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Under the skin of the letting market

Here we share news and views on both the local letting market in & around Oxfordshire and all planned and recent legislation.


Mary Portas on estate agents


Around 25th October we took a phone call. The question was simple:

 “Are you interested in being considered for Mary Portas’ new show about customer service?”

We were intrigued although we realised hundreds of agents were probably receiving the same call.

The premise was that Mary would come into an already-successful letting or estate agent and take it to a new level with her innovative customer service ideas.

She has credibility as a successful retail consultant pre-telly fame and much of what she says makes sense. She has excellent design taste and a relentless focus on the customer’s point of view – a strong combination.

We were really intrigued. 

However…..anyone who has seen Mary’s shows realises that conflict is a planned plank of the narrative. Conflict and reality TV are peas in a pod and millions of us soak it up every night. Mary and Channel 4 are the stars, not the participants.

We were intrigued and apprehensive.

So we had two questions:

“What are the innovative ideas – what will Mary actually do to the agent in the show?”

“What will be the source of conflict in the proposed show?”

Well, perhaps we didn’t communicate well enough, but we didn’t really get an answer to either question and that was the end of that.

Fast forward 16 weeks and we were greatly looking forward to the estate agent show aired on Channel 4 last night, with Mary working with the well-regarded Martyn Gerrard chain in North London.

Our guess is that the producers deliberating chose an agent whose MD they could imagine clashing with Mary.

Our thoughts on the show:

–          It should not be a bonus for an agent to know the property on a viewing – for many agents this is standard already and just common sense

–          We don’t know what a prestigious turning is either

–          But…the secret filming is an edited version of reality. The interesting question would be to know how many viewings the producers had to go on to get the footage we saw. If it was 5, that is bad news. If it was 50, well, it puts a different perspective on it.

–          Mary is right to introduce a list of banned words. We did this 3 years ago but it can be difficult to not to use particular words. If you ban too many words then the ‘permitted’ words get overused and you create a new problem. Interestingly, with agents who claim to use ‘professional copywriters’ often their copy is over-written and too rose-tinted and so you trust it a bit less.

–          It was a shame that Mary only looked at viewings and particulars. It would have been more constructive to re-think the bigger problem of sales collapsing due to people pulling out and take some innovative ideas to Grant Shapps MP (Housing Minister).

–          To their credit, as someone on Twitter said last night, at least the Gerrard gang took the comments on board and made some changes, which is more than other professions have done in this series.

Remember the show is entertainment (chewing gum for the eyes as Terry Wogan might say), not journalism. If you want an accurate insight into the property industry then Channel 4’s star-as-protagonist-and-media-hero format is too pre-occupied with ratings to help you. But if you want some good telly, then put your feet up and press (or click on Channel 4oD) play.