Don’t just list your home online - launch it to the local marketplace with Cotswold Homes

Karen Harrison, Director & Co-Founder at Harrison James & Hardie, on the importance of expert local estate agency in launching your property to the marketplace and the benefit of Cotswold Homes' marketing

"We have a very desirable old cottage in a great village. According to the local agents, it sits somewhere between £950,000 to £1.1 million. Loathe to spend on a traditional treatment when we think our buyer is probably looking on the internet. Would you go online only?"

Given that a buyer’s first port of call is usually online these days I understand why you ask. A typical activity graph on Rightmove will show a huge surge of interest in the first 48 hours of uploading a new instruction, especially if it’s pretty. Two, three, four hundred views. It looks so exciting, at least for a few short days.

All agents ought to be able to reach your perfect buyer without any difficulty regardless of skill, right? It’s so tempting to think that it’s a waste to spend a couple of percent with a really good high street agent. You might get a flurry of viewings in the first week from internet activity. And an offer. Or not. Trouble is, how do you know, even if you get an offer without advice from someone who really knows, that it’s the right price to agree a sale?

The average online activity graph will also show, just as quickly as that lovely reassuring surge of curiosity came, that it will quickly flatline. If your property isn’t launched properly and if your agent is lazy, has no staff or resources, no buyers to communicate with other than the internet, all you have left if you don’t get an offer is to wait it out.

The largest online agency recently reported that 81% of their properties sold within a year. A year? That means one in five still hadn’t sold even after three hundred and sixty-five long days of waiting. Even if you eventually agree a sale, is it worth the risk if a 35% cancellation rate for the sake of saving a few thousand pounds, especially in your marketplace?

After a year you would be so demoralised you would probably sell your granny for a fiver. If your agent isn’t good at generating fresh activity (and most agents aren’t, I am afraid, even at the posh end let alone online) then the only recourse - given you simply can’t wait for the market to catch up - is to drop your price. Not the best place to be - in the hands of a cheap online agent with no registered applicants and sticky stock in a stodgy marketplace.

Far better to be with a great traditional high street agent with a constant source of foot traffic and a raft of registered buyers. You won’t drop your price quickly enough because most people don’t until far too late. Early days, you’ll say. Only when you’ve lost the house you were interested in, the next one too, and your child’s school place is under threat, when you have stopped looking because well, it’s just too painful, how much do you finally let them drop to prompt some more interest? £5,000? £10,000? £20,000? £30,000? More?

That’s an expensive bet on a cheap fee. No one wants what no one else wants. The longer you leave it, the worse it gets. Buyers won’t even enquire about something that they perceive is just 5% overpriced and in your marketplace 5% is £50,000. That ambitious ‘point 1’ of a million is one hundred thousand pounds. Could you be 

10% overpriced? And how does that resolve without tears before bedtime after you’ve been languishing for months?

The really great estate agent will always be the one with all the Sold boards, the one you’ve dismissed as too expensive, who didn’t go high on price when invited out, who keeps ringing every so often just to ask how you’re getting on. It’s frustrating because he never gives up and you end up avoiding him in Tesco after work because it’s embarrassing, actually.

But the reason he persists, no matter the time of year, is that he will be working really hard. In November 2016, after months of torpor following the stamp duty change, we generated a fifth of our entire annual sales turnover and ended on a high when all other agents were bedding down for the winter. We barely had anything left to sell by December.

It’s still good old-fashioned hard work that sells houses - there’s truthfully no substitute.

Properly honed local knowledge, maturity, experience, charisma, great persuasive skills are what makes the difference. These qualities are increasingly rare. Such agents aren’t cheap.

I don’t know the ratio of serious to curious buyers online, but I would hazard it’s very low, especially for the prettiest properties. The problem with relying on the internet to do your work is looking isn’t the same as buying. Time to stop believing in portals as a substitute for great agency. Too many agents, let alone buyers, have simply forgotten (or never even knew after two decades of internet marketing) that their best port of call is not the internet.

Yes, a big shop window full of pretty baubles in a street full of passers-by will attract attention but most will say ‘I am just looking, thank you’ before they scuttle on past. They are window tappers. They won’t buy. We are interested in those who stride through the door and say: “I need to register”. And we will work really hard to find them something.

That’s why our online option is not just about being on Rightmove but also via Cotswold Homes. A structured launch campaign utilising every possible source of communication, including a local social media launch, dedicated phone-outs, all designed to provoke a build-up of interest with an Open Viewing Day providing it’s desirable enough, at the right price.

On the next page are just a few homes we have sold this year on the first Open Viewing Day, in every price range, with a choice of board and fee. We have the passion, the opportunities and the ability to reach our local marketplace via Cotswold Homes whether you choose Cotswold Homes Online, Harrison James & Hardie or Fine & Country North Cotswolds.

Our Cotswold Homes Launch Pad is a uniquely effective way of getting to the right people who live or visit here often - our potential best buyers. These people maybe aren’t thinking about moving at all, aren’t even looking at Rightmove, Zoopla, On The Market, or Prime Location. They might be registered on the database for news on forthcoming events, or for local competitions, but just like to see what’s going on with the local marketplace.

Chances are, with so many thousands of local people on that database, your buyer will see an e-mailer about an Open Viewing Day, or a boost on our Facebook page or our Twitter account, or even an editorial in the magazine, and they just get really excited about the house of their dreams. They find they are not alone. And then the fun starts.

Worth our fee? We know so.

For expert advice from Karen on how to launch your property to the marketplace, and how to benefit from Cotswold Homes’ marketing (even whilst tied to an existing agency agreement): Telephone: Bourton on the Water 01451 822977 / Moreton in Marsh 01608 65100 or email: karen@harrisonjameshardie.co.uk