Web design, copywriting, social media, estate agency

You could never accuse me of standing still in business! Since being propelled skywards from a metaphorical ejector seat in 2015, I’ve had to learn new things. Old dogs aren’t supposed to be able to do that – but this one has had to.

Get Pro Copy was set up four years ago as a B2B writing service, but morphed into a channel for GCSE marking, educational consultancy, web design and social media marketing. Anything really to pay an expensive addition – to gadgets and tech.

Now a new direction has been taken with Nest in Norfolk.

Rewind.

A year ago, someone locally phoned me as I’d been recommended to them to sell their property through a previous client of Farrell Walton. I politely explained I didn’t do that any longer, but recommended another agency locally who I admire and respect.

Thought little of it until another former client whose house we sold in Caister, rang me, asking to value his property. Again I explained I didn’t do that and passed on the company I’d recommended before.

Hindsight though is a wonderful thing and I realised in a Homer Simpson epiphany that if two people could find me online and chat with me about property selling, I was a bit daft to have jacked Farrell Walton in after 9 months.

Cue, brainwave.

I knew one estate agency (in Essex) who I’d worked with for four years – designing his websites, writing his property stories and connecting with on Facebook and What’s App.

I seized the day and asked Nick without delay whether he’d allow me to set up Nest in Norfolk under the successful umbrella of Nest in Essex.

Because Nick runs the company well with his team, and we get on, he didn’t have to toddle off to directors to seek approval. Like me, he is a good judge of propositions and as I was rising from my knees after the what’s app proposal he said yes.

The rest, as they say, is history.

What this doesn’t mean though is that Get Pro Copy Ltd collects dust like Miss Havisham’s cake in the corner. The future is bright for both businesses.

But – if you want engaging copywriting, affordable web design, social media marketing or a house valuing for sale or rent in Norfolk or Suffolk, contact me.

Nest in Norfolk has a full team supporting me at the Rayleigh HQ, properties are professionally photographed by Matthew Clarke and they are marketed on Rightmove, On the Market, Nest in Norfolk and Nest in Essex’s websites and active social media channels.

There’s no upfront fees, no sale no fee and zero week contracts – if you want try one of the many good estate agents in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Lowestoft, that’s fine.

I know I’m biased though and I would say try us as there’s zero risk and I think you’ll find we are different.

Usual CTA – mobile number is 07462923476 – if you want to discuss websites or property.

Estate agents – revitalise your USPs with this property writer

What marks you out as different as an estate agent?

Is it the fact your staff don’t drive Minis?

Is it because your fee structure is openly displayed on your website?

Is it because your social media is engaging and active?

Or does your office look lovely to those who walk or drive by?

Have you built a tribe of followers, who’d endorse you wholeheartedly by word of mouth, putting their reputations on the line for you, do people trust and like you?

Do you offer something different from Agent A, B, C and D in your small patch?

The problem now is that people aren’t moving as often.

I remember being told by someone who’d been in the industry for over 25 years that the average timespan spent in a home was 7 years, only 6 years ago, and on new estates, just 4 years.

I read recently it now stands at 16 years and the supply chain of first time buyers has dried up with investors clogging the bottom end of local housing markets, with landlords holding on to property for 25 years and more.

So what do you do?

You should do something different.

Put it this way: we will probably move in 2019 and relocate. I already know who will sell our home: it’s a company that does things differently. 

Your job as estate agents is not only to source vendors who will pick you from the other two shiny suits who rock up in Minis but to help them sell so they leave reviews and tell others, but you may also want to consider something different.

I know estate agents are cash-strapped: the portals, office and staff costs absorb most profit.

But I have a service that I didn’t invent, that I can’t claim originality with or pretend I found estate agent clients, good ones, who buy into this as one of their USPs.

Property stories.

Vendor narratives.

Call them what you will – but it’s a service that me as a copywriter, property writer, turned web designer, offers on an increasingly frequent basis.

It costs you as an estate agent around £25 and here’s how it works.

Your staff email me draft particulars or a set of photos via Dropbox, Google Drive or We Transfer, with a contact name and no preamble. I look at the photos, maybe the floorplan and sometimes Street View, and then ring the vendor for a 10 – 15 minute natter.

The estate agent has already promoted my services at valuation and when they’ve committed to listing, I get the photos and vendor number.

I like doing it.

A lot.

The home seller gives me a potted history of their home, their plans, favourite aspects, I listen, prompt when they’re drying up and make notes. I don’t look for the radiators in halls rubbish – though I did in the one below!

Estate agents often bandy superlatives around – stunning, delightful, immaculate – so much so, that they can become clichéd and almost self-parodies, but we’re quite confident to add those three epithets to this property.

And some more.

You can see why when you look at the photos and floorplan and step foot in this stunning, delightful, immaculate property.

The current owners bought this Victorian villa in 2014 and were smitten by the smorgasbord of original features – the stained glass windows, the balcony, the cornicing, the original fireplaces adorning reception rooms. We know you will fall in love too – and perhaps declare love from that balcony?

Known locally as the chocolate box house in ———-, the house delights.

From parking up to three cars, to venturing into the hall, we think the entrance will impress. Original tiled floor from the Victorian heyday. A beautiful radiator – yes beautiful and radiator, two words that don’t often rub shoulders in a sentence, but they do in this hall.

