As I spend time travelling around, I keep an eye out for agents shopfronts and boards, to see the other ideas that are out in the market, in a way that really comes with the job. Whilst there are some ideas that do stick out and make me think “I wish I’d thought of that one”, the frequency with which I see old tactics being used that really should have been left in the past is quite astonishing.

In the modern world, most consumers seem to be savvy enough to know that nothing is truly free, if someone is offering something as “free”, there’s usually a payment somewhere else, or something they’re distracting away from. A “free” gift with a purchase usually means the purchase is overpriced, a buy one get one “free” offer would really suggest that the company in question would make a profit if the item was half the price (and that they need to get rid of it) and so on. And that makes me wonder why the idea of “free” is still so heavily leaned on in the property sector.

The idea itself is really dressed up in two ways, which have been around in the industry far longer than I have: that an agent is somehow doing potential vendors or landlords a favour, or a special deal by offering a free market appraisal of their property; or that by not charging a client until the work is actually complete is some form of favour to them. There is also the tendency to call items included as part of a service level “free”, but I won’t touch on that, if it’s part of the service you pay for, it’s not really free, its just included in the fee you’re paying.

Firstly, lets consider the idea of market appraisals. By their very nature, market appraisals are for the agent. The whole idea behind giving someone a market value for their property as an agent is to try and induce them into either selling, or letting the property in question. I’ve also never heard of any business in the residential property market charge for a market appraisal, so dressing them up as “free” is really a misnomer, designed to make property owners feel like you’re doing them a favour, when really, you aren’t. To me, it feels dishonest at best and adds to the general feeling of mistrust for the industry.

The other place it really seems there are some in the industry trying to sell things as something they aren’t is the number of adverts boldly stating that there’s no cost if the agent in question doesn’t actually sell, or let your home (being a particular tactic of one well known online agent). This one really baffles me; surely, there’s no circumstance in which someone would pay for work not done?! If an agent doesn’t do what you’re asking them to do, of course you wouldn’t pay them. This isn’t the agent doing you a favour, it’s the absolute basics of a contract. If you’re not performing the task in the contract, you won’t be paid for it.

So what I’m really trying to say here is that I think the public are smarter than some marketing ploys give them credit for. No one thinks they’re getting a deal when free things are free, and certainly no one thinks they would be paying for work not done, so I can’t see how these dreadful marketing practices are still around! We’d never charge for work not done, but as a reputable business, it’s not something we feel the need to shout about, it’s like saying, we use written contracts…