OnTheRecord: Poacher Turned Gamekeeper
In the second episode of our new OnTheRecord podcast, OnTheMarket CEO, Jason Tebb, is joined by Henry Pryor, buying agent and one of the most recognised property market commentators around, whose thoughts regularly feature on TV, radio and newspapers.
The episode focuses on the current state of the UK residential property market and the growing awareness of ‘off-market’ properties as demand continues to outstrip supply. The duo explore how off-market properties are sourced, debate whether the role of a search agent is more important now than before and discuss the role technology plays.
Henry is well known for successfully calling the market before the last financial crisis, so what does the future hold?
You can listen to the second episode of our OnTheRecord podcast below.
You can read the full Q&A below.
Jason Tebb: Welcome to the second episode of OnTheRecord. I’m Jason Tebb, Chief Executive of OnTheMarket and over the course of this first season of podcasts, I’ll be talking to the innovators and leading figures in our sector to discuss their journey in the industry, their views on prop-tech and their opinions on how adopting new technology can benefit every agent
I’m joined today by Henry Pryor, buying agent and housing market specialist who’s worked for some of the country’s most well known as estate agency brands, set up the London Office affiliate group founded his own prop-tech business, and more recently is known as the BBC’s favorite property expert. So Henry welcome and thanks so much for joining.
Henry Pryor: Not at all. It’s great pleasure. I’m not sure I qualify for any of those that you’ve introduced me as, but delighted to be here.
Jason Tebb: Well, that’s no problem at all. I’m sure you qualify for most of them, but thank you so much for being on the show.
Henry Pryor: Pleasure.
Jason Tebb: I’m gonna start by just getting a bit of background from your fine may? So how did you find your way into probably a state agency in the first place way back when and tell us about your property career so far and what you are doing now ,that’d be great.
Henry Pryor: Estate agency is something I got into as a way of avoiding having to go to Cirencester and to study further, having promised myself and my parents, when I left school A Levels were the last thing I was ever gonna do.
I was offered a job by Savills when they opened their office in Cambridge, paid the princely sum of £2,000 per annum and for me that was the King’s ransom and simply something I couldn’t turn down. (I) Went from Savills in Cambridge to Savills in London, it was an amazing firm, pre incorporation, pre flotation. When I joined, there were 217 employees, I think there was over 6,000 now. And it was a firm ahead of its time that looked after people who could earn fees and didn’t really mind quite so much about the tweed coated, steaming spaniel look that some of their competitors at the time maintained and it allowed people, as long as you did the deals and brought the money in, you had a pretty free reign to do what you want, and you were promoted up the chain.
And I had a very, very, very enjoyable ten years there. After that it was Strutt & Parker, (I) ran their country house department for the blink of an eye before waking up one morning and realising that that sort of Eureka in the bath moment where I thought to myself, hang on a second, all the good regional firms are basically staffed up by people who used to work in London. There was a time when you had to go to London for a better quality advice, whether it was property or accounty or banking or legal work, post big bang and during my formative years, it turned out that actually you could get the same job done just as well, and usually much more competitively by somebody local.
But nevertheless, there was always this worry that they didn’t have a presence in London, somehow they were missing out on all those oligarchs in the early days or Arabs, rich Arabs as it was then and so I set up the London office was the first of the affiliate groups, as they’re now known. Precursor to Fine & Country and the Guilds and the Mayfair office and all sorts of other people who come along and done it as well in some cases so much better than we did when we started.
So did that for thick end, I think, of 12 years, and then decided to become a buying agent, something that I’ve done now for remainder of my career. So I’m only 39 years into a career, which God knows, I’m sure many people are hoping will be over very soon.
Jason Tebb: And I’m sure it’s flown by a few as well. And interesting what you say about Savills back then as a, what would be classed as a relatively small business compared to where they are now and I suppose that gave you an opportunity to ascend through the ranks because you can very quickly deliver your own personality, your own drive and determination.
Henry Pryor: It enabled you to rise up through the ranks relatively quickly. Many other people I’m sure will disagree, or claim that they were the author of it, I still maintain that in a meeting in the country house department in Savills in Grosvenor Hill way back then somebody, a bright young spark, had the idea of putting contact names on adverts so that members of the public, when they rang in to the very busy switchboard at Grosvenor Hill could say, ‘could I speak to so and so about this 4 million pound house’ which for then was an incredible amount of. And lots of money the stuffier, older partners all went, ‘oh we certainly don’t want people asking for me, I might be at Whites or I might be doing something frightfully important at Ascot and so I said, fine, if you don’t wanna do it, perhaps you can enough put my name on the advert and I’ll field, the call for you. Within six or eight weeks I seem to remember I was getting all the calls and everyone was wondering how earth it was that little old Henry seemed to be doing all the business and very rapidly they all caught up and decided no, actually it was a very good idea for them to have their names on adverts. And we started that process, which so many agents knew at the time probably, and certainly have copied, subsequently. It’s a people business. It’s all about the people. It’s not necessarily about the brands.
