently early to familiarise with the layout of the property, where the light switches are, etc.

We then have to show the viewer around, return the keys, travel home, and finally submit answers to the half a dozen or so feedback questions on the Viewber website concerning the viewing.

Done conscientiously and professionally, the time spent in return for the fixed fee per viewing is remunerated at little more than minimum wage rates.

It’s hard to see significant scope for Viewber to reduce the headline fee paid to Viewbers without eroding the willingness of Viewbers to jump to 24/7, sometimes at just an hour’s notice.

Less obvious ploys are likely to disillusion Viewbers very rapidly, though.

I’ve recently been expected to agree to unpaid scope creep – repeating a one-hour return journey to collect a set of keys, given the key collection point was closed at the time originally specified for the collection by Viewber.

Whilst that proposal was quickly retracted by Viewber, the manner in which the retraction was handled raised more concerns in my mind as the underlying focus was clearly on Viewber’s own margin on this particular transaction.

Does Viewber’s strapline “We open doors, you close deals” ring true? Anecdotally, in my local area, absolutely.

A one-bed apartment rental in an ex-local authority block (£1100pcm) achieved a let from two open house sessions I conducted shortly after the property was advertised. Almost all properties I do viewings on result in a Sold, STC or Let flash on online marketing rather than being withdrawn from the market as the vendor seeks out an alternative agency.

Viewber, in my opinion, deserves to succeed, and it is only the rather one-sided reader comments on this site that has prompted me to write this article.

I have not been paid for it. I would like to end with what is undoubtedly a contentious thought.

Perhaps contracting some of the viewings to Viewber would allow estate agents more time to compile answers to those common questions (such as service charge, lease, etc) that are so often neglected, and to improve the quality and accuracy of the marketing collateral.

I imagine that most experienced agents will have a gut feel as to the potential for cross-selling to a prospective viewer, and could add just the more promising prospects to their own diaries.


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  1. Robert May

    “I’ve received close to £1,000 in fees as a Viewber over the last 15 months” is that a typo?

    1. Michael Chambers

      Not a typo …. that’s the fees received for the c. 50 viewings I have undertaken during June to Sept 2017 and May to Sept 2018 so averaging 5 or 6 a month in those months I’ve been active.

      1. Robert May

        Thank you for the clarification Michael, I couldn’t quite reconcile £1000 in 15 months

  2. ArthurHouse02

    “Surely the holy grail in the industry is to reach the point where the outcome is a bidding war between prospective purchasers.” – Er, no, the holy grail is agreeing a sale where both buyer and seller are happy.

    If there is a shed load of information not provided, re leases or whatever, why dont you just ask?

    1. Michael Chambers

      I enter the unanswered questions from viewers as feedback to the estate agent for their subsequent action, and explain to the viewers that they need to contact the agency to ask. (Viewbers’ primary role is to open doors, maintain the security of the property, and provide answers to questions on the local area. It is not to act as a sales negotiator). It would, in my opinion, be more efficeint if the answers to such questions were provided upfront by agencies given they are asked by 9 out 10 viewers.  The viewber booking facility used by agencies allows detailed notes to be provided to viewbers if the agency wishes.

      1. ArthurHouse02

        Hi Michael. Thank you for the reply. If my comments on these subjects seems overly negative or abrupt, then tbh it is because i just dont believe in it. I would always rather have a trained, motivated informed colleague showing potential purchasers our properties for lots and lots of reasons. I do accept however that many estate agents are not well trained, motivated and lots of other things.

        It may work well for some, but not for me.

  3. Countrybumpkin

    Thank you for this article. Some of us will sit back, not criticise and digest the harsh truth to some (not all) of the points.

    We use Jupix and it was only recently that I realised that when a viewer receives a confirmation email, Jupix has decided to allocate them 15 minutes. So for instance a 10 a.m appointment confirms automatically to the buyer that the appointment is made for 10 to 10:15. Unsurprising that some buyers interpret this to turn up within the slot. This then explains the sudden increase in late arrivals!

    If you are reading this Jupix – change your software – please…

    There are other useful aspects of this article. We are guilty of watching the England game! Equally, we like time at Christmas. However, the world is changing and more leads come through during the festive time than ever before. Our Christmas ‘rota’ is altering this year to accommodate ‘the customer’ !!!

    1. ZPG Software

      Hi Countrybumpkin,

      I’m writing on the behalf of Jupix, if you wish to send the viewer just the start time of the viewing and not the duration, it may be possible to change that in your template. If you can get in touch on we can take a look at the issue with you.


      Jupix team

      1. Countrybumpkin

        Thanks for prompt response. Will call if we can’t work it out ourselves. Much appreciated

    2. P-Daddy

      There are some fair comments made in this article. Agents need to pull their socks up in terms of the information on sales details be they hard copy or online…remember CPR! A little research and disclosure is a minimum standard to sell properly! Corporates and ‘listers’ haste to get listings online will be one cause I’m sure!

