You Are A Bitchy Lot (Thank God)

Most property professionals are agreed on this – if the market goes up it’s largely their doing and if it’s dropping it’s because bloody journalists are talking it down.

Even so, lots of property people are very keen to talk to us journos, often off the record and frequently to bitch about other property people. It’s good fun for us.

I was reminded of this in an email I received recently from one buying agent about rivals I had the temerity to quote in a Daily Telegraph article. She complained that she wasn’t quoted when I instead chose to mention “some of our competitors who stay afloat by doing outsourcing work from bigger companies like ourselves.”

We often get insights into industry battles like this.

Some years ago I received a breathless telephone call from one of the very poshest estate agencies complaining when Savills set up its Prime Purchase buying division, without using the Savills name, offices or email addresses. “They’re making money from both ends of the deal, pretending to be independent when they’re not. It’s appalling. It should be exposed” said the posh bod. Within a year the complaining agency set up its own buying division and (you’ve guessed it) there was no top-line mention of the corporate identity in its title or office and email addresses.

A different posh estate agency recently complained about a story I wrote, with one of its PRs going to the editor of the publication in high dudgeon, disputing my version of events. But the source of my information was, of course, an employee of the company who – for his or her own reasons – was happy to provide inside information.

I’ve had two others agents’ complaints in 10 years of writing about property and in each case the same thing had happened – an employee had come to me to explain what was going on. So yes, we get a lot of bitchy insider information from property people briefing against their bosses.

Property journalism is hardly renowned for its hard edged investigative nature but even so there is the occasional rough and tumble like this; if what you write does not make the occasional wave, there is little point doing the job.

Yet it strikes me that the venom with which property professionals talk of their rivals and peers makes them far, far bitchier and harsher even than competing hacks.

And that, of course, makes my work quite good fun. So thank you.

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