'Prop Int' - Ed Mead on The Future

The latest interviewee in this 'Property Intelligence' series is Ed Mead, arguably Britain’s best known estate agent.

He’s a newspaper columnist, is the most quoted agent in press property stories, has been in the industry since 1979 and has starred in a fly-on-the-wall BBC TV series.

He’s possibly one of Britain’s most important agents, too; a key figure in Douglas & Gordon, a boutique central London estate agency, he is on the board of the Property Ombudsman and an outspoken advocate of agents being registered. He’s also a legendary straight talker and these are his views on estate agency now and in the future:

- The best agents are very good indeed today (more skilled than ever before) but the least good are little more than ‘key holders’ showing vendors’ homes to prospective buyers;

- London attracts the best agents seeking higher fees and better career prospects but they also lead by example over the provinces – they’re tougher, work longer hours, and keep homes on sale after a good offer in case a better one emerges or the accepted offer falls through;

- All agents should qualify and train, and demonstrate transparency through being registered (“sellers should be able to see an agent’s sales record to see if they’re successful” he says);

- The digital era should be embraced – Mead blogs and is a Twitter-user – but online estate agency won’t succeed because “the English are reserved and won’t talk about money” so will not replace agents at negotiating;

- The best estate agents with experience and intimate knowledge of their patches should act as buying agents too – a “logical extension” of their role.

Mead puts his money where his mouth is. Some of his D&G staff speak five languages to deal directly with buyers, 80% of which are foreign. About 20% of his long-standing clients have used the firm as a buying agency, for which it charges 1% commission. Of its 200 staff, some 40 have just gone through NAEA technical training. He doesn’t want D&G to grow further because to do so would risk it being seen as a chain agency – losing its cherished ‘boutique’ feel.

This, you feel, is what he wants every agency to be like, at least at the top end of the market in central London.

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