      Michael’s comments are also honest in terms of the downside to easy booking services online…people overbook/forget or were not serious in the cold light of day. That’s why agents in a hard market must speak to everyone to qualify properly. It also shows the downside to ‘outsourcing’ in a climate where everyone has been watching The Apprentice and Dragons Den. All see themselves as entrepreneurs, all want crowdfunding to scale up and create business worth millions. The attrition rate is high and the fundamentals of Viewber have merit, but the devil is in the execution and delivery.

      Agents need their team to sell. If there is a need for viewings, make sure staff rotas are in place…or if you are a high volume appointment business or cover large geography and want to offer Saturday/Sunday viewings, employ your own viewing staff, who live on your patch and meet your requirements. Do not rely on outsourcing…its a dirty word, like call centre 🙂

  4. hertsagent13

    I think this article is quite inciteful. I have been on many viewings over the years where the agent is truly hopeless, in fact that is the more common experience. In my business we work hard to provide a good level on information on the viewings we conduct and I suspect we still fall short. I think as an industry we really must all try harder to offer an inciteful, engaging viewing that answers questions whether raised by the viewer or not.

  5. Harree Is Back

    I am not surprised at all by Michael’s comments about a lack of property information detail.

    Coming from a marketing background and starting my agency business 6 years ago (sold last December) I was staggered at the pitiful property details produced by many of my competitor agents even for high value properties.

    My marketing mantra is always ‘ask the customer what they want and give it to them’ whilst for many businesses in all sectors it is ‘we’ll give the customer what WE think they want/need/only need.’

    So, we asked enquiring buyers to take a short survey about what they liked/disliked about property details in general and the results were illuminating to say the least – some of the results;

    Obvious points like not enough pictures, too many poor pictures and pictures not organised in any order making it difficult to understand the property layout.

    No floorplans – one of the most frequent complaints.

    No details on leaseholds as per Michael’s comments – how much time do agents waste answering these questions?

    Not enough information on location – our agency was based in Northumberland with many non local people buying holiday homes/holiday lets or relocating. They would know, for example, where Morpeth was but not where Longframlington, Longhorseley or Lowick was – so they would view Morpeth properties first

    On the latter, for every town and village we included facilities in that location, details of public transport, distances to the nearest well know towns and Newcastle and Edinburgh and distance to mainline rail stations amongst other info.

    There were other points raised including bland descriptions that did nothing to motivate a viewing.

    Comparing our property details to those of our competitors on a valuation was a key factor in our high conversion and market leading status.

    This isn’t an ego trip by me, just an acknowledgement that Michael’s experience of estate agents property details is not unique.

    ArthurHouse02 replying that “If there is a shed load of information not provided, re leases or whatever, why dont you just ask?” epitomises the lazy, non customer focused attitude prevalent in far too many agents.


    1. ArthurHouse02

      Harree, it is the role of the estate agent to provide information to the person viewing the property. As a Viewber they take the role of the estate agent on the appointment and thus it is their responsibility to provide this information. If they are not interested in providing this information then they are not fit to do the viewing. As someone who insists that lease information is stated where the property is advertised, i can confirm that viewers dont always read this information and thus ask again on the viewing, which we then clarify for them.

      I’m not slating viewber, but in my opinion a good viewber needs to fulfill the role that an estate agent negotiator would provide else there is no point in using them.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    So, my view would be that the lease details are the very definition of “Information a consumer needs to know” before they get in a car and visit a leasehold property.   I’ve been waiting for a Consumer Protection Regulations case to be brought in such a case but haven’t seen one yet!

  7. PeeBee

    Mr Chambers

    I read your account with interest.  I have a longstanding history of being critical/sceptical of the service and am far from being anything other than a non-believer – but I am also aware that change brings about change and that in certain circumstances change isn’t a bad thing.

    If I may I would like to ask a few questions.

    “After conducting viewings on behalf of 14 different estate agencies as a Viewber…”

    How do you feel this works?  When you are there you are a representative of that company – and potentially the first person that the viewer meets in the flesh, if their business has so far been conducted over the phone or even online – and therefore you are not only there to ‘show’ the property but surely also to positively represent and to ‘sell’ that company to the viewer.  How can you do that effectively when you may well be showing the same viewer another property the next day that is on with another Agent?

    “Surely the holy grail in the industry is to reach the point where the outcome is a bidding war between prospective purchasers.”

    Interested why you should think that?  Multiple offers only ever equals one happy and one or more disappointed people.  Quite often, the unsuccessful person takes out their frustration and anger – fuelled by disappointment – on the Agent.  Whilst this reaction is understandable it is also unwarranted as it is obviously the homeowner who is the decision-maker, but nevertheless our already maligned industry stands as first thing in front of the fan when the brown stuff stars flying.

    One property… one buyer – two offers is often one too many.  For those in front of the fan it is, to say the least, “character-building” stuff when it happens.  For unsuccessful buyers – it can be a life-changing experience – a fact that we should all be acutely aware and appreciative of.

    “Whilst I can happily talk about the local supermarkets, cinemas, restaurants, parks, leisure centres and libraries, it’s the lack of answers to the more important questions that frustrates viewers and Viewbers alike.”