A magnificent kitchen, complete with range cooker, original terracotta tiles, plus living room with real fire and orangery complete the downstairs, with more delights waiting upstairs on the first and second floors.

Why spoil your anticipation though by showing and telling all?

You need to view this property for yourself.

In terms of practicality, ________ station is under 2 miles away – a brisk walk or short drive – and you can be at ________ in 38 minutes.

But why would you want to leave this stunning, delightful, immaculate home?

The beauty of this arrangement is that estate agents don’t have to waste time creating a decent property story as you’ve outsourced it to me, a graduate of English and professional copywriter.

You don’t have to wait days for John or Joanne to finish the description.

You shouldn’t have to spell check – but I am human and sometimes commit typos which I inevitably spot just as I hit SEND on emails. I made two yesterday which were spotted but the estate agent was cool with it, as they were obviously typing errors and one was an autocorrect to deepening, bizarrely.

You must though have a vendor who’s up for it. I give up after a few tries if I’m getting nowhere.

I turn them round quickly as I know getting a property live is paramount.

Vendors love it, estate agents love them and now I’m writing for eight of these Mini driving property suits in various parts of England.

If you want to gain vendors, add a USP and not be ripped off by a property writer, get in touch with me. Each story costs £25 – unless you’re already one of my clients.

Mobile is best via iMessage or What’s App on 07462923476.

Or email [email protected]

As long as you pay me quickly for my quick writing service, I’m happy to take on more stories. 

 

 

Who is best to sell your property?

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Let me start with a truism – the best estate agent to sell your home is the one who achieves the highest price.

Now who will achieve that largely depends on who you trust most – I’ve sold with hybrid, traditional and an online estate agent.

So should you use an online estate agent?

Depends.

If your property is valued between £280,000 to £310,000, the agency fee is largely moot.

Let me explain why.

That estate agency who charges 1% to 1.5% plus VAT with nothing to pay upfront will collect commission of £3600 to £5400 if the property sells for £300,000.

An online estate agent may charge around £1000 upfront or deferred and may or may not achieve £300,000.

I realise I’m playing devil’s advocate having bought and sold properties through all three routes.

But I would argue that, usually, a traditional high street agent may be considered to have greater motivation to see a sale through to exchange and completion – because if they don’t, they collect zero commission.

This is an argument used by the so-called traditional agents to explain that they are more motivated.

There’s some problems though, in my experience, with this approach. I’ve experienced frustration with high street estate agents overvaluing and under-delivering repeatedly and I can’t say I felt a greater sense of urgency from the traditional estate agents I’ve used in the past (with one exception – in Leek, Staffordshire) to the online estate agent we used recently.

Similarly, having sold our property in 2016, through a purely online model (not the Watchdog attendees), I can’t say that this was a smash and grab exercise by this well-known company.

Okay, they left the writing of property particulars to me, and outsourced photography, but they delivered online, on the portals and on active social media channels and we achieved a selling price higher than the valuation offered by two local estate agents.

Our property brochure was, to put it bluntly, in a different league to other houses being marketed in the area – so much so that our neighbour switched to the same online estate agents and sold quickly too at a higher price than expected, I believe.

Some may argue that as long as your property is on Rightmove and Zoopla, it will sell.

Again, something of a fallacy.

43% of property sales stem from portals.

Leaving 57% sold elsewhere.

How?

Having worked now for the best part of three years with content marketing and social media marketing for traditional, hybrid and purely online estate agents and letting agents across the country, I’d argue that it’s a combination of factors.

  1. The obvious silver bullet of selling is price. Get the asking price right and a property should sell. You have to get it right too at the outset as the first two weeks can make or break a sale.
  2. Estate agency ability. Like any walk of life, like any job, some estate agents are excellent – whether purely as an online estate agent, or on the high street or in a commercial unit – some aren’t. The ones I work for now are people I’d happily market my home with, even though the nearest is 50 miles away!
  3. The silent sentry of the For Sale board. We sold with a board going up – to people three doors away. A post and For Sale sign alerts people to the fact that you’re looking to move and directs them to make enquiries – whether that’s to the local agent or one based 200 miles distant.
  4. Presentation of particulars. The photographer who did our photos and floorplan was a professional freelance photographer – not someone armed with a bridge camera or smartphone. I wrote the description admittedly, which I obviously enjoyed doing, and I proofread the neighbour when he switched (for no fee too!)
  5. Being in a state of constant alert. By this, I don’t mean watching Twitter for Donald Trump meltdowns but ready for viewings. It was a Forth Road Bridge operation for a few months for us – keeping the house prepared for a hypothetical hour’s notice from the agent. It worked too. We sold, having had three separate viewers – and the house was showhome condition across the seven occasions of second, third and fourth visits. Estate agents shouldn’t have to tell you to clean up? We didn’t need telling. It’s common sense?

There’s other factors too beyond this – the speed with which agents respond to queries, how viewings are conducted, location, the use of social media and email campaigns, but I’d say price and presentation overarch everything.

Get the price right, the brochure spot on and buyers will materialise – regardless of whether you’re selling with a local agent on the high street, a hybrid with local experts, or a purely online model.

