Thanet Estate Agents
I'm probably about to remove an entire market segment from ever wanting to advertise on Thanet Star with what I have to say today.
While I have been struggling with technical difficulties in getting out the Thanet Twitter Podcast I am also actively engaged in other activities of life. Such as taking part in a house hunt on behalf of someone. I've seen a thing or two that have surpprised, shocked and upset me.
Lettings in Thanet is a highly competitive business and yet the companies involved let themselves down so badly that it's a wonder that many of them are still in business. The possible exception to this was Oakwood but more on that later.
I want to call the entire industry out on it's attitude to tenants, landlords and each other.
Each and every estate agent that also deals with lettings should be ashamed of themselves. Your standards are shocking and it is the customer (both landlord and tenant) that is suffering. It will take only one agency to take on board the need to change and it could spell the end for any number of other agencies.
It's first come most likely to survive.
Attitude to each otherNo where is the total failure of estate agents and letting agents in Thanet most keenly seen than in the childish way they treat each other in front of clients.
I met with a most pleasant lady just this afternoon to view her property. She had wisely hedged her bets by using multiple agencies and the reaction of each agent shocked me. As each agency had turned up to place their sign on the house they hard turn down and smashed up the signs of other agencies. Not only is this childish in the extreme but unprofessional and a clear demonstration of the dinosaur business mentality.
What message does such behaviour send to clients? What does it say to landlords or to tenants - that the agnecy is willing to stoop to any depth for the sake of money?
Attitude to prospective tenantsI mentioned before that Oakwood might be the exception to the rule. This is clearest when you phone them up.
The Oakwood Homes agent listened carefully to my requirements and budget and suggested a property which we made an appointment to view the very next day. Something only Parkland Estates whose Cliftonville branch also made an apointment for viewing during the very first phone call.
Of the rest some offered to email me, one called me back and some never got back to me.
Given the strong competition that I have seen demonstrated whereby estate agents in Thanet seem willing to commit minor criminal acts to get the edge on each other I would have thought that Thanet's realty industry would have the customer service basics in place.
What I experienced was a feeling that I was a necessary evil. It seemed that I should sit up and beg for whatever property the agent saw fit to let me have and it was sometimes very clear that the agent was there only to represent the landlord against the tenant.
We're talking about finding a home here - it's a co-operative effort whereby both tenant and landlord benefit. The agent will, naturally, pick up their cut on the way but to be almost aggressive to the source of your money seems strange.
It seems that Thanet's letting agents have forgotten it is the tenant that is the paying customer and the landlord is a supplier. Suppliers come and go but a loyal customer is hard to find.
Attitude to landlordsI have no first hand experience of Thanet's real estate agencies attitude to landlords but it seems listening to them is no strong point.
One landlady I spoke to today pointed to one of the signs (on the floor) and said "they send me nothing but riff-raff". She told me how she and her son had specified that they would prefer to rent to a nice family who would fit in within the neighbourhood and ideally were working (no housing benefit claimants is a common requirement) and yet the people that had been sent claimed housing benefit.
Do Thanet's lettings agencies not listen any more?
To compete effectively against other agencies a good customer bond is vital. To create this bond listening skills are vital. You must pay attention to your clients.
If a client comes to you to rent out a property don't send them people looking to buy (as happened to one property owner I spoke with).
Attitude to profitsOne agency I spoke with uses a third party to carry out reference checks and so forth. I have no idea if this is standard but I see the logic behind such an action. What I don't see the logic of is adding additional barriers to the taking on of a new tenant.
The agent in question informed me that the reference check would cost £100 plus VAT and was payable by the tenant. I have to wonder if the profitability of the agency is so low that they can not afford to take care of this cost themselves.
Surely, as I mentioned earlier, it is in the best interests of the agent to foster a good relationship with the paying customer? With sufficient tenants who feel that they have an agent that is for them not against them surely a letting agent is set for ongoing success.
I see several gaps in the market that when closed will hurt the current collection of lettings agents in terms of lost potential customers. For those angencies not wanting to go bust - it's time to get your game face on and face the changes.