In an increasingly techie world, still nothing beats the human touch

January 15, 2014 by The Secret Property Agent

I realised that being alone at home and at work was not a good combination – one needs someone to listen to the daily drivel of working life, to celebrate achievements, commiserate on irritations and bolster each other into activity, says Sebastian Gibson

‘When are you back?’ was typed in the subject matter of the email. There was no content and though this particular client is charming in person and brevity itself in their email correspondence, I interpreted a slight irritation in those four straightforward words, as if the very subject matter were chastising me for my absence.

I’m sure it’s unnecessary paranoia. I reasoned that the majority of my clients are away so why shouldn’t I join them? And I have. I’m on email, I can check the central London property database (accessed only by agents), I have my phone and can keep in touch with solicitors, purchasers and vendors. Historically this month is a quiet one anyway. It would be impossible for me to contemplate this indulgence without my business partner and an able right-hand assistant.

Whatever the world of free, fast communication Viber and Skype have created, it still hasn’t replaced the old fashioned face-to-face meeting. Whenever situations are getting sticky, I tend to go and see the client in person, sit around a table and chat things through.

In the buying and selling of properties emotions run high, there are sensitivities and egos involved and sometimes an emollient word, act of gratitude or carefully crafted phrase can save a deal. Often the necessary black and white language of lawyers can cause trouble, as they fight for their clients’ interests where they need not. At times like these an effective agent will step in and calm troubled waters. I think it’s one of the areas at which my business partner and I excel. The human touch, I like to call it.

It’s one of the reasons why I wanted a business partner after my first turned to motherhood – she’s currently pregnant with her fourth so she took that challenge quite seriously. I worked with a right-hand for a while and was content though missed having someone with a real depth of market knowledge. Then the personal relationship I was in came to an end.

I realised that being alone at home and at work was not a good combination – one needs (or at least I do) someone to listen to the daily drivel of working life, the quotidian, to celebrate achievements, commiserate on irritations and bolster each other into activity if you’re feeling lackluster. A work-partner acts as a mirror and you don’t want to let them down. And in my business when you’re valuing a property or deciding at what level to pitch it at, it’s extremely helpful to have someone to bat ideas back and forth with.

These are not small denominations and pricing something correctly is essential to the property’s chances of achieving a swift and successful sale. You want, which is my general approach to life, to be cautiously optimistic.

And, hugely important for me, there’s the added advantage of having someone I trust manning the office in my absence. I’m tempted to write back to the client that I’m heading to the airport tomorrow and leave it as vaguely as that. It’s true but I’m flying from Buenos Aires to Punta del Este rather than back to London.

Instead I respond with the truth that I’m out of town for a little longer but furnish the client with all my business partner’s details. As I take myself off to the mirador to watch the sunset across the vast expanse of the Pampas I raise my Argentino (the new take on the Negroni that Tatti, my dear friend, has created) and quietly toast my good fortune.

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