And certainly from where I sit as a buying agent, we know that people don’t buy houses just because they’re being sold by a certain brand, certain firm, certain label. And more’s the pity if they did, then obviously a lot of these firms would have a much easier life. It’s about people. It’s about the advice and the trust and that relationship you build up with somebody when you are selling a property, any due course, when you’re buying them.
Jason Tebb: Yeah, you’re spot on. It’s the individual that always makes the difference. It is, and always will be, a people business. You know, many people talk about, and we’ll come onto this about PropTech, but many people talk about the automation of the home buying and selling process. I don’t believe that we’re anywhere near getting to that stage because the individual is the one who makes the difference. They’re the one who, most importantly, agrees a sale or let, but then even more importantly than that, keeps that sale or let alive throughout the nature of the transaction, through all the pitfalls that many of the public don’t get to see, we are the ones who are managing those problems as they arise and coming up with solutions. So I think you’re absolutely right.
Henry Pryor: Yep.
Jason Tebb: I wanna delve into a little bit more about your current role as a buying agent and there’s so much chatter about this in the sector. There probably there’s always been an undercurrent of discussion around buying agent or search agent, but I think most recently it’s come into the foreign is now broadly in the mainstream media. You know, even a very recent article in Daily Telegraph suggests that buying agents are no longer exclusively for the super wealthy, which is their quote, not mine. And that’s actually surprised me cause I thought the average customer of yours would be, you know, high net worth family office 3 million plus budget. But according to what the Daily Telegraph has said, and some other recent statistics, it’s now people with, you know, in the sub million sector who are, are choosing buying agents. So first of all, do you agree with that? Is that what you are seeing and describe that typical demographic of buyers that instruct you, or isn’t there a specific demographic?
Henry Pryor: We act for people with half a million pounds to spend. Quite often children of past clients who are buying a property, because they’re coming to study in London for example, or going to study in Cambridge or Bristol or Bath, and they want flat or possibly they’re getting help from the Bank of Mum and Dad who may or may not be an old client, but who wants somebody who can help the offspring learn the lessons without necessarily having to have the agro of fighting with their parents, who, as I say, usually are being frightfully generous in making the thing happen in the first place.
So we deal with people looking to spend half a million up to 50 million. I think over 50 million, there are some incredibly good specialists who will help you buy a stud or a Grousemoor or a mansion in Kensington Park Gardens. But anywhere between half a million and 15 million, our sweet spot is about three million. Typically I buy a house a week. We have somewhere in the order of, as you can see, 50, 60 clients a year, and it is a sector that’s expanded hugely over the time that I’ve been involved in it. When I started, as you were saying, I think there might have been under a hundred buying agents at the turn of the century in 2000 and now I think the property ombudsman has somewhere in the order of 1500, 2000 registered with the property ombudsman so there’s an awful lot of people who are doing it and an awful lot of consumers, the public who’ve worked out whilst they’ve always known, despite there being no law that requires them to have a selling agent, to help them through the process of selling their property, when it comes to buying, historically, everybody thought that they are the best person to find something, fall in love with it, and then negotiate a hard cold commercial deal. And inevitably, as we see the next best thing, I think that illustrates the point quite so well is the marriage statistics and people’s ability to make a wise emotional decision when it comes to choosing their spouse, I’m afraid that all statistics are stark witness to how good we are or otherwise doing that. So it’s something, buying agents are here.
It happens, as I’m sure you’re aware, elsewhere, much more frequently elsewhere in the world. It’s something that lots of selling agents have historically also done and offered a buying service.
I’m still very old school. I think you either buy or you sell. I’m not convinced you can do both. Although I’m very, very conscious that there are some incredibly smart people who not only think you can, but also do it very effectively. And if they and their clients are happy to do that, then that’s fine. But it is a burgeoning sector.
It’s something that lots of people have come out of traditional mainstream estate agency, selling agency and got involved in and provided you abide by the rules that apply both equally to selling agents and to buying agents, then I think there’s lots of space. I very rarely find myself competing for business.