Move to Berlin if you want affordable city living

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The suburbs of towns and cities used to be the desirable, in-demand places for families and young professionals.

City centres were where you went to work or shop or pursue leisure but always to venture out of at night.

Time have changed though and urban living is now in vogue and becoming an expensive lifestyle choice.

I know because I write constantly for property developers, estate agents, SMEs about various city centres from Leeds to Liverpool, Bournemouth to Bradford, Reading to Rotherham.

City centre prices now eclipse those of many suburbs – take Leeds, for example. I studied there in 1986 and like many students lived in Headingley and ventured into the city for shopping and cinema.

Back then, Leeds wasn’t renowned for city centre living but now the average sold price for a city centre property sits just shy of £200,000.

Venture over the Pennines to Manchester and Salford and an urban lifestyle costs even more.

Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Norwich, Nottingham, Milton Keynes, Exeter (places I’ve recently ghostwritten about) are suddenly cool places to live and work.

There’s a lot to recommend city living too.

We recently returned from Berlin and experienced capital city living, albeit for just four days, and I must admit that, as a family of four, we enjoyed having everything to hand: restaurants, public transport, museums, art galleries, shopping and cultural history. There was something edifying and liberating about jettisoning the car and relying on a slick and affordable S Bahn, U Bahn and buses and trams.

Berlin has affordable city centre property too, as I found out on return: much, much lower than cities like Oxford, London or Cambridge.

A studio flat could be bought for around £100,000 which compared with London is cheap, I believe.

But is city centre living in Britain as cheap?

Yes.

If you pick the right city.

There’s one northern city where brand new urban apartments can be bought for under £100,000. This city isn’t an ugly duckling either – it is a swan, a beautiful place with UNESCO World Heritage Status and regeneration projects on every corner.

It’s got city, coast, countryside and the National Parks of Snowdonia and the Lake District within easy driving.

The city?

The place you should look to invest in or move to?

Liverpool.

Liverpool, I reckon, is the next big UK property hotspot.

Mark my words.

Where’s best to invest in property?

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If anyone were asked to hazard a guess as to the U.K. city with the highest combined property values, few would offer any other place than London.

 

Fairly obvious, isn’t it?

Astronomical property prices combined with a huge urban population and inward commuting, along with the paucity of building space, would make the capital number one on Top Trumps for Property Values.

London is worth £1.5 trillion.

I’m certain though that if property Top Trumps was ever released, you could easily grab that card from an opposing player with something like a category of Best Air Quality or Lowest Cost of a Glass of Prosecco.

London property prices seem to rise inexorably year on year, with little sign of decreasing.

But it is in fact one of the slowest rising cities in Britain – recording increases of 2.37% overall in the past year.

Some parts of London are worth more in property value terms too than entire cities: SW1 alone is worth £55 billion in that postcode, just £4 billion shy of the entire property value of Leeds.

But what is the next highest city after London?

I won’t delay but list the top 10 now, with data taken from Zoopla in January 2018:

1 London £1.5tn
2 Bristol £115bn
3 Glasgow £90bn
4 Birmingham £81bn
5 Manchester £80bn
6 Edinburgh £68bn
7 Nottingham £66bn
8 Reading £60bn
9 Leeds £59bn
10 Sheffield £55bn

There’s few surprises for me here, apart from Glasgow having a higher total value than Manchester (and Edinburgh).

But if you, as a HNWI, an investor or property developer, were looking to maximise capital investment, data says there’s just one city from this list of ten you should invest in as its total value grew by 5.63% from January 2016 to January 2017.

Anyone care to guess?

Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to offer an answer or comment below.

And my top investment city is not in the top 10 – but do look at Liverpool.

How a regular property blog can win you business

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I’ve run Get Pro Copy Ltd since 2015, constantly adding blog posts, as I knew this would lead to success. It has. I then realised that much of the property industry is beginning to recognise that a regular property blog post increases web traffic and leads to sales, longer term, so this venture was born.

Get Pro Copy has provided ghostwritten services for social media marketing, copywriting and proofreading across a range of industries, but Property Blogs aims to be a niche content marketing platform for the wider property industry.

It’s not simply aimed at estate and letting agents, but the full gamut of property developers, construction companies, removal firms, small, medium, large housebuilders, conveyancing solicitors, architects and the like.

So how can a property blog strategy help companies win business?

Simple.

Your website, your social media platforms can quickly become static – if you don’t work on them.

Providing a daily, weekly, monthly property blog for your followers leads to them seeing you as a thought leader and when that decision is made to buy products or services, the information you have provided daily, weekly or monthly means that you’re increasing the chances of being picked.

A property blog will do that.

It’s not a short term gain, but a longer term goal to make readers consciously or sub-consciously pick you.

There’s more to be gained too: Google rewards fresh content.

So when a property blog is posted by you as an architect, conveyancing solicitor or candlestick maker, that post can be submitted to Google Webmaster Tools and “crawled” and indexed so that your website climbs page rankings.

It’s organic climbing too, and not a short-term steroid fix of Pay Per Click.

A property blog will get you website visits, will build a tribe of followers if that content is interesting, engaging and provides answers – and, it will win you business.

Take a look at Hogan’s Fast Sale’s property blogs here – all written by me, in liaison with Stephen, Peter, Ian, Adam, Nicole of that Leeds team and count up how many total reads those twice a month blogs posts have had.

