Zen and the Art of Estate Agency

"Quality is the parent, the source of all subjects and objects." - Robert Pirsig

When you buy your clothes, your shoes, your furniture; anything valuable to you, once you’ve set a budget, i.e. I can afford ‘£xxx’; your decision to buy is then defined by the quality of the product and you are likely to spend at upper end of what you can afford.

In ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, a classic of contemporary American literature, Robert Pirsig  considers what makes 'a life well lived'.  He suggests that what gives life value is ‘Quality’. Quality is not an empirical, scientific value: you cannot calculate it; you have to experience it in more than 3 dimensions. 

How you are wondering, is this relevant to estate agency? I have found that some sellers seem to no longer use this approach in their choice of agent (looking for 'quality') but go for the ‘Never mind the Quality, feel the Width’ approach, even though they are dealing with the sale of their most significant financial asset. Why would people do this?  Is it that people have such low expectations, that a low selling fee is the only factor?

When you decide to market your property, you have to invite one or more agents into your home to compare their offers and ‘sell’ you their services. From my many conversations with clients, these critical meetings often lack empathy. Sellers do not manage to clarify fully what they want and feel they have been flattened by the agent's sales pitch.  Stunned into submission, they ask for the lowest fee and sign on the dotted line.  But, did they get a feeling of ‘Quality’ or just give in?

How would you find and define ‘Quality’ in an estate agent? If you spend some real time with the agent and dig deep enough, you may find it. Unfortunately, I have been to see potential clients where they have given each of 6 agents 15 minutes each to talk through this really important matter; selling their home  A client cannot do themselves and their property justice in 15 minutes. It takes time to make the right choice.

Measuring the quality is not all about the 'image'/persona, be it company car, shop front, suits, brochures.  These have a role to play, but, you need to dig deeper and seek out critical quality traits and skills; their professionalism, their ability to listen to you and respond to your needs, their knowledge of the local market, their honest understanding of property values, how they compare and contrast areas, streets, architecture, amenities.

Do they have an extensive knowledge of Brighton & Hove? It's likely their buyers will want this expertise. What will interest buyers? The conversation could extend from BHAFC's latest win to what goes on during the Brighton Festival, what the Universities are up to, how the Council is dealing with the transport challenges in Brighton and Hove, commuting, the Brighton Marathon; any number of things prospective buyers want to know. Where the schools are; what are the relevant bus routes; where you can get a cheap, quality meal or splash out and so on.

Can you imagine an empathic conversation between the agent and a buyer, where the buyer feels they've learned more about your property and City after meeting the agent and so can make an informed decision.. Your buyers will want to be fully informed so your agent needs to be too. After entrusting your property to them to sell it for you, wouldn’t you be pleased? The buyers certainly will be, having had the ‘other’ estate agent experience all too often. All too often, the person doing the viewings has no idea about much of this so cannot do a quality selling job. 

If you want quality in your estate agent experience, ask searching questions before you engage an agent and let your head and heart work together – it’s real life...and of course, if you haven’t done so already, Pirsig’s book is definitely worth reading.

Photograph is of Robert Pirsig and his son on their trip.