Estate agent video mockumentary goes viral as backlash bites

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

When was contacted last Tuesday about a new fly-on-the-wall documentary about estate agents called we weren’t sure what to make of it.

The production company insisted it was real, but to our eyes, it had a decidedly mockumentary feel to it. The footage followed a day in the life of an unnamed West London estate agent. (Scroll down to watch the video). James and Charlotte – the two estate agents who star in the film – are portrayed in an unflattering light.

Instead of posting the video on this blog, as the production company had asked, we tweeted it out to our followers to see what they thought. While we felt it was funny (in a laughing at ourselves kind of way) we were under no illusions that others might not feel the same way – and they didn’t.

The problem with this film is that its aims appear to be confused. While it’s now been revealed that it was made by the estate agents Douglas & Gordon – an agent with a reputation for innovation – and features one of their negotiators James Turner in the leading role – the reason for the film is unclear.

On the one hand, Ed Mead, a director of Douglas and Gordon told the Daily Mail that it was intended only for industry insiders and the hype around the film has since “got completely out of hand”. Meanwhile,  the production company have been touting it as a fly-on-the-wall, factual documentary.

Lee Helliar, the producer, emailed us last week and said: “We managed to capture the devious side of London estate agents, a side that’s normally shrouded in secrecy. We felt obligated to share our footage with the rest of the public to reveal the true colours of those who claim to help buy and sell our homes.”

She then asked: “I would add that as ‘the public’ do we really mind what our agent does to sell the house as long as we get the best price. Are we morally complicit?”

And that’s the problem with this film. It’s a film about estate agents that is essentially a piece of fiction. While Douglas & Gordon now say it was only intended for internal use, the production company Real Impact Productions says it’s something else entirely and is shopping it all over town.

So what’s at stake here? While this film, which clearly cost a good deal of money to make, is a much needed chance to have a laugh and blow off some steam, the shine is taken off because it’s not clear who is laughing at whom.

September 26, 2011 at 10:38 AM 3 comments

Basketball rules! We’re sponsoring the UK’s No.1 team

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

Basketball is one of the UK’s fastest growing sports and we’re chuffed to announce our sponsorship of Liverpool’s local squad the Mersey Tigers during the 2011/2012 season, which for them kicks off with an away match against the Cheshire Jets on October 2nd.

Drew Sullivan (right, with the basketball) is captain of Mersey Tigers team.

This season, we are sure, will be as good as the last one when Mersey Tigers topped the British Basketball League (BBL) helping build on their growing reputation and popularity in and around Liverpool and beyond. And they’ve found a new home too – the city’s Echo Stadium.

The BBL league, which was established four years ago, is made up of 12 teams from around England and Scotland. The other teams are the Cheshire Jets, Durham Wildcats, Essex Pirates, Glasgow Rocks, Guildford Heat, Leicester Riders, Milton Keynes Lions, Newcastle Eagles, Plymouth Raiders, Sheffield Sharks and Worcester Wolves.

To celebrate our sponsorship of Mersey Tigers, we borrowed captain Drew Sullivan (pictured, above) to show him around a property for sale. It was, to the least, a tall tale. So thanks to Drew for his time – particularly given he was training hard at the time with his team mates in the GB olympic basketball team.

September 21, 2011 at 3:21 PM Leave a comment

Have you got protection? How to play it safe with renting

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

If you’ve ever rented a home, then you’ll know its standard practice to pay a deposit and, in many cases, a number of months’ rent in advance to your estate agent. These costs can can add up to thousands of pounds.

While your official rental deposit must be lodged with one of the government-backed rental deposit protection schemes, what would happen to the rent you paid in advance if your estate agent disappeared overnight?

That’s where a new scheme called SAFEagent comes in.

Created by estate agents to help make their own industry “safer” for renters, SAFEagent aims to put an end to those jaw-droppingly disturbing stories of unscrupulous letting agents absconding with clients’ money.

