|Does He Know Something We Don't?|
We talk to Derek Fletcher about launching his new estate agency in Chiswick
At possibly one of the most difficult times in memory for Estate Agents, Derek Fletcher has chosen to return to Chiswick to launch his new business. I say return, but Derek never really left even though he sold Fletcher Estates in 2004. “You always think it’s a nice to be able to spend more time with your family especially when you’re working a 60 hour week but to be honest someone made me an offer. But I never intended to retire,” he explained.
Derek has in fact been working as a consultant for Fletchers. “I was getting calls from former clients who wanted my help so I set up a consultancy with the people who bought Fletchers from me. It was branded as Fletchers but I would do the work. It was a straight forward arrangement that obviously worked but it was a different market.
"Things that work well in a rising market don’t necessarily work well in a falling market.”
Does a new agency work well in a falling market? “I genuinely think we have reached the bottom and what we are seeing now is a total lack of confidence. People need to wise up to the fact that the housing market was due a crash. No one can expect a market to maintain growth over 14 years.”
“I know hindsight is a wonderful science,” he continued “but I thought it [the property market] would crash. There were certain factors around like the fact that there were no first time buyers. The market was driven by first time buyers who release other buyers and so forth. In the 90’s 3-4 times your salary would get you a one bed flat in Chiswick, by 2003 / 2004 when prices of those flats pushed through the £300,000 mark the average first time buyers would need to borrow closer to 10 times their salary.”
So with first time buyers squeezed out of the market, buy to let buyers began to withdraw at the beginning of 2007, put Northern Rock into the mix and the property market went into freefall. But ‘fault’ does not lie with the financial sector according to Derek. “We mustn’t confuse the issues in the financial sector with problems in the housing sector; people forget we are already three years down the bad road in property. Unlike the recession in the 90’s, it’s not interest rates that is affecting the property market, today it’s fear of unemployment. Whereas before buyers would look at a house to live in for two to three years before moving up, now they are questioning if they want to take on a mortgage for 20 years.”
Derek admits that house prices are down by 20%-30% but only from “an artificial level because of agent incompetence and media hype.”
“Both with Bushells and with Fletchers I brought a level of service and a level of knowledge of the market place which is what is needed now. Houses in the Glebe Estate are down by £120,000 but in Bedford Park they’re down by £400,000 - £500,000 so if you’re thinking of trading up do it now – it’s not going to be months before we see any recovery, it’s going to be three years.”
“It’s not my job to sell houses; it’s to give advice to vendors and buyers. I deal with people at a time of high levels of emotion, the last thing people want is someone giving bad advice. I’ve always tried to be different, by putting my client before commission and giving best advice. Ultimately it’s not all about the deals done today. If I have provided someone with a good service in future I would expect Derek Fletcher to pop up in their minds when it comes to selling even if didn’t buy through me.”
He added, “In 2005 there was no skill in selling houses at whatever price people would buy. Now that’s not the case, now vendors can’t argue with the market when it comes to pricing. If 100 people view their property and they receive one offer the price is wrong. Sometimes you have to prove to someone that they are not right so they can then make their decision based on the true value of the property rather than the value someone else has come up with.”
“Chiswick needs me,” he adds with a smile, “I’m utilising my reputation built over 30 years of experience locally. To me it’s a matter of pride; I tell my staff that they should be able to walk down the Terrace with their heads held high even if they are an estate agent! You’re only as good as your staff.”
March 23, 2009