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My #1 rule

"In my experience sellers also think it is a total waste of their time to have people trailing around their house if it isn’t what they are looking for."

Although a property finder makes every effort to locate properties that are privately for sale or get direct access to a seller through a network of contacts it is also vital to maintain good relations with estate agents.  Lots of acquisitions will be done via the seller’s agent and once a good relationship is established the best agents will often pro-actively bring properties to our attention even before they are on the market.  So we see it as part of our job working for the buyer to sort the good agents from the bad  and when we are dealing with an office for the first time we will normally make the enquiry as though we are the buyer as we find this gives lots of clues about how they do business. What we are looking for is honesty and a bit of realism but some are so pushy that it feels as though we have been hit by a truck.

The #1 rule is that we must view in advance of the client, to make preliminary checks and assess ‘the other stuff’.  A good property is about more than just the bricks and mortar; it is as much about the location, what is nearby, checking for orientation, road noise, electricity pylons and the neighbours.  A good agent will accept this and explain our role to the seller and most sellers think it is an excellent way of doing things.  The visit will be brief and to the point and they appreciate that the buyer will only view if the property matches the criteria.  In our experience sellers also think it is a total waste of their time to have people trailing around their house if it isn’t what they are looking for. 

But just recently an agent just refused to show me a house in advance and so I broke my #1 rule, a mistake I won’t be making again.  I had already worked out that this particular agent was not comfortable with any negativity about a property or its environment – everything has to be talked up.  Our job is the exact opposite, to winkle out any problems or issues, some of which may be glaringly obvious, others less so, in order that the client has the knowledge to make an informed decision.  And as we will have already seen the property the selling agent just has to stay in the background, preferably keeping the seller occupied if they are around, while we do the showing.  He hated this, it gave him no chance to practice his strong-arm selling technique but on this occasion, as I didn’t know the property, he took centre stage. I

It was toe-curling and embarrassing, my clients hated it.  They had already made a couple of poor investment decisions in Spain during the off-plan boom, misled by the selling agent and in large part had decided to use my services to ensure they didn’t make another one.

It turned out to be a great house and may well have made it on to the final short list but as we were driving away we noticed what looked like building supplies stored in the yard of the nearest neighbour, a property of a much lower quality to the one we had just viewed.  This hadn’t been visible on the way up to the house as it was  below road level but was very noticeable on the return as we were looking down on it.  In addition, the number of tables, chairs and sofas in the garden indicated that whoever lived there spent the hot months camping outside, which raised issues about noise.  

Not surprisingly, my clients asked me to make enquiries but when I asked the guy who had just done the guided tour about the ‘scruffy’ neighbouring house I was informed that there were no ‘scruffy’ houses in his area and I should tell my clients that it was all part of Spanish charm. He went on to say that if they weren’t prepared to accept it perhaps they shouldn’t be looking in the countryside!  What a dumb response and it made us think we had picked up on one of the reasons why the current owners want to sell. So, we had viewed a lovely house just ten minutes off the coast in a quiet wooded area priced at €1 million and he was irked because prospective purchasers wanted information about their future neighbours.  Of course, if he had had the buyers in his car he would have made sure that he was talking and holding their attention as they drove past and very likely they wouldn’t have spotted it, that’s a common distraction technique.  Instead of which they were in my car, driving very slowly and carefully inspecting every property we passed.

So rule #1 is back in force and I am not going to break it again.  If I don’t get the opportunity to check out properties in advance then they won’t get short listed.  If an agent objects then I will assume there is something suspect about the property or they want to the chance to grandstand to my clients.  Needless to say this agent and I have mutually agreed that we will avoid each other in the future and for me, that’s no problem – there is always another route to a property.  

See what these clients eventually bought in our Case Studies section

About the author

Barbara Wood

Barbara founded The Property Finders in 2003. More than two decades of experience and her in-depth knowledge of the Spanish property market help buyers get the knowledge they need to find the right property for them.

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