Does St Albans still have an over-supply of flats? We asked the Secret Estate Agent

The Secret Estate Agent has the St Albans and Harpenden property market's covered. Pictured: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Secret Estate Agent has the St Albans and Harpenden property market's covered. Pictured: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Let Hertfordshire’s Secret Estate Agent answer your property questions and give an insight into the world of estate agency.

It seems like houses are selling themselves at the moment. Why should I choose a high street agent over a cheaper online-only outfit in a market like this?

We have seen a recent tightening up in the market since the second lockdown - although cycling through St Albans and Harpenden at the weekend I noticed a marked visual difference between this lockdown and the last one.

Market conditions will be a little more challenging for the remainder of 2020 but houses had previously been selling quickly.

The local estate agent landscape now has three models, comprising established high street agents, ‘hybrid’ or non-high street agents (mainly ex-agents setting up on their own), and cheaper online-only firms such as Purplebricks.

There is little to choose on fee with high street and hybrid, while online are significantly lower but haven’t increased their market share locally.

Does St Albans still have an over-supply of flats?

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Yes, it does. Lots of new builds over the last few years and demand has been suffocated by lack of buy-to-let investors, fewer mortgage products and buyers now wanting outside space.

Have you had many cases of vendors trying to negotiate direct with buyers (cutting you out and saving themselves your commission in the process)? What’s been the fallout from this?

It is not widespread but it’s sometimes concealed.

Suspicions can be aroused if a client suddenly takes their property off the market and sells to someone we have previously introduced to save the fee. We have found out at a later date and an invoice is readily dispatched.

I remember once a solicitor telling us of an exchange and to send our invoice for settlement when we had previously been asked by the vendor to take the property off the market. I had a record of introducing the buyer, whose identity was innocuously divulged by the solicitor. I didn’t question it, and personally hand delivered the invoice.

As an estate agent, you’re a familiar face to a lot of people, but they’ll be one of many to you. Have you had any embarrassing moments where you haven’t known who someone was? Do you ’fess up in such situations, or try to wing it?

Wing it. It’s the classic social cringe where you have just been introduced to someone who is dismissively forgettable but before you can exit find yourself introducing them to a third party having completely forgotten their name. Word association fails you but an unexpected but urgent call on the mobile doesn’t.

Do you have a question for the Secret Estate Agent? Email or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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