So there’s still lots of space for those who might fancy their chance.
Jason Tebb: Interesting. And it’s down to that relationship that you will have with the agents built on your own personal network and the networking that you do. A senior industry figure, who I won’t name on this podcast
Henry Pryor: Oh come on!
Jason Tebb: No, I won’t do it. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t do it. Maybe if we were in the pub again, I, I might have done, but, they refer to agents and buying agents as like lions and hyenas. I won’t specify which is which, but the idea was he was saying, the idea was they don’t really get on, but they tolerate each other because they’re both in the same space and have the same pray, to use this phrase. Now that’s not my experience at all.
Henry Pryor: It’s complete nonsense and his analogy, or her analogy, would be much better if you took it back to the Jurassic period where there were dinosaurs, carnivores and herbivores. That day, I would disrespectfully suggest, are very much in living in that era, We did a deal, we completed on a deal just last week in Wandsworth. It was a 4 million pound deal, put together by us and a selling agent, a very good Southwest London selling agent who I’ve known for best parts of 30 years. We did a really good deal on behalf of our mutual clients. It was off market. It wasn’t something that was, I’m afraid, listed on your portal, or indeed in the estate agent’s window, but it enabled the person that was the seller, who’d lived there for 40 years, to leave London, leave what had been their family home for the best part of 40 years and move on. And it was a deal that was done collaboratively and cooperatively and not aggressively and not something that’s meant that there had to be blood or guts left on the floor. And in fact, I think that if you are somebody who does deals, and there are people on both sides, buying and selling, who seem to feel that they have to rip somebody’s throat out in order for it to qualify as being a decent deal. I don’t agree. I think we’re facilitators. We’re there to help people through an incredibly emotional and stressful time. And as I try and point out to clients, particularly potential clients, buying a house, selling a house, is right up there with relationship breakdown for fun and excitement. If it hurts, you are doing it wrong. And get somebody who’s not emotionally invested in the thing to help you with what should be the biggest retail experience of your life.
If you’re spending a million pounds or 500,000 pounds, and you were doing it in Bond Street or Bluewater, or a shopping center up and down the country, you know, you’d go and have a bloody great lunch afterwards because it would’ve been fun. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. Get some help and advice so that you can actually enjoy the process.
Jason Tebb: And the logic of that rings true for the sell side, cuz obviously that’s why there are agents because you know, in my experience, I’ve, you know, sold many hundreds, maybe thousands of properties, and it’s having that agent in the middle to remove the emotional element, to remove the opportunity for that little niggle to become a, a massive drama.
That’s the role of an agent and therefore from the buying side too, there is logically that would help with a potential transaction.
Henry Pryor: You’re absolutely right. There’s no law that, that says you have to be represented in this country anywhere in the United Kingdom, under any of the jurisdictions, that you must be represented.
We don’t have a brokerage system. So although lots of agents, selling agents in particular, are mistaken by buyers as being a broker, there to come up with some mutually uncomfortable deal for both parties, agents represent legally the best interests of their client who is paying them money. And I often find both in the press, broadcast, print and online, people talking about, oh my agent, when they’re buying a house. He’s not your agent, he’s the seller’s. And if you are happy and content and recognise that relationship, you’re happy to represent yourself, then fabulous. But as many of my selling agent friends agree and, and would echo, you know, we all have seen many examples of where any idiot can buy and sell a house and we’ve witnessed many who have, who have done just that.
Jason Tebb: It’s interesting that the way PropTech has changed many parts of the industry and, you know, as PropTech develops, it changes the way people operate, the way people think, the way whole businesses are run, but has the rise of property technology changed the way you operate as a buying agent?
Henry Pryor: There’s no doubt that without technology and I take that all the way back to a Rolodex in various forms, technology, electronic, or otherwise, enables me as a effectively, a one man band, you know, there are three of us as fee owners in the business, if we didn’t have the assistance that comes from a huge amount of data that’s processed and made edible and digestible for us in the way that firms like yours and others do, we’d have to have a building housing 60 or 70 people in order to make it.
We can exist and we can earn a living a very, very good living because we have these devices and the assistance that goes with it. But it is often regarded as a panacea, as I try and explain to people as patiently as possible, if we were buying a commercial property and it was an unemotional cold hearted decision making process, that would be one thing, but homes are emotional purchases and if it were possible to rely on technology, there’d be an app on your phone that would almost certainly say on the market and I’d be out of a job. So the fact that there is this emotional investment, because people are buying something for an eye watering amount of money, something that justifies all their hard work and effort and time spent down the salt mine during the day they come back somewhere they’re going to argue, kiss and make up, make kids, see their friends and family. These are things that, you know, the emotional lift when you cross the threshold is something that you, as an advertiser of properties and the agents who are your clients quite rightly want to convey to potential buyers, because it is that that’s gonna lift them.