    With regard to the provision (or lack of…) information relating to the property may I ask would you rather be faced with the frequent accusations from viewers that “I was told (add ridiculous over/under exaggeration of whatever you told them) by the bloke at the house…” – with the potential of having a claim against you under CRPs 2008 a very real possibility… or tell a few people “I don’t know – but I will get someone who does to ring you”?

    I’d take the latter every time – but I don’t enjoy the luxury of a choice in that respect.
    “…it is only the rather one-sided reader comments on this site that has prompted me to write this article.
    I have not been paid for it.”
    But you have declared skin in the game.  Skin which will grow more valuable if more Agencies adopt the service – meaning you may well therefore profit from the article.

    I look forward to your response.

    1. Michael Chambers

      Representing multiple agents

      In the eyes of a viewer, this is possibly more of an issue with rentals rather than sales, where with the former the viewers do sometimes ask questions regarding the efficiency with which the agency handles reference chacks etc. I’ve yet to be asked questions concerning a sales agent. The response to such questions, as well as to more general questions regarding my status, is always that I’m a freelance “key holder” working for multiple estate agencies.

      The key point is a Viewber’s role is not to sell. It is to facilitate viewings.

      I would like to illustrate a point with reference to a different sector – recruitment. On the occasions I have applied for jobs through recruitment agencies, I’ll generally have a screening interview with an agent before being short listed for interview with their client. After the interview the agent always phones to ask how it has gone.

      It feels to me that an efficient operating model in this industry might be to outsource the viewings (whether to Viewber, or local directly employed low wage staff) but then for the sales negotiator to follow up every viewing directly with viewer to ask: How did go ?, What questions do you have ?

      Biding Wars

      If I contract an agency to sell a property on my behalf I expect that they will achieve the highest possible price for my property (within the time frame for a sale I’ve stipulated). If I’m paying a percentage of the sale price for the service (not the buyer), the agent’s financial interests should be aligned with my own. Yes, I accept the disappointment of losing a bidding war on a dream house is gut wrenching, but how the agent will handle that situation is one of discussion points I would have prior to commissioning the agent – some will take a moral view that bidding wars are unacceptable, and first offer at asking price should be accepted. (Apologies to readers outside inner London where bidding wars / sealed bids are rarer than hens teeth.)

      Technical Information during Viewings

      @ArthurHouse02 perhaps inadvertently hit the nail on the head with his comment (3/10 10:42 ) “As someone who insists that lease information is stated where the property is advertised, i can confirm that viewers dont always read this information and thus ask again on the viewing, which we then clarify for them.”

      Where the online listing for the property or the notes provided directly to Viewbers by the agent contain the answer to a “technical” question raised by a viewer, my response is the agent has stated on the listing (in the notes supplied to me) that ….

      Viewers need their questions answering, either the agent makes the information available upfront (allowing viewers to be “reminded” of it), or as I suggested above makes a follow up call and is prepared to answer the questions the viewer has. In some cases I’m asked questions during viewings that the viewer tells me they have already asked the agent but not been given an answer (again this is primarily lease length, ground rent and service charges).  I’m an outsider to the industry, and can only report on my observations.

      Indirect reward for this article

      Yes, acknowledged, I may not have felt it worth spending a few hours unpaid composing and editing the article (and replying to comments) if I wasn’t a shareholder looking to protect and nurture my investment.

      1. PeeBee

        Mr Chambers

        Thank you for your response to my post.  It is genuinely most appreciated.

        In respect of your first answer that’s not really what I asked.  I was referring to the difficulty of representing a particular company on one viewing one minute and another company down the road at another viewing.  I would suggest that, in almost direct contradiction to your own response, it is almost irrelevant to viewers of a rental property who it is that shows the property.  In sales terms, however, the prospective buyer is often a prospective seller – and I for one would be less than enamoured with the idea that were I to instruct PeeBee &Co, “a freelance “key holder” working for multiple estate agencies” would be the person showing my prospective buyers around.

        You made reference to your own personal experiences of almost a generation ago as basis for your promotion of what you are doing now – and also to locational variances.  I dare say that those locational variances would have some form of impact on what I have said above – here ‘oop North have a completely different view to our warm-blooded southern cousins who might not be so sensitive in that direction – but as I have always said there is undoubtedly a market for the service – I’m just not that market.

        In respect of the second answer – again you haven’t covered what my point was.  Initially you suggested that ‘bidding wars’ should be “the holy grail in the industry”; then you put the argument from the vendors’ perspective.  You are an accompanied viewer.  The people you are there to meet with don’t want a bidding war.  Best price can be secured from a single buyer.

        Maybe you simply haven’t met the right Agent yet.

        With regard to the ‘tech stuff’ – I admire your wish to be the font of all knowledge for the viewer – but I think you need to be reminded of your own words:

        The response to such questions, as well as to more general questions regarding my status, is always that I’m a freelance “key holder” working for multiple estate agencies.” 

        Sounds like the perfect get-out to me… and you obviously seem comfortable with it ‘cos you wrote it.

        I wish your investment – and the vehicle it is riding in – well, Sir.



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