Has it won them business?

Yes.

A property blog will do the same for you.

I promise it will.

Making money out of property development

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20 years ago, we were all encouraged to become property developers on tv programmes by the likes of Sarah Beeny and Martin Roberts on “Property Ladder” and “Homes under the Hammer”, which always seemed to be set in Stoke?

Since then, I think the high yields of property developing have evaporated.

As Farrell Walton estate agents, we sold an original 1920s bungalow with sunken bath three  years ago for £240,ooo locally and a year later it was back on the market, after an extensive makeover, for twice the amount. It didn’t sell though.

I’m connected on LinkedIn with professionals who make a living from sourcing properties and selling them on, and with developers who renovate wrecks and turn a tidy profit.

It seems though that it’s becoming more difficult according to reports I’ve read, because:

  • Capital for deposits is harder to raise with stricter lending criteria
  • Land has become expensive
  • Developers are sometimes seen as unethical – aiming to make as much money as possible for as little outlay (isn’t that what we all want to do though in life, providing there’s job satisfaction?)

There is though an attempt to change the perception of property developers in New York, of all places, where a Masters degree is being offered with the focus on making property developers more focused on the community, which seems appropriate given that the President made his wealth from property development.

You can read more here.

American property developers are also heading to Croydon, but the teachings about community seem to be being roundly ignored according to this report. Housing is turned into a commodity, not a home, within this model, with housing stock developed not for ownership but for buy to let landlords. This is perhaps inevitable given that capital and land is difficult to source – but it does seem to negate the aim of that Masters degree.

What do you think of property development in the UK?

Given that renters outweigh homeowners, should Greystarand the Blackstone group be welcomed to Croydon and elsewhere to assuage the housing crisis?

The 5 things I’d like to see on new developments in 2018

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The diesel engine may soon enter the footnotes of history as car manufacturers cease production, but will property follow suit?

Brighton elected a Green MP, Caroline Lucas, and I’m pretty sure she won’t be representing the party alone in future elections as the world wakes up to global warming and environmental damage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of planet carnage myself with two cars and an addiction to plastic bottles of water, which I do aim to curtail in 2018 (the water, that is), but I can see from living in a new-build home how far construction has come, how energy-efficient new homes are but how much further, home developers and their buyers could go.

Solar panels are conspicuous by their absence on this estate, yet 9 years ago, new estates locally seemed to have them as standard – why have they disappeared?

Persimmon don’t fit an outside tap, or include power in garages but I think that has less to do with being green and more to do with saving money for them.

How soon before developers include charging points for electric cars outside homes?

Given that cycling is so planet-friendly, why aren’t builders considering communal cycle storage areas, with lighting, shelter and smartphone controlled locks.

Norwich, not the most cutting edge city, has embraced bicycles that you can use around the city at the flick of an app?

The new road flanking this Bluebell Meadow estate has cycle paths running along it – but why don’t residents, like myself and neighbours, use this carbon-neutral transport?

It’s because using the car is too easy, in my opinion.

So this is my wishlist for Bovis, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Persimmon for 2018 and beyond:

  1. Solar panels – give buyers the option of this on first fit.
  2. Cycling – make the car peripheral to the development – no one bats an eyelid at Center Parcs when the car is emptied and left away from living accommodation for a few days or a week, and cycling (or walking) becomes king.
  3. Incorporate EV charging points. Let’s face it – if you or I bought a new home with one outside, we’d all be looking at Teslas and the like longingly.
  4. Ask buyers for what they want. Any business looking to grow has to ask consumers for their opinions and their choices.
  5. Consider pre-fabricated options to bring down the unaffordable costs of most new developments, even with Help to Buy. A 2 bedroomed turnkey home can be bought from around £50,000 from many companies – now that’s starter housing not the £189,000 entry price here.

Would you add anything else to my wishlist?

Please comment below or via social media links.

Is a home office a worthwhile investment?

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A garden home office appeals hugely to me.

I think it harks back to caveman times when man could colonise rock fissures and perhaps now modern man needs a man shed, a man den or a pod. Not just males either – women too.

There’s been an inexorable rise in self-employment and freelance work and the internet has made us all would-be “entrepreneurs” and with technology shrinking: like the advent of high speed broadband and laptops that are uber powerful, we can all nestle in gardens and make money.

I would like one, even though the box bedroom of our new-build is a perfect space.

I think what appeals is the separation. I could commute down the garden path, unlock the pod, boot up the iMac, fire up the Sonos and work. Then at night, I could lock up and hopefully switch off given the physical separation between house and office.

In expansive moments, I visualise a path meandering to the end of the garden (a tiny garden) with a curved pod waiting at the end, with a nice tub armchair, a panel heater, a compact desk, printer, iMac and a bookcase for those Instagram live parades.

A home office is much cheaper than an extension too and arguably more practical than a conservatory – which are generally ovens or freezers for most of the year.

It would cost only £10,000 maximum for a small space, resting on new foundations and with electricity, broadband and decent levels of insulation.

But that is what deters me: the costs of running a garden office.

If bedroom 5 is a perfect space that doesn’t cost an extra penny to run as it’s in an efficient new build, why would I want the costs of heating a home office for 6 months a year?