We’ve seen it with examples in my professional career. If you look at people like the Candy brothers and what they did in terms of branding properties and taking them away, giving bragging rights, because people wanted to say, ‘look, you know, yes, I’ve got a Candy property or other agents who’ve done similar things. The Modern House is perhaps the most recent equivalent. They’re incredibly good marketers and good marketing, which most estate agents can major at, but for some extraordinary reason seem to hide out of plain sight, they don’t major on the fact that that they can sell properties. That is something that is worth a huge amount when it comes to the value that an agent can add to a property and that a buyer will pay, in their emotional rush, to try and acquire a new home.
Jason Tebb: You mentioned earlier about the proportion of off market, whatever off market means, in my day I used to call it ‘bottom draw’ it’s a listing that just sat literally in the bottom of my drawer and if someone came in and said, I only wanted to live on a Casey avenue at 1.2 million, and I am proceeded by, I get out this listing shirt to them and then I’d call the vendor. So that, that would be, you know, my equivalent of it. Um, you, you see a lot more of this than probably most people, me, most people do. What is the proportion, do you think of stock that is actually true off market? i.e it’s with an agent, obviously linked to an agent, tied to an agent so fee can be generated but actually doesn’t make it to the window, to the portals, to any other marketing?
Henry Pryor: Hamptons every year, and I think most recently in the spring, said that roughly 40% of transactions in London are off market, not visible and they’re done between consenting adults. Personally, looking back over my career as a buying agent, 30% of what we buy isn’t on the open market. And I saw the Buying Solution, which is Knight Frank’s buying limb, quoted saying that 60% of the deals they’ve done this year are off market. It’s a really important part of the residential housing market and we’ve been incredibly lucky. One of the great benefits that have come through, ironically from COVID and the lockdowns we’ve seen, is that because of a very, very tight supply of available, publicly available property, lots of buyers have been going help, where do we find other properties? How do we increase the volume of properties for which we can choose our next home?
We hear about off market properties. We read about them in the, we see it on OnTheMarket’s blog about this proportion of properties that apparently are transactive. How do we get access to that? Buying agents will give you a huge opportunity, a huge advantage in getting access. Not because we’re clever cleverer or indeed more beautiful than the buyer, present company accepted obviously. If we’ve got a professional relationship, as I said before, I buy a house a week, I’m a professional shopper, so estate agents and indeed members of the public, will come to me and other buying agents because they know that that we’re in the market day after day whereas the average punter who buys a house every statistically now, what is it Jason every 17 years?
Jason Tebb: Yeah, 17 to 21, something like that. I hear 21 years. Yeah.
Henry Pryor: Every 20 years, they don’t know these people in the market, the only way they can access them is through estate agents’ mailing lists or alerts set up on the big portal. So buying agents have had a huge advantage, a huge lift over the last three years, ironically, as a benefit of the pandemic.
Jason Tebb: Interesting. Interesting. But as you quite rightly mentioned, that the key to that is there’s agent involvement. This is an agent building a relationship with you and others and they have a certain amount of stock where for whatever reason, the seller or sometimes landlord doesn’t feel that they want to market on the open market. And it’s that relationship that gives you the access.
Henry Pryor: Absolutely spot on. And it’s one of the reasons why it’s actually very difficult for people to convert from one day being a dustman or a county counselor, or somebody in telesales and set themselves up as a buying agent because that relationship with other professionals is really important. Over my 39 years, you’re gonna find this very difficult, your listeners gonna find this very difficult to understand or appreciate Jason, but over years, I’ve (upset) quite a lot of people, but if you do that, you end up alienating and cutting off your pipeline of new business. So although one is professionally, one hopes, aggressive in the deals one does, you have to remember that there is a tomorrow, and if you don’t keep that relationship going, if you don’t have the burden of lunches and drinks and meetings after work and the pub with your coworkers and professional colleagues, you are going to miss out on those extra deals. And if you are difficult to deal with, as one or two, as we’ve already touched on in the industry on both the buying and selling side can be, other people won’t wanna deal with you. Cause you’re just a pain in the (backside).
