Viewber Diaries - Mike, London
"Who are the Viewbers?"
This series follows different Viewbers who are based all across the UK - sharing their experiences of being a Viewber.
These are the people who conduct the many property appointments and services that we offer. This is your chance to get to know them better!
Here is Mike Willstrop's story from London...
It was in June 2018 that I noticed an article about Viewber in The Negotiator. Having just finished a couple of years working with an estate agent, I was moving back into film and TV. However, this was to be a slow process and I was fascinated by the Viewber concept; it really plugged a gap for agents.
In the 2 years I spent as an estate agent in Surrey, unlike my colleagues, I conducted 4 Sunday viewings all of which resulted in an offer and 3 completed. I have always loved architecture and also meeting people. I was impressed by Viewber’s onboarding experience and the company’s professionalism shone through, so I became a Viewber myself in July that year.
I have had a background in IT and marketing and, after selling my software company in America, I went to art school in 2002 as a mature student to major in visual communication and photography. At that time I also invested in BTLs, renovated and even built some properties. So, when Viewber asked for 360 degree camera operators in early 2019, I was keen to invest in the equipment and become one of the first. These jobs were a little slow… but that would all change in 2020 with the pandemic! Virtual tours became an obvious substitute for viewings and I soon found myself driving through a much-deserted London and filming up to several 360 degree tours, 7 days a week. On top of that viewings increased as agents furloughed their staff.
Over the past 2 years, 9 months the Viewber mix of work has suited me down to the ground. I felt I was also able to use my experience in film to tell property’s story in 360 degree virtual tours and photography jobs. It’s the narrative that counts; what are the key features that will appeal to buyers? How would the agent client want me to best present the property? I always linger and add more shots of those areas that are crying out for improvement to add value, such as a potential en-suite or extension - and sometimes its relevant to take the tour way out of the property where there are local features or parkland… location, location, location can add to the property’s ‘story’ too!
I’ve met a lot of interesting and amusing people and had a lot of fun as a Viewber. What I also enjoy is every day is different and you do have to think on your feet.
On one particular occasion I was shooting a 360 degree tour at a massive, once beautiful, but now dark and derelict house in Brixton, I was filming in the cellar using flashlights when I heard noises and voices in the back room. I switched my flashlights off and appeared at the cellar door just as a lady and man turned the corner! Her screams, as she thought I was a ghost, probably woke the whole neighbourhood! It turned out she used to live in the house years ago and had been visiting friends next door, seen the French doors open, so climbed over the fence to have a peek. It was lovely hearing the old stories of that house once nervous laughter died down, although I could not allow them to look around any further.
I have had some other interesting challenges and opportunities over the years:
- Despite lashings of WD40, a terrace house’s back door would only lock from the outside, so I had to climb back through a window so I could leave it secure front and back
- I’ve had to unscrew jammed locks and re-secure them on a couple of occasions when keys didn’t fit (YouTube gave me the knowledge, not a ‘misspent youth’!)
- Parking my car in a large South London lock-up empty garage before photographing it, to give it scale - it sold at auction for over £60,000!
- I carry a pretty good tool kit and power drill. Useful as I have had to fix a few unsecured properties to save clients’ time and money as I am already on site
- Having to film around families in situ – I always have spare face coverings and anti-bacterial gel but social distancing can be tricky in some properties – “never work with children or animals!”
For the first 18 months of being a Viewber I lived in Surrey, but last year moved to London SE1 where I once lived before. I love the views and the lack of traffic – for now. My camera armoury now includes 5 video and 360 degree cameras, progressive iPhones and array of gimbals, monopods and other accessories. I have private clients for camera work now and use a range of video and 360 degree software. I also work as a freelance marketing producer and director for a well-regarded TV, film and streaming business.
I still really enjoy conducting viewings too and meeting both Viewber clients and their buyers.
Initially, I found it hard for me not to turn into a salesman on viewings, but I have learnt that viewers really don’t want that pressure, but local knowledge.
I also find that my previous experience in construction and planning useful to some buyers. I am usually quite early to assess hazards, plan social distancing and find exact distances to stations, bus routes, schools, churches, other local amenities and always have my iPhone handy to produce immediate proof on Google Maps to show walking distances and bus timetables.
My respect for Viewber and its fabulous Booking Support Team (“BST”) has grown and grown as my workload has.
On a personal note, Viewber arrived just when I needed it; a few years after I lost my wife and soulmate to cancer. My sons had both just finished Uni and left home, so not only did Viewber get me out and about, but the professionalism and camaraderie of the BST makes me want to raise the bar on every job.
As for the pandemic, I felt privileged to be able to legally go to work. There is no doubt that Viewber helped me maintain my positive outlook having watched so many mental health stories on TV and spoken to friends and family members who felt they were going mad in the lock down. That having been said I have been a registered NHS volunteer for over 3 years, so I was briefed in March 2020 and have always strictly adhered to all Covid-19 precautions.
Like so many other Viewbers, my life experiences have combined to make working for Viewber a real pleasure... and rarely a dull moment.
My tips for fellow Viewbers:
As well as the obvious discipline of keeping all equipment fully charged, checking journey times and parking (use Google Street) here are my additional tips:
- ‘Read the instructions’ – Check all the appointment instructions and note contact details for potential problems, always double check how many and which photos you need to take
- Carry silicon spray as well as WD40 - Silicon spray is not a liquid but microscopic silicon balls, so it won’t stain doors, carpets and curtains!
- Carry flashlights fully charged as many auction properties do not have services connected
- For open houses viewings I print off my own A4 disclaimers and, using a clipboard, ask all viewers to print their details for both Track & Trace and GDPR consented marketing for the Viewber client. (I provide gloves anti-bacterial spray for those viewers that don’t have their own pen, as well as carrying spare clean masks) - safer and very useful when providing feedback
- Do your quality control and uploading on-site as every job is different and there is always scope to make a mistake
- Conduct a "wally check" (‘If you leave something behind, you’re a wally!’) and double-check locks and keys are back in their safes to make sure you don’t have to return to properties
- If 3G/4G is lousy at the property, try driving round the corner to get a faster upload connection for 360 degree content and photographs
- As well as editing photographs on site, I use a range of iPhone Apps to be able to make legal changes to skies, remove street litter etc.
- I now type up feedback in Notes on my iPhone or iPad and then copy and paste into the Viewber system, that way I know I am not going to lose data with a bad Internet connection
- Only when filming 360 degree virtual tours (never viewings) I wear a luminous safety vest; it tends to stop people coming up to you and asking you what you are doing, I also find white van drivers let me out of side streets!