And in summer, would the glorified garden shed be too warm to sit in?

It’s one I’ll keep thinking about – any advice would be welcomed too.

Why do developers insist on building garages?

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I’ll hold my hand up now and say I used to have an obsessive habit of wanting to put my cars to bed in garages. I think my mind was programmed to behave this way because I’d lived in Oldham in the late 80s and 90s when car theft or vandalism was a weekly event on the road I lived on in Shaw.

With immobilisers and alarms, deadlocks and rising car ownership, vehicle theft seems to be on the wane yet developers insist on building garages.

The house we bought in Bradwell, Great Yarmouth, has a triple garage block, and we own two of these. It’s detached and to the rear and has a handy double drive, but the garage is not used for cars but for storage and seems to me to be utterly pointless.

Integral garages are a cost cutting measure I know, and there is something handy about being able to access one internally but, in my experience, they create cold spots which rather defeats the whole point of new builds – warmth and low energy consumption.

When I look at this Bluebell Meadow development and others in Norwich, garages seem to be the modern equivalent of a class system. The terraced starter homes have just parking and no garage at all, with the indignity of wheelie bins on front drives, the smaller semi-detacheds have a single garage and single drive, the detached homes a double drive with integral or separate garage and the five bedroomed homes, a cavernous double garage to store even more junk in.

I feel like king of the hill knowing I have double the capacity for storage of junk.

I think developers and builders though need to allow buyers to customise more. Surely someone with an integral garage on plans would happily pay £5,000 more to make it an additional reception room. I know I would.

My double garage could be split in half, forming a garden study with French doors back into the garden.

Again I’d have paid extra for that.

Please Bovis, Taylor Wimpey, Charles Church, Avant Homes, Persimmon, Barratt, think outside of the box, the garage, and accept that a glorified shed is low down the list of priorities for most modern homeowners.

What do you think?

Would you choose timber-framed or brick and block for new homes?

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Brick and block or timber-framed? I pose this question as today, out walking, this very question was debated between myself and a neighbour.

I’d not realised as we’d bought a home that had been first-fitted that ours (and the rest of Persimmon Phase One) was timber-framed and the new builds leaping from muddy foundations opposite in Phase 2 are brick and block.

This got me thinking about why one method would be chosen over another and what are the pros and cons of each.

I realised that timber-framed houses are quicker to erect than block, and tradesmen (electricians and plumbers) can start internal and external work much faster as a typical timber framed house is ready in around 10 days.

There’s less internal drying out too, which speeds up the process by 2 to 3 weeks.

A timber framed house is also warmer – which doesn’t surprise me as the insulation levels in our own home make the place feel tropical in summer. Brick and block houses take longer to heat up, though one advantage they have is better noise insulation, which could be a factor if you’re building near a busy road, railway, hospital etc.

You’d think that the cost of timber framed building would easily exceed brick and block construction but again this is true but not by much.

So why did Persimmon make Phase One timber and Phase Two brick and block?

Is this typical of large developments or unique to this one?

Any answers appreciated!

Are micro-homes the answer to the housing crisis?

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A micro-home is defined as having a living space of below 37 square metres – or the size of a tube carriage.

To be honest, I could live in a home that size.

I think the key with a micro-home, as with caravans, is design.

Having been the proud owner of a touring caravan for 3 years, I think 37 square metres would seem palatial compared with 13 square metres, which we holidayed in frequently.

In our Sterling Eccles Sport 586 (a grand name for a tin snail), there were all sorts of ingenious design cues. The front wraparound sofa converted into a huge double bed, with the dining table forming the “divan” and the cushions seamlessly fitting the space. Worktops folded down. A wardrobe contained the TV aerial and the dining table / divan when not in use. The shower and toilet were minuscule but perfectly adequate for our family of four. At the back, a mini diner could form a bunk bed and the fixed beds on the other side could become three, with some shuffling. A slider split the accommodation in half and I can’t remember once in 3 years thinking that the proportions were irritating.

So what should developers put in a micro-home?

37 square metres requires some design ingenuity and I believe that the assumption would be that a single person, or a couple, would live in that sort of space.

What would I include if I was buying (unlikely) or designing (even more unlikely) a micro-home?

  1. A distinct bedroom with doors and walls. I say this, being fully aware of the layout of studio flats, but I think a micro home, for comfort, should have a separate living quarter, for quietness and privacy.
  2. A small ensuite shower room, with sink and toilet. I’d like an external window in here – more so than the bedroom – but I wouldn’t insist on a door to close between bedroom and ensuite.
  3. A living kitchen. Nothing expansive, but a place to eat, dine and lounge. Big enough for a two seater sofa, a breakfast bar and a couple of stools.
  4. A dishwasher, fridge-freezeer, washer-dryer.
  5. Fibre optic broadband.

If a bedroom was 3m x 4m, the kitchen 4m x 5m, that still leaves a footprint of 5 square metres for ensuite, storage etc.

Given the UK’s housing crisis, I could live easily in such a space – couldn’t you?

If four of us could enjoy a month in the Loire in 13 square metres, I don’t think a 37 metre micro-home would feel claustrophobic – do you agree?

Local property expert – do you want to become one?