The idea is that would-be tenants and landlords will look out for the the SAFEagent registered mark (pictured above) and choose their agent safe in the knowledge that they are part of a client money protection scheme – which means renters (and landlords) are protected if the estate agents goes bust or tries to rip-off its customers.

The scheme only launched a month or so ago, but has already had more than 1,000 registrations, including some big name firms like Winkworth, Foxtons, Felicity J Lord and Barnard Marcus. You can search for your letting agent on the SAFEagent website.

The scheme is backed by the government and also by homelessness charity Shelter, the National Union of Students, the Trading Standards Institute, Council of Mortgage Lenders, Residential Landlords Association, The Property Ombudsman Scheme and the British Property Federation.

SAFEagent is a very heartening step forward for the lettings industry – a really positive piece of self-regulation that aims to make the entire industry accountable and transparent at a time when more of us are turning to the rental market to find our next home.

September 21, 2011 at 12:36 PM Leave a comment

Will this Super Lamb Banana help sell this property?

In a tough property market, it is inevitable that sellers will come up with additional incentives to help sell a property. We’ve seen all sorts from expensive cars to sports tickets included with the sale of a property, but this is the first time we’ve seen a Super Lamb Banana included in a sale!

This intriguing looking ‘animal’ was the original work of Japanese-based artist Taro Chiezo. Commissioned for the Art Transpennine Exhibition of 1998, the sculpture was a controversial, but welcome addition to the public art arena in Liverpool and has become something of a popular symbol of the City of Liverpool.

The property for sale, which includes the Super Lamb Banana, is located in the sought after location of Sandfield Park, West Derby in Liverpool and is 5 bedroom detached house for sale at £599,950.

More pictures (19 in total, of which 16 feature the Super Lamb Banana!) and info on this property can be found here

September 21, 2011 at 11:33 AM Leave a comment

First-time buyer blog: What every first-time buyer needs to know

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

So what is it really like for a first-time buyer in the current market? Previous blogs of mine would have indicated it’s been a bit of a slow process.  I can honestly say that when we started looking for our first home I didn’t think it would take this long.

I have learned a valuable lesson. Or several, actually, which I thought I’d share with you. Here’s what finding your first home actually requires:

A lot of money Not only for the mortgage, but for everything else that a first-time buyer may need to pay for within the first month or so. To list a few there is the deposit, lender/booking Fee (depending on your mortgage package), valuation fee, legal/conveyancing fees, stamp duty (if applicable), removal costs, insurance, plus a bit more if you need white goods for the kitchen or any furniture. The lesson here is to budget realistically right at the beginning.

A lot of time Househunting does take up an awful lot of time, not just the search on such websites as FindaProperty, but the research into mortgages, liaising with estate agents, and the viewings themselves.

Patience and a positive attitude I won’t lie, there has been the odd Saturday evening after a full day of disappointing viewings where I have been pretty hacked-off with it all. The thought of another potential viewing which included the smell of cat food, children crying upstairs, leaking roofs or tiger print décor was enough to make me want to throw in the towel. However, this does take a long time, it is a huge decision and a positive attitude goes a very long way.

An achievable wish list What you will and won’t compromise on. It took us quite a few viewings to realise what was really important to us.

A good relationship with estate agents After all, they’ll be the ones who will call you when a new property comes in. Registering for their email alerts and having the occasional viewing with them won’t be enough. They really need to know what you would like, and need to be kept updated if your circumstances or budget changes.

A tip-top house hunting partner I’m fortunate enough to be sharing this experience with my partner, Dave. I appreciate that not all first-time buyers have someone to share the experience with – both physically and financially. But even just having someone there with you for the viewings – spotting things you may have missed, and laughing with you at the things you wish you had missed makes the whole experience a lot more fun.

Follow Emma on twitter @polkadotcherry


September 21, 2011 at 10:28 AM 1 comment

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