The night that made me ashamed to be an estate agent – when the cheers turned to jeers

Being embarrassed to be an estate agent is not a new feeling for me.

I am sure my fellow practitioners may well share my pain when, for example, at a dinner party the conversation turns to the subject of jobs.

Admitting to be an estate agent often feels a little akin to admitting to be a serial shoe-sniffer or granny mugger. We are generally not liked, despite generally doing a decent job, for generally the right reasons.

So, it was with much surprise that my embarrassment levels reached new depths just a few days ago. It may well surprise you when I reveal the location of this. I was not out with friends being asked about what I do for a living, I wasn’t meeting a partner’s parents for the first time and I certainly wasn’t at a dinner party.

I was attending an estate agents’ award ceremony.

Now, surely dear reader, you would think this would be the last place I would be embarrassed to be an estate agent.

After all, this was to be a celebration of our profession, a night where new stars and lifetime achievers would rub shoulders and share both the limelight and awards.

The evening started with much promise. My London and Kent brands had each been shortlisted in four categories, a massive achievement for relatively small, independent brands.

My staff and I are were having a pleasant evening, out in our finery in central London, and out with, supposedly, the best of our peers.

After a delicious three-course meal the awards ceremony started.

All remained pleasant until the online agent of the year category was announced. The room, almost to a man, started booing. These property professionals were reduced to a herd of naysaying numpties.

I felt shame and disappointment. I was in a large room full of the crème de la crème of my industry. My fellow guests were meant to represent the most forward thinking agents in the land. For goodness sake, I even heard someone on my table say that they “hated f***ing online agents”.

Now, much has been written of the online versus high street agent battle.

Personally, I welcome the challenge that online agents bring. I do not fear them because I feel that my own offices can offer a better service.

I do not fear them because property, like car sales for example, remains one of the few business transactions where currently, actual people still need to view the actual product on offer.

Of course, technology is getting better and with that in mind I am keeping an eye on the latest technological breakthroughs. Virtual reality headsets look exciting, but I see these as toys, trinkets if you like, to win instructions from landlords and vendors.

Can you imagine choosing where to live based on a virtual walk around? Not yet. Maybe not ever. But certainly not until we have full, immersive, holographic technology widely available. And even then, wouldn’t you want to meet the neighbours and check out the walk to the station?

So, I don’t fear online agents. I am amazed it has taken them this long to begin to take a small market share.

I am even happy they exist as I feel that our industry needs constant evolution and I think the online agents have made many of us take a good, long, hard look at our operations to see where we can improve.

Old-fashioned, low-tech customer service, like talking to a person not a call-centre robot, has returned to the fore because it’s something that clients want and actually high street agents can do.

From a cynical, business owner perspective, the great thing is that excellent customer service doesn’t really cost anything.

Apart from a little time and patience, high street agents can introduce and maintain a world-class customer service by simply understanding how their clients want to be treated.

We all know this instinctively. Why? Because it is how each of us want to be treated.

So, don’t boo online agents.

Don’t be afraid of them. Embrace the challenge they bring.

Definitely don’t reduce your fees. This battle will be won on customer service levels, not on percentages.

* Spencer Fortag is managing director of Dockside Properties Kent and regional manager of Landmark Estates


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  1. nextchapter

    Oh come on! I seriously cannot believe this is an article. Everyone had such an amazing evening, great company, great food, lots to drink, plenty of happy winners, and you decide to write a sad article with a negative spin on the night.

    You must have really needed some attention. There will always cheers and other times some jeers at these things. Just take it in good humour.  I mean, my positive spin on this, is probably helped by winning!

    1. Property Ear

      Sounds like too much to drink – which goes some way to explaining, not excusing, such appalling and loutish behaviour.

      I’m not an ‘on liner’ but fair play to House Simple.

      The ‘booers’ should get their act together and maybe they’ll get an award next year!



    2. docklander52

      Hi nextchapter,

      As a finalist in 8 categories across my two different brands, I can assure you that I really don’t need attention. Also, my team and I really enjoyed the night. This is the second year I have attended The Negotiator Awards and I think it is a great evening, really well organised and executed.

      Perhaps I should blame my parents. They brought me up to be a good winner as well as a good loser and as such I feel it is a shame for anyone to be booed at an awards ceremony. If you recall, the host had to ask for silence quite a few times when handing out the Lifetime Achievement award. That’s the LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT award. For someone who has dedicated their LIFE to our industry. In this instance, Frances mentioned she had been working in agency for over 40 years. If that does not deserve a display of mutual respect and professional etiquette, what does?

      Maybe, as Property Ear suggests, drink was to blame….


      1. PeeBee

        Perhaps I should blame my parents. They brought me up to be a good winner as well as a good loser and as such I feel it is a shame for anyone to be booed at an awards ceremony.”

        Not disagreeing in that respect.

        I trust, however, that you will not be so swift to blame your parents for your choice to display the logo of a portal you do not advertise your properties on?

        That WOULD be embarrassing…

        1. PeeBee

          Only THREE ‘Dislikes’?

          Blimey – that’s a poor show – are the other five in the office on holiday/sick… or plain and simple don’t give a fuppenny?

          1. docklander52

            Ok PeeBee, ill bite.

            I wasn’t going to as in all honesty I did not really want you to hijack this thread and make it about me, or you. My original post was a commentary from the heart about how I felt on an evening meant to showcase the best of us. I feel that awards should mean something and, despite some comments from other contributors, I still think they do. Or, perhaps, the optimist in me hopes they do. Having been in the industry for over 20 years, I am not naive and maybe it’s because of my length of service and having seen people at their very worse, that I also long to see people at their very best.

            As for for your comments about the dislikes (and your inference that my staff are clicking the thumbs down button), I know this may be something you had not previously considered, but maybe, just maybe there are people that, wait for it, don’t like your comments? I know its crazy to suggest and maybe I’m a dreamer. But I’m sure I’m not the only one….

            Now, as a subscriber and gold member since inception, I do have some observations about OTM…I look forward to a  friendly debate in the portal forum.

            1. PeeBee

              “I know this may be something you had not previously considered, but maybe, just maybe there are people that, wait for it, don’t like your comments?”

              Oh, Sir – I have no doubt whatsoever that some – if not all – of my comments arouse the hackles of some people.

              I’d be pretty wazzed off if they didn’t, actually.

              “I do have some observations about OTM…I look forward to a  friendly debate in the portal forum.”

              Debate thread opened.

              The floor is yours…

            2. PeeBee

              Oh – just a final thought to mention…

              “I did not really want you to hijack this thread and make it about me, or you.”

              But – the thread really WAS about you, Sir.  Whatever you do, you can’t hide that fact.

              After all – in the first instance, you wrote it.  Call that Exhibit #1.  Dragged the sorry subject out, kicking and screaming, for all to look at – those within the industry and those who observe from the sidelines.

              You use the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ no less than thirty times in your lament.  That’s pretty first person, I would respectfully suggest.

              You referred to your own business three times.

              YOUR feelings.

              YOUR thoughts.

              Yeah – all in all, pretty neutral ‘article’, I guess…

  2. The Outsider

    I’m sorry that someone on your table “hated f***ing online agents”.

    Might I suggest they do a Smarter Search and try and find a way in with the girls at some of our best known portals?  They have no trouble finding your happy!

  3. LondonR90

    What a load of £$^$&$%$^$.

    Pay to enter 20 awards, win 1. Brag about it on your website.

    These days it’s hard to find an agent who hasn’t won an award.

  4. smile please

    Storm in a tea cup?

    Lets be honest these awards are garbage, Who cares who wins them, all you do is buy them!


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