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The term Local Property Expert or LPEs have become synonymous with online estate agencies in recent years, mainly due to the fact that they’re local and have some insights into the property market locally, we’re all led to believe. It’s a curious term, because the traditional high street estate agents with MNAE and RICs behind their titles don’t resort to using any of the three words. Presumably, because they own a chunk of high street real estate, people assume they have knowledge and expertise in what they do.

Instead of arguing over semantics though, estate agents, to compete, would be better off not racing to the bottom with fees to match the online agents who don’t have so many running costs, but with providing content that showcases their expertise.

An example of a Local Property Expert

I’m going to look now at an unnamed small town (not city) which I’ve researched and see if there’s a correlation between number of listings and their content marketing strategy – bear with me, it shouldn’t be as dull as it sounds.

Let’s call the town, Cressley (the fictional setting of Stan Barstow’s “Joby” which I used to love teaching, back in the day).

Cressley has just nine estate agents.

The first page of Google search has the usual AdWord suspects but ignoring those estate agents who’ve chosen steroid PPC and not organic growth who is top?

  1. A big well-known franchise, which appears in most towns and cities and, unsurprisingly perhaps, has a corporate blog tab but one that is only updated once a month. It’s very generalised and has no relevance to Cressley. But it’s number one and it has a Google Plus review strategy which is very positive about this corporate giant. It has Live Chat too.
  2. A local independent estate agency with four regional branches, dotted around Cressley. Blogging is focused on the property market locally, breaking news and great information for buyers, sellers and landlords. It’s a minnow of an agency compared with others on Google page one, but it is getting regular listings for sale and rent – when there’s better known estate agencies and the online gang surrounding it locally and online.
  3. Another independent in third place and a newbie, only recently launched, but they have a top notch social media strategy, a beautiful website and, you guessed, a fortnightly blog post. It has plenty of let and sold properties showcased – highlighting a key facet of traditional – the motivation to see a sale through to exchange and completion.
  4. Fourth is another independent estate agency, with a blog and social media strategy in place, but both are comatose. I bet they used to be top of page one but have taken their eye of the ball, allowing the newcomer, local franchise and newbie to leapfrog them.
  5. Fifth is On the Market, various portals and other firms – I kid you not and sitting on page 2 are the other five estate agencies. All are without social media, a decent website or a blogging strategy. One estate agency even has a one page website built on Wix, with adverts popping up constantly. Would I choose them to market my home? No.

My point then is this.

If you want people to find you on Google and make a decision to ring or email you – you must be found on the top pages, your website must be user-friendly and content rich, social media should be active and fun, and you should have a news tab which makes people like you. Your website, blog posts and social media should show you are the leading local property expert.

Now I can design websites as I did for leading estate agents. I even blog and write property narratives, articles,  making you the local property expert.

I can breathe life into your website, social media pages and blogs.

I can get you seen online and picked to sell your property as the real local property expert– in Cressley, Carlisle, Chester or Chelmsford.

Call me now to find out more on 07462923476. 

 

 

This property copywriter can add zing to make listings sing!

%name property copywriter

Property copywriter, me, going back to basics.

I’ve just started a new sideline: interviewing property vendors for two leading estate agencies and adding their stories to the property listing as a property copywriter.

I could pretend this was my idea but I’d be lying – I was approached to do it by a leading independent estate agent, Perry Power of Power Bespoke, who I’ve worked with previously on website design. Perry is a thoroughly decent fellow and a top estate agent, so it was a no brainer for me to accept the role.

I’m waiting for Perry to post the name badge: Power Copywriter too!

It’s going very well I reckon – the triangulated narrative between estate agent, vendor and copywriter is proving to be a success. 

So much so, that another top estate agency has approached me to do the same.

What’s good from your point of view is that you can mark it out as a USP – “we have a property writer who will interview you and sell your property with words” rather than spend time haggling about fees or dissuading them from the thousand pound coin toss of using the mauve cult.

Here’s the process:

  1. I’m emailed the photos and vendor details by you – or currently by Jen at Power Bespoke.
  2. I contact the vendor and explain I’d like 10 to 15 minutes of their time where they talk to me about their property. I find out things like how far a walk it is to Caterham, or Guildford, how long they’ve lived there, favourite aspects and because I know my way round property descriptions and have a good rapport with people from 27 years of pleasing teenagers in the classroom, the interviews all go swimmingly well.
  3. I make notes as I’m chatting and looking at photos and I craft a neat property description of between 300 to 400 words and send it to the estate agent promptly – without spelling errors, grammatical mistakes or property detail inaccuracies.
  4. I send an invoice for that week on 7 day terms and carry on with others.
  5. The estate agent has me on a Pay as you Go contract not a retainer – if they don’t want me to write many, or just a few, or for every listing – that’s fine. I’m cool with that.

There’s pluses for me: I find it very enjoyable; I like people and property and I like finding out about owners’ lifestyles, future plans and property history.

Each story takes me around 35 minutes to craft – from emailed photos to phone call to sending the property interview to you.

What does it cost, you may ask?

My hourly rate, split in 2.

Now don’t be expecting Fiverr prices or the charges of a solicitor or barrister.

Expect reasonable charges for a service I’m dedicating time to and spinning unique content about.

Ask me and I’ll tell you!

