Frankly, being an estate agent (especially in London) is not a barrel of laughs right now.
And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, with sellers not budging on price and buyers using any excuse to walk away, your boss does a deal with a panel manager and you are forced to tell clients that “our hand-picked expert lawyers will get your deal through more quickly”.
As Joseph Goebbels said: if you’re going to tell a lie, make sure it’s a BIG one.
Although there are many LinkedIn experts offering sage-like advice on improving your service offering, we think there is an overlooked source of expertise from people with vast experience in reducing the stress involved in buying and selling houses.
Yes – we’re talking about lawyers.
Whilst they have perfected combining atrocious service levels with arrogance and ambivalence, there’s a lot that can be learned from them.
Swot up on your snitching
In last month’s article, we reminded people that “Snitches Get Stitches”, but agents could learn a lot from lawyers who will rat out anyone in an instant.
Agents have been seething in silence for too long – if you’re forced to recommend “FabConveyancerPanelServices” when you KNOW your neighbour’s Golden Retriever could do a better job at conveyancing, now is the time to speak out.
Let your clients know that with these companies doing the legal work, any dreams they might have of buying their new home will be just that. Dreams.
If you think that’s unethical, just remember how many times you’ve called a lawyer and they have told you without hesitation “The other side are slow and unresponsive”.
As in John Boorman’s classic film, Deliverance, it’s time to “squeal like a pig”.
A straight answer – absolutely not
Can you remember when you last spoke to a lawyer and got a clear and straight answer – their skills of misdirection put Derren Brown to shame.
Frankly, agents need to raise their game when it comes to weasel words, and there is much to learn from these masters of vagueness.
Carefully listen to the answer you receive to a simple question such as “Have you raised enquiries?” and received the response “We are reviewing these”.
No dates, no timescales, no detail – pure genius.
Blame the chain
We’re amazed by the numbers of slope-shouldered lawyers who have developed market-leading skills when it comes to “Blaming the Chain”. They have learned to deploy this tactic from the very start of the transaction – the simplest call to check if a contract pack has been sent out can be met with a mystified “but our client’s onward purchase is not together yet”.
If a client is putting you under pressure, just explain that the “onward chain is not ready” and suddenly you are the innocent party.
Take the lead from lawyers – get a few names, throw in a couple of intransigent (or even better, absent) freeholders, and you’ve got your client back onside. It isn’t your fault – it’s all those lawyers and other agents that are slowing things up.
Stop answering the telephone
This is where you’ll be kicking yourself for not thinking of this sooner.
The “Diplodocus and Partners” school of legal training instils in all lawyers that answering the telephone is the quickest way to get yourself into trouble.
Talking to people directly causes no end of problems and there will be a strong possibility you will be asked questions that you simply can’t answer.
Which is embarrassing.
If agents took on the experience of traditional dinosaur lawyers and refuse to answer the telephone, any issues just go away, along with much of the stress.
Go on holiday and don’t tell anyone
Finally, this stress-avoidance technique has been deployed successfully by lawyers for decades – it’s very straightforward and requires almost no effort at all.
If a deal is getting particularly stressful and your clients are calling every couple of hours for an update, simply take a week or so out of the office.
Make sure your colleagues are completely in the dark about your deal, so when the client calls in, they can genuinely and honestly answer “We’re sorry, but he’s out of the office and there really is no one else that can help you”.
Whilst the relationship between agents and lawyers can be strained at times, we have shown that there are some lawyer traits that are highly effective for reducing stress.
So while you might think some lawyers can be arrogant members of the “sales prevention team”, it’s worth remembering they’ve been doing this for years, and maybe the mistake the rest of us are making is that we’re all just trying to be a bit too helpful.
- Peter Ambrose is founder of The Partnership, an independent conveyancing firm – which he says is one of the helpful brigade