Feverish Pitch: The Doer Upper’s sales agency ‘beauty’ parade

Five estate agencies are vying for the affections (sales commission) of our resident doer upper, as he sets about putting his Kensington project on the market. But which to...

Five estate agencies are vying for the affections (sales commission) of our resident doer upper, as he sets about putting his Kensington project on the market. But which to choose? Alan Page translates the agentspeak and puts his gut feeling to work…


It’s been a long and stressful day.

Five agents have viewed the house, and opening the front door for the first time to the critical gaze of these professional appraisers is akin to exposing oneself in public.

Of course they’re going to be polite. Of course they’re going to find something (however small) to pick on and praise. Of course they’re going to say how keen they are to market the property.

But what do they really think?

Occasional glimpses of their true opinions are there, if you pay attention.

“Perhaps a little more storage in the second bedroom wouldn’t go amiss” means “christ, that room’s bloody small and there’s absolutely nowhere to put anything.”

“It’s an interior design that covers almost all potential buyers” means “it’s incredibly bland”.

Translating their views on the market requires similar interpretative skills.

“It’s getting softer” means “It’s pretty awful out there and prices are actually falling.”

“Buyers have slightly more choice at the moment” means “Nothing’s bloody selling so the market’s stuffed with similar houses.”

“There are still serious buyers out there” means “we met someone last week who actually seemed keen to buy.”

This may be funny. But it’s no laughing matter when a very significant part of our personal wealth (ha ha) is tied up in a single property.

Without naming names (sorry about that, but I actually might need these people), here’s a quick sketch of today’s visitors.

  • Agent 1: This single office agency is tres fashionable. (Or at least likes to think it is.) I actually quite like the main guy. Although I’m much older, we have a few acquaintances in common. Others in the industry have warned me off him, but I can’t help admiring his tilt at the old school networks who dominate his patch. Today he arrived looking unusually depressed and downbeat. This is very rare for agents who are normally so falsely upbeat they remind you of American waiters. It turns out he’d lost a large sale the previous day when a celebrity buyer had walked away at the last minute without explanation. His visit was also clouded, I think, by the fact that he didn’t think I would seriously consider appointing him. Sadly, after his performance today, he’s right.
  • Agent 2: A smart double act on the doorstep this time. In the past I’ve resisted appointing this agent as their people can be frighteningly haughty and a touch condescending. Not this time however. Just the right mix of upmarket confidence and intelligent insights means that this enormous global agency brand goes shooting up in my estimation. Without patronising me, they make me feel good about the house while at the same time managing my expectations on price. A clever and difficult trick to pull off.
  • Agent 3: This is the sort of bright young woman any agency would be pleased to employ at a senior level. But she and her agency don’t feel quite right for this job. It’s a well known multi-office London agency working in all the hot (well, not so hot these days) areas. I admire their attitude. And know they are not full of bull. I feel, however, that our house needs a bit of bull to maximise its potential.
    I also feel their office (even in these portal dominated days) needs to be a bit more on the doorstep. Her office is the other side of the Cromwell Road in a land more populated by flat dwellers, transient international investors and Ferrari driving wide-boys. Our street, on the other hand, is full of families that actually live and work here. Eat at The Abingdon. Say hello to each other. And care about their neighbours. It’s just too different.
  • Agent 4: This double act is old school from the tips of their polished brogues to the cut of their sub-Saville Row suits. Henry Snr is very considered, clearly a very successful equity partner, much smarter than his ‘toffish’ manner implies and able to remain thoroughly charming while delivering bad news. Henry Jnr is all smiles, enthusiasm and optimism. They make a good, if slightly imbalanced team. I know that on a daily basis, however, I’m going to be dealing with Henry Jnr. And even though I respect this agency, I’m not sure that’s going to work.
  • Agent 5: This is the small agency I bought the house through. They are practically neighbours and have been incredibly helpful throughout the process of buying and renovating. I like them. I would love it if they sold our house, but I’m not convinced they have enough clout to be our sole agent. They will however get their chance alongside a bigger name. Because not only are they hardworking and nice, they also know the streets around here better than anyone else. Nothing (and nobody) moves without them knowing about it. And that’s invaluable.

Although the agents were technically pitching to me, it didn’t always feel that way.

Having lived and breathed this house for 18 months it actually felt more like I was pitching my taste and limited development skills at them. But perhaps that’s just my own insecurity coming out.

I could of course have dozens more agents round. Many of whom would almost certainly flatter my ego rather more than those above. But ego doesn’t pay the bills and I think we’ve seen the right mix of agents.

Now we just have to wait for their valuations and think about who we’d like to work with.

The valuation is of course driven by market forces such as local comparables and the dreaded “price per square foot” index. I doubt, therefore, that their numbers will vary that much.

Who we’d like to work with, on the other hand, is a much tougher question. And one to sleep on.

Night, night.

Image: “”Miss Universe 1930 Winners” by Joseph M. Maurer  via Library of Congress (CC by SA 2.0)

Catch up on all the Doer Upper’s antics at his blog here, or follow him on Twitter @beachcomberpage 

The views of contributors are not necessarily those of PrimeResi or its Publishers

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