I’m not about to retire to Monaco (or even Surrey) on the earnings, but I love doing it and being paid for a service as a property copywriter I think I do well.

Proof of the pudding and all that so here’s one this property copywriter made earlier:

Despite the absence of water near this property, this property’s name is remarkably apt: The Moorings. The owner James is an expert boatsman who bought this cottage over 20 years ago. The property became his anchor, his safe haven, having decided impulsively after a first viewing to make an offer, which was accepted:

“The Moorings appealed in so many ways to me; firstly the location is splendid and the seller made coffee and fresh bread, which along with the open fires, proved irresistible. I went to the pub and decided there and then to buy it.”

But what about the property itself?

It’s a 2 bedroomed cottage that could easily be extended, subject to the usual planning permissions. It dates from 1830 and is steeped in history as a home and location.

Stagecoaches used to stop at the property as it was halfway between London and the south coast – in fact, the meadows adjoining the rear garden were where the horses rested. 

Down the road are stunning views of Box Hill, of Jane Austen fame, with many visitors comparing the vista to that of the white cliffs of Dover. France is not visible but there are vineyards nearby to match those across the Channel.

The nautical theme of cliffs and boats continues both inside and outside the property. The bathroom contains a bell from The Titanic; there’s a live water well in the garden as well as a modern irrigation system. Viewers of this quintessentially English property may spot other features too that mark it out as nautical – the anchors of the secret garden and the English Springer Spaniel, Mr Boatswain, who unfortunately does not come as part of the fixtures and fittings! 

It’s a practical home too: multi-fuel stove in the dining room, complemented by an open fire in the sitting room, as well as a sunbaked terrace that is perfectly private to the rear. 

Now the question we ask at Power Bespoke is this: will you be as impulsive as James was 20 years ago when he first saw The Moorings?

We think the answer is a resounding yes. 

Want to know more? Contact us on …

Now obviously with two leading independent estate agents on board, this one man band can’t open up property interviews to the whole estate agency market – but I always have capacity to add a few more estate agents in the mix. 

Want to know more about my property writing services?

Contact me today.

To win property listings, focus on relationship marketing

%name relationship marketing

Cards on the table: I worked in estate agency for a while and formed my own company in 2014 which was on the road to becoming a success with 13 property listings shortly after launch, but it lacked a long term financial commitment from myself and my business partner. It did get a key aspect right though – relationship marketing.

We established ourselves quickly with vendors in the local area not by a race to the bottom with fees, not by Rightmove Premium banners (we launched with Zoopla alone), but by focusing on relationship marketing.

We made it our mission to dispel any negative stereotypes about estate agency by being helpful, positive and genuine. It worked. We listed properties ahead of established high street rivals and online giants. People trusted Farrell Walton Estate Agency.

In many ways, I miss the company – longer term, it would have turned an operating profit and generated even more trust locally. We had a great website, active social media platforms and a reputation for being honest – because both Claire and myself had worked in education and estate agency. I’ve no doubt, now, two and half years since it was wrapped up as a business, it would be doing well.

There’s a message in here for any start-ups or established estate agencies.

See customers, see properties, in terms of relationship and not transactions.

Build the relationships, prove you’re helpful and trustworthy and listings will appear.

We managed to get on page one of Google for three key search terms: Gorleston estate agents (where we were based), estate agents Great Yarmouth and were hovering on page 2 for similar search terms for Lowestoft, a neighbouring town. We did that through active content marketing and social media marketing, and it got enquiries and even when other local estate agents disparaged us to home sellers for only being on Zoopla, we managed to secure valuations and listings.

Obviously, we didn’t sell all 13 we listed – and I read today that just 60% of housing stock sells, meaning 40% won’t sell, regardless of who is marketing it.

We knew that at the time and when a vendor changed their mind asking to take a property off the market, or switch agents, we didn’t wave contracts at them and say “You’re tied in for 18 weeks” like one local estate agency does, but mutually parted, knowing that the vendor would speak highly of our philosophy to others.

Proof of this is that one property we listed in 2015 generated few viewings and zero offers, up to our business closing, but, with four estate agents being employed since, in the past three years, it remains unsold today.

Apart from the business closing, we did well, I believe, looking back and I’d like to share with you what relationship marketing looked like to us back then, and were I to relaunch a new hybrid estate agency locally (which I’d love to do) what I’d do again.

  1. Content. Primarily I’m a content writer, having taught English for 27 years and run Get Pro Copy Ltd since Farrell Walton closed. Content became the epicentre of marketing – via a daily blog on our beautiful website, printed newsletters and email campaigns designed and populated on Campaign Monitor. Content got us valuations and listings. When I wrote and boosted posts about local villages Belton, Bradwell and Burgh Castle, we got three valuation requests and two listings there in a month.
  2. Portals. Other estate agents dissed us for not being on Rightmove as if portals were the holy grail of marketing. They’re not. We sold a stunning property locally with a For Sale board, an active social media strategy and placement on Zoopla for 1% commission. We were open about our rates. We told people what we did: accompanied viewings, gave constant marketing feedback and we came across as people to trust. We got business from word of mouth referrals too.
  3. Social media. We grew our social media presence quickly by targeting demographics and areas across five vibrant social media platforms and again that generated followers, listings, sellers and buyers. We didn’t just let Facebook, Twitter and Instagram start off well and sink into a torpid coma. No. We fed social media daily, engaged with people online and at the end we had more social media followers than any estate agent in the three places we targeted. Shame it all went.

