Despite plenty of positive economic signs, estate agents are finding it hard to close deals.
THE MOOD IS positive; the stock market is at a high point, London remains the European (if not global) capital of choice and received wisdom predicts a steady rise in the market over the next five years.
I’m not a great believer in predictions and forecasts but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that for the simple reasons of supply and demand, a rise in the market is almost inevitable. And yet, despite this, we’re finding it hard to close deals. Stipulations are being imposed; demands made prior to exchange and unless there are two parties fighting over a property there’s a strong sense that it’s a buyer’s market. This is also the impression we get from fellow agents.
The client that I wrote of last week has reduced the price on her Chelsea cottage and it’s brought increased viewings but no concrete offers yet — it’s early days but we hope to hear something soon.
It seems the stand-out potential buyer won’t be rushed and wants to see architectural plans (drawn up at the seller’s cost) of the different configurations to which the house could be converted. This entails the usual kitchen extension; cupboards turned into en-suite wet rooms, plasma screens replacing paintings on the wall and underground wine cellars.
The place is charming but it is what it is — a two-up, two-down Victorian cottage and there are only so many ways you can stretch, squeeze and extend it to make it anything other than that. I’m delighted to say that the trend for subterranean living space is on the wane — and this can’t happen soon enough for my liking. As a client said to me on viewing a £20million house that was largely beneath ground, ‘I’m not a mole.’
Another flat we have under offer hinges on air conditioning being approved of by the board (of the apartment building) and local council. ‘Air conditioning? In London?’ I want to say, incredulously. But with tenacity that only the very rich are blessed with, the purchaser is quite insistent that this is what he wants, despite being away for the summer months sailing to the more glamorous and expensive tourist resorts of the Mediterranean.
The universal truth that buying and selling agents must face, whether they’re operating at the £1m or £100m level is that we’re mere facilitators, enslaved to the whims of the super-wealthy.
I may not decree a/c necessary, and I do not have it in my own flat, but that’s a moot point. That old service industry motto remains true: ‘the customer is always right.’
Read more from Sebastian Gibson