We’ve been looking at houses lately and went to see a couple that both looked really nice on Rightmove. It’s been a few years since we last endured the process of house hunting, and for some stupid reason we had glossed over our past experiences. The excitement of it all made us completely unprepared for the reality - dealing with estate agents is shit.
The first had a lovely high-spec kitchen, and a really great aspect to the front, but there weren’t any photos of the back of the house. I contacted the estate agent who said they didn’t have any other photos, and that they couldn’t get us in for a viewing anytime soon.
As we were in the area, we went to have a look anyway. The front looked great when we pulled up, but then we had a walk around and discovered that you could see the back of the property from the neighbouring fields. We were shocked to see a Gypsy site with about 20 caravans - feral kids, mangy dogs, transit vans, rubbish everywhere.
The second property also looked great online so we arranged a viewing and put the kids in the car, excited that it could be ‘the one’. Before we walked-in, the agent warned us that the owners had some dogs, cats and a parrot in a cage.
There must have been a skunk caged up somewhere out of sight.
As we entered the house, we were hit by an over-whelming smell of ammonia, so strong it made our eyes water, and made one of the kids gag. My six-year-old daughter said “Daddy I NEVER want to live there” as we got back in the car.
On the drive back from the skunk house I felt pretty angry about both viewings. If either estate agent had told us the truth before-hand, we would never have bothered going to see the first property, and certainly wouldn’t have set foot in the skunk house with our children.
It must be hard being an estate agent.
As if low basic pay and monthly sales targets aren’t bad enough, they can often find themselves in direct competition with other local agencies trying to sell the same properties, unless the vendor opts to use a sole agent.
It’s hardly a surprise then when estate agents working on multi-agency deals send any potential buyers they can through the door, at any cost to their reputation - because they know if you throw enough shit at the wall, that some of it might stick.
Asking two or three local companies to all do the same job for you, and expecting the best result probably sounds a bit counter-intuitive, and it is! A business wouldn’t ask several accountants to produce a set of annual accounts because one might get it right, and two might do a crap job - because it would duplicate effort, and because the accountants would rightly expect to be paid for their time!
But it might surprise you to know that the practice of pitching multiple agencies against each other, is also common practice in the industry I work in, recruitment.
Same shit, different toilet.
Many job hunters are probably blissfully unaware when they apply for a role, that they could be talking to one of two, three, or more recruiters, all trying to fill the same role on a similar no placement, no fee basis.
I believe customers of both estate agents and recruiters use multiple agencies for the same reason - simply they expect the service to be crap. Perhaps they feel that by using multiple agencies they’ll somehow be hedging their bets and giving themselves a greater chance of success.
But I’d argue they’re actually doing completely the opposite.
Put yourself in the estate agent’s pointy shoes for just a minute. Would you go to the effort of identifying and only calling relevant potential buyers about that new property that’s just come in - when you know there are several other agencies chasing after the same sale, or would you just email your entire database and hope that someone relevant might see it?
No. And in the same way, most recruiters will cut corners where they can to get the potential candidate to the hiring company before the competition, for fear of losing out on a fee. They won’t take time to go and meet everyone they put forward, to question their experience and motivations, it’s just a race to get to as many potential candidates as they can, as quickly as possible. Standby for that irrelevant email!
And so, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nothing more than a numbers game. You engage numerous agencies to sell the same house / fill the same role, they put in the minimum effort, cut corners, send as many people for viewings or interviews as possible, we might get a bite… the potential buyer or job hunter has a shit experience, and the whole cycle of shit starts over again... “Well I’ve never liked estate agents anyway”, “I told you recruiters are crap”.
Gatekeepers to happiness.
The crazy thing is, estate agents and recruiters are the gatekeepers to our happiness. If you think about it, you’d be hard pushed to find two other professions that can have as great an impact on your quality of life. It’s their job to help you find the places where you’ll spend the majority of your time - home and work.
I don’t have the answer for the property industry, otherwise I'd be an estate agent wouldn't I? But I do know, that until hiring companies change how they engage with recruiters and start demanding an end to crap, low-fee multi-agency contingency recruitment, which so often see’s quality become the victim of quantity, nothing will ever change.
But if you are an estate agent reading this, and you’re tired of your industry being bashed and slagged-off, you can start change by being honest with your vendors and potential buyers - and tell house-hunters if a property isn’t going to be suitable for their needs, and don’t let them waste their time.
Because they deserve better. And because nobody wants to live in a house that stinks of stale skunk piss.