If I could time travel back, I’d obviously do some things differently, like making sure the business had a financially viable future with a committed partnership (we both developed lukewarm feet about the enterprise) but I don’t think I’d change that much.

If you’re an established (or a start up) estate agency looking to get more valuations and turn these into listings and sales, focus on relationships.

Be helpful and honest.

Give useful advice for free.

Build a beautiful online presence in terms of your website and social media channels.

Provide informative content.

Be people-centred not property-centred.

People buy from people they like.

No matter what your fees, your high street office looks like, your portal premium presence, if customers don’t like you, you have to change their minds about you in the way you conduct business.

Rest in Peace Farrell Walton Ltd.

Hopefully one day, the concepts we built the business on will be of use to other estate agents looking to become likeable, become established or win more business.

People first – remember that.

Relationship marketing is the top priority.

Who should sell your property – your three choices

%name property

I posted an article yesterday on Property Blogs, a sister site, about the pros and cons of the three ways of selling your property: traditional high street, hybrid or online and having used all three as a buyer and seller, and worked alongside many companies with content marketing, I feel qualified to comment.

I’ve been a homeowner since 1988, when my first home coast me £18,500 in Oldham and still am to this day.

So what do I think?

Visit Property Blogs now or click this link to read more.

Swap the mortar board for a hard hat with a housebuilding degree?

%name liverpool

I like to see forward thinking from companies and one story that caught my eye over the weekend was the news that Redrow were starting a dedicated degree in housebuilding.

Britain, you all know probably, is facing a housing and skills shortage and Theresa May’s annual target of 300,000 new homes is unlikely to materialise without some dramatic changes of plans.

Redrow has seized the opportunity it appears in creating a BSc in housebuilding, which I expand upon on my sister site, Property Blogs:

READ MORE.

The darling buds of Mrs May are dying?

%name May

Remarkable watching the rerun of the speech of our glorious PM, Theresa May, yesterday, but instead of focusing on her coughing fit, that P45, Amber Rudd telling Boris Johnson to stand up or the falling letters, I’d like to steer clear of those four icebergs and touch upon what Mrs May said about housing.

Or rather didn’t say.

Read moreThe darling buds of Mrs May are dying?

The poor estate agent needs that Market Appraisal

%name estate agent

I’ve decided, given that my bottled water and posh grain free dog food is paid for largely by estate agent types, to produce a series of articles about them.

I’ll start with the rationale behind this.

I bought my first home in Oldham in 1988, in an area so rough that even dogs went round in twos, and have gradually self-gentrified with the heights being hit in a beautiful Edwardian villa in Norfolk, though now currently in a eponymous new build, straddling a new road, meant to ease congestion, which is defeated by building 1000 new homes along its narrow girth.

Property has always intrigued me – so much so that in 2014 when I was given the chance to go self-employed as a Sales Associate in a local estate agency, I grabbed it with both hands; then forming a partnership in Farrell Walton, before portal costs crushed us.

Enough of the stories though – let’s go to Part One: what is an estate agent?

Read moreThe poor estate agent needs that Market Appraisal

Rent time, no mortgage or ownership for you lot, ever

%name rent

I read today that paying rent is about to overtake home ownership as a percentage share.

Bit worrying really.

Property has generally been relied upon as. a decent sort of income with the equity you bag from the capital you borrowed from a benevolent bank.

But it seems now that the age of buying your first property in your 20s, 30s or whenever are over.

The great British home ownership dream is about to become just that – a dream, it would seem,

So who or what’s to blame?

Read moreRent time, no mortgage or ownership for you lot, ever

Dear Estate Agent – are you time-poor?

%name estate agent eggs

£18,500, 1987, bought via an estate agent in Shaw.

Yes: £18,500.

Cost of my first home at the tender age of 22 in Oldham, Greater Manchester in 1987.

It was cheap for a reason.

My salary as a probationary English teacher was £8,137 or £425 a month which was decent back then, when the house cost slightly more than double my salary.

There were other reasons too.

Read moreDear Estate Agent – are you time-poor?

Estate agents and do they offer riches in niches?

Riches in niches.

Nice ring to it – if you’re American.

I’ve tried to get all focused on estate agencies, with some success, but here’s my worry: if Joe Public regards estate agents as lying sharks (their perceptions, I must add), can I trust estate agents as a social media marketer and writer in that niche?

Read moreEstate agents and do they offer riches in niches?

Cut to the chase, give me a copywriting definition

%NAME copywriting definition

Copywriting? Give me a copywriting definition now, you pretentious wannabe.

Following the 10 commandments of email copywriting, here I go for some broader brush strokes and give you a copywriting definition, in terms of what I do and what I can do for you and your business.

Read moreCut to the chase, give me a copywriting definition

10 Downing Street – who did Cameron use to sell?

%name downing street

David Cameron left number 10 Downing Street today and handed over the keys to Theresa May in possibly the quickest exchange and completion ever – apart from pub ownership exchange in “Eastenders” or “Coronation Street.”

Read more10 Downing Street – who did Cameron use to sell?

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