Comment: They call me the House Whisperer
PUBLISHED: 14:39 05 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:53 05 January 2018
Trevor Abrahmsohn, managing director of north London agents, Glentree Estates, writes about his special skills for closing a deal, which, he says, include "psychotherapy, extreme cajoling and applied salesmanship". We're intrigued...
You would think that the process of selecting a buyer for a particular property is important. You would also think that an appointment for them to inspect the property, is crucial. But, how many estate agents know how to get a deal across the line? This is a vital science, which is so important to the success of the process, yet many of them are clueless as to how to master it.
Over 41 years in the residential property business, I have been brought into ‘problem deals’ as a ‘Mr. Fix-It’ and we have the highest success rate of any agent in business. More often than not, it is at a crucial time where intransigence and obstinacy of buyer and seller, is at its peak and where the closing of the last 10% of the price gap, between offer and acceptance, is most difficult.
It involves a mixture of psychotherapy, extreme cajoling and applied salesmanship, all being driven by an assertive, well-intentioned desire to get people ‘out of their own way’. By this I mean that, instinctively, human nature is such, that agreement between parties only occurs in the minority of cases by natural gravitation. If you are looking for a much higher success rate, you need to call in the ‘house whisperer’ – enter Trevor Abrahmsohn, stage right!
Invariably, I am invited to create ‘strategic meetings’ in order to close difficult deals. But, I insist on all the decision makers being present. These can last several hours and are probably closer to the ‘peace summits’ that you see on television when a mediator is trying to ‘bridge the gap’ between two warring factions. The rules are simple, nobody leaves the room without an agreement.
Neither buyer nor seller wants a meeting and to agree to one is already a sign of tacit acquiescence. It is therefore, a struggle to get all the decision makers there, in one place, at one time, but the meeting cannot start without them all being present. Their reluctance is partly due to this method being considered too confrontational, as most people would far prefer to ‘hide behind the skirt’ of the agent, on the telephone or email, where there is more camouflage and protection.
Once everyone is together in the room, the process starts with a preamble, when all the parties get to know each other and discuss any topic that pleases them, usually not about the property. During this vital stage, I am seen but not heard! Then, when I feel the time is right, I introduce the subject of the ‘filthy stuff’ when I direct them to talk about the financials. I invite the prospective buyer to either submit an offer or, increase the offer they have already put forward, prior to the meeting.
This process continues until we, usually, get to a figure which is approximately 10% short of the common ground and from this point it could be uphill all the way.
I usually take the purchaser out of the room, in order to bombard them with my potent mixture of psychology and applied salesmanship which allows me to ‘reset the software’ of their minds, with a view to getting them to offer a price, far greater than they would have ever done unassisted.
The objective here is to increase the level of drama to artificially create a crescendo or, as I call it, a quasi ‘auction environment’, but with only one bidder. This is never easy, but without heat and light, one can never get fusion.
I bring the purchaser back to the meeting room and then take the seller out into a private area in-order to give them the same treatment, in reverse, and to prepare them for a potential agreement.
With both parties now back in the meeting room, I endeavour to reach the ‘middle ground’, which is the most difficult territory to traverse. I am used to ‘tantrums’ and where, spoilt, self-assured people can often ‘throw their toys out of the pram’ but I am not usually ‘phased’ by this. As the ‘conductor of the orchestra’, I am in charge and if ‘head bashing’ is appropriate, so be it.
When agreement is reached, I outline the details of the terms, with references to goods and chattels and the time lines for the conveyancing process.
As a vital part of the procedure, I then ask both parties to shake hands, if not embrace, on the ‘moral contract’ that they have just exchanged. This hopefully covers the vulnerable ‘cooling off’ period, until the formal exchange of documents, organised by the respective solicitors, are completed, which could take weeks or months.
I endeavour to strike an arrangement where, hopefully, both sides are equally happy or unhappy, for that matter. I am not fussed which way this results. What I don’t want is a lopsided deal, where one party has a face like a ‘bull dog chewing a wasp’, whilst the other is ‘kicking their heels in the air’ with excitement. A fragile agreement like this, usually never ‘makes it to the altar’.
This ‘summit meeting’ method has resulted in the most extraordinary success rate for Glentree where I have beaten world precedents and achieved values of up to £200million (in today’s money) for a single, flagship property in London. It is, afterall, our USP and why people come to us.
This closing method is considered highly unorthodox and far too confrontational, by the cognoscenti. They would prefer to rely on the telephone or emailed correspondence, instead.
Any usual apprenticeship for the Industry, would specifically avoid this highly charged, ‘touchy feely’ method which, technically, could be explosive, if it goes wrong.
Never having been formally trained as an estate agent, allows me to adopt a ‘blue sky’ approach to this subject, which is why they call me, the ‘house whisperer’.