Outsourced viewings, Viewber
I was interested to read this week that 'Industry Titan' Ed Mead was leaving traditional agency to pursue a new business venture - Viewber. I've only met Ed once, circa 2007, when I tried to compliment him on an article he'd written (what a creep I was). I didn't get far before he tore a few strips off me for pulling down his 'for sale' boards, before zooming off on his trademark motorbike! Luckily it was a case a mistaken identity and he was generous enough to apologise to me. Author of the 'Agent Provocateur' column in the Daily Telegraph he is a refreshing fire starter in our industry (still a bit creepy?!) and I watch with interest when someone in his position breaks from the status quo...
I recently bought a house in Wimbledon. It was the third property I've bought in London since 2005, sadly not collectively. The total number of viewings for all three purchases totaled around six. Maybe that's foolish, maybe it's 'agent instinct' or, as I'd like to think, just thorough prep. What I can say with complete confidence is that there is NOTHING the agent could have said to influence my choice in buying these properties and in two of the three instances I'd made up my mind before going inside. No amount of hair gel, smooth one liners or steely close could have changed my mind! In my case, the viewing itself was a means to an end. By the way, Viewber claims to give agents the ability to extend beyond their existing geographical area by linking agents, local experts and viewing volunteers (or 'Viewbers').
You might find the stance above interesting coming from an agent. I do place a value in my team and I knowing what we are talking about, however, the (limited) 'skill' and/or 'sell' and therefore the value to all in the process is in introducing the desirable properties in the first place. The most successful salesman I've ever spoken to explained the secret of his success as, 'five viewings/day with five motivated/qualified applicants' - simple. If you like a property enough to buy it then you'll find out the answers to your questions. That said, it is important that someone can do that - before, ideally during and certainly after.
When I was looking to buy this year I spotted an intriguing house listed with an 'online agent'. I called to book a viewing and got connected to a salesperson in Birmingham. After qualifying that I was interested in London (good start) it was clear they knew very little about the area, let alone the property. I was then connected to a 'local expert'. I never actually saw the house as I couldn't do my 'prep' - I just didn't feel confident with the answers to the questions I asked. It also transpired that two other local agents had valued the house between 10-15% less than the list price. Presumably the client's effort to maximise a sale price and minimise the fee had wasted EVERYONE's time. It's still 'for sale' by the way.
At a time when the industry argues the toss between the benefits of on-line and off-line I'm heartened to see someone the knowledge, expertise and energy cutting through the noise to merge the two worlds with Viewber. I believe both worlds could learn an awful lot from the other.You're probably wondering at this point what on earth this new business does? Well, you can read that for yourself - like all good agents I am just introducing the idea!
This article was written by Giles Barrett, a partner at Knight Frank, and first posted on LinkedIn