by Anh Nguyen
Property Stress Relief aims to help struggling vendors sell their properties, with services including the management of their estate agents.
Property Stress Relief could be a bad estate agent’s worst nightmare. For a 1% fee of a completed sale price, the firm aims to advise struggling vendors on changes they need to make to their property to achieve a sale, as well as managing all communications with a vendor’s agent.
And the brains behind the business know their stuff. Tim Jackson and Eli Robinson are two former Foxtons branch managers. Whatever agents’ views about Foxtons, the pair aims to scrutinise a vendor’s sales process, including their agent’s efforts, which means that unprofessional agents not offering clients value for money are at risk of being disinstructed – not a predicament many can afford to risk in this market downturn.
Property Stress Relief’s service is based on a 12-step program, which includes helping vendors get their property in shape for sale, advising on agent appointments, negotiating agents’ fees ad arranging buyer show days. The service is aimed at individuals too busy to oversee their agent’s management of their house sale.
Robinson, who worked for Foxtons for six years, insists that agents have been quick to see the advantages of the service once they understand how the Highgate, North London-based business works.
“Agents ask the question [what is the point of paying someone to manage an agent managing the sale of a property?], but it is quickly answered when we come to them with a property and tell them to go and sell it.
“They will see that all the boxes are ticked – the property looks great, it’s priced aggressively and the vendor is up for the sale. There can be no easier property for them to sell than a property that comes from us.”
Arrogant maybe, but when they have the power to drive regular leads to high-performing agents, they are not a pair to dismiss, even if it means enduring a beauty parade or two along the way as they assess your suitability for their clients.
“From an agent’s point of view, we’re not taking business away from them; what we will do is take away business from bad agents,” says Jackson, who met Robinson when he started working for Foxtons five years ago.
Having vetted agents, Robinson and Jackson make daily contact with them for an update on their clients’ viewings and what the agents are doing to help progress their sale. At its worst, the service will prove a thorn in agents’ sides, particularly when so many are struggling to merely survive. At best, Jackson and Robinson believe their confidence and enthusiasm will rub off on the agents with whom they are dealing, thus boosting sales. And there are financial incentives on offer too.
“We will give agents incentives on a sliding scale. We might even offer bonuses, whereby we will pay £1,000 to a negotiator who sells a property,” says Jackson.
Robinson and Jackson have so far managed 15 properties, of which they have completed sales on seven, with three under offer at the time of writing earlier this month. They cover properties in North, North-West and some parts of central London, targeting high-end properties.
Current cases include a £5m property in Marylebone and one in Highgate priced at £1.8m, but the pair insists that they will consider properties of a lower value providing they are located in an area with which they are familiar.
“But we will never take on more than 15 properties at once because we cannot give them enough attention,” says Robinson.
Property Stress Relief’s quickest sales turnaround was six weeks from instruction. It was a £340,000 two-bedroom flat in Kilburn, North West London, which had been on the market for five months prior to their involvement.
The property was marketed for three weeks, spent two weeks under offer and then the sale was completed in the sixth week.
“We don’t profess to cut the timescales, instead we make sure that within the timescale there is a saleable property.
“What we guarantee is that their [vendors’] properties will be the most viewed,” insists Robinson.
Robinson and Jackson claim to have managed some 1,500 deals between them in four and a half years while at Foxtons, so their extensive network of contacts is one of the unique selling points of their service, from solicitors to plumbers, to decorators. The network, which also includes search agents for high-end clients in search of a discretionary service, enables the pair to negotiate competitive rates for clients.
It was the age-old issues of the state of vendors’ properties which helped Jackson and Robinson create the idea for Property Stress Relief.
“We are now not their [vendors’] estate agents, so we can be quite frank with them, whereas when we were estate agents we had to tiptoe around certain issues, such as clutter, smelly dogs and cat litter lying around, as well as gross overpricing.”
The business was also born out of a flaw with a separate business venture they own - Secureasale.co.uk, which works by buying property from vendors desperate to move. The private investor-backed company buys properties below their asking price for cash
within a 48-hour timeframe. But the pair overlooked the fact that many homeowners would reject any offer from the business
because they could not afford to reduce their asking price. Hence the birth of Property Stress Relief.
So, the pair run one company which buys property from desperate vendors and another which sells property for vendors, though Robinson insists there is no cross-selling between the two.
“If someone comes to us through Property Stress Relief, we would never buy it [the vendor’s property through Secureasale.co.uk] – it would not be ethical, even if it was the deal of the century.”
As for the future growth of the former business, the pair has its work cut out in convincing the industry of the merits of the service, despite its claims of support. Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the National
Association of Estate Agents, is a case in point.
He says: “If you’re dealing with a decent estate agent who knows what they’re doing, it should be totally unnecessary.
“Estate agency is a people business and building relationships with clients is fundamental, so this has the potential for getting in the middle and in the way.”
David Pollock, managing director of West Hampstead-based estate agency Greene & Co, agrees: “For me, it sounds like it will be an extra
layer that will deter the negotiators on the floor.
“At the moment, agents want to keep direct relationships with their vendors and if there’s another person in the middle it will create another layer that will make the sale more difficult.”
He adds: “Half of it [the house selling process] for my people is trying to satisfy the emotional needs as well as the financial needs of the vendor.”
The geographical focus of the business presents its own challenge. Property Stress Relief’s coverage encompasses a six-mile wide area outside their office that contains around just five million homes. That said, Jackson says franchising is an option under consideration for
Finally, there are market conditions to consider. A market downturn in which vendors struggle to sell their properties is the perfect environment in which Property Stress Relief can thrive, so it will be interesting to see how it fares when the housing market recovers.
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