Jason Tebb: No, I think, what it shows in this particular area, the buying side, but also in agency in general, is that the value of those networks, the value of building those relationships and that’s why you see, you know, so many agents throughout their careers, who’ve moved from brand to brand, but you can just see the links between them and that is what I think makes for a better industry rather than one that’s even more fragmented than, than it is. Because of the nature of (the industry) there’s many small businesses one, two and three branches and then there’s a few much larger ones, that cross-pollination, that connection between them is so important in keeping the market ticking over with chain building with managing chains, with preventing fall throughs and all the things that have to be done between a sale being agreed and exchange, taking place.
Henry Pryor: My big excitement for the coming 12/24 months is how many traditional selling agents are gonna work ,out as they did, certainly when I was a lad and possibly before you were a lad, they used to have a mortgage desk from their local Skipton or Ipswich building society are some selling agents are a significant proportion of selling agents gonna have a desk that farms, processes, their applicant ,register turns those applicants into retained clients and does a bit of buying on the side in the same way.
So many, as I say, so many selling agents also have that link and that very valuable mortgage introduction income.
Jason Tebb: Yeah, I think you’re spot on and I could, we could, probably spend an hour just on that. But, uh, I was in a conversation with someone last week and I was talking about how the market is so busy that you can put a property on for sales, you get a hundred applicants. And some people think that having a hundred applicants is too many. I think that’s a hundred more opportunities to win more instructions to then generate more sales in the future and build your pipeline. That’s my personal view.
Henry Pryor: Call me old fashioned.
Jason Tebb: Indeed.. That’s me, old fashioned. I’ve got the gray hairs to prove it.
You’re listening to OnTheRecord, the OnTheMarket podcast with me, your host, Jason Tebb and my guest this week is Henry Pryor. We’ve been chatting about how technology is changing the property industry, as well as the role of buying agents in this very, very busy seller’s market. Moving on from this, we’re gonna chat about the role of technology in providing consumers with valuation estimates, as well as our thoughts on what’s in store for the UK property market in the coming months and years.
Henry. You’ve been quite vocal on social media when it comes to AVMs, which is automated valuation models for those who don’t know. Yet millions of consumers use them every year and the professional versions of those are tools are used widely by mortgage lenders. So tell us your thoughts, what’s wrong with it and what would you like to see change?
Henry Pryor: I’m not a big fan of a widget that purports to tell you what the value of your property. There is a difference in my world and I do appreciate that not everybody agrees between a market appraisal and valuation, and because of the era in which I was brought up, probably I think that if you want a valuation of your property, you will know that you’ve got valuation, cuz you’ll have paid for it and if it’s wrong, you have redress against the valuer and their professional indemnity insurance. but otherwise you are getting advice prior to a possible sale. And we’ve allowed, as we have with many terms in our industry, and it’s a hot topic, even this morning on some of the property forums I see, that people are, rightly in my opinion, questioning how it is that we allow the consumer to get confused.
A valuation is a convenient way to convey to the consumer, usually less well informed than the professional, that somehow you are imparting wisdom and value, if you let excuse the pun by providing them with a valuation. I think the value of a. a property is a spread, probably in normal times, plus or minus 5%, so 10% in total. Conceivably at times during the pandemic, the spread was 10%, either way, so 20%. And I find it frustrating that as an industry or profession, we make our lives more complicated by misleading the public into thinking that they’re getting something that they’re not.
Jason Tebb: So, I take your point. I’d first of all argue it’s definitely not misleading. I would suggest that the word, so that word valuation is something that has been used forever, frankly. And I was doing a bit of research last night I first spotted the phrase AVM come up in the late 90s early 2000s. And it did have the V and it did have valuation model. I had a look at RICS’ own website and their comments on automated valuation models say they are used as one or more mathematical techniques to provide an estimate of value of a specified property at a specified date, accompanied by measure of confidence. So even RICS are saying the word value. So I think it’s, you know, who’s who’s fault is it? It’s probably no one’s fault. My personal view is that saying to a consumer, to use your phrase, we can give you some advice prior to your property sale. It’s not understood by consumers as much as saying, find out what your property could be worth with valuation. So I think it might be semantics. So I’m not necessarily just saying that you you’re talking rubbish. I mean, I’m just saying that I think that the public are used to the word valuation being an indication of a property’s value, and that’s why it’s used so widely.
Henry Pryor: I don’t have a problem with the technology, I have a problem with the label that we have allowed to perpetuate, in the same way as we talk about a property being sold or a property being let. Now, if it’s under offer, it’s not sold. And we end up with this big debate. One of the reasons why there is space for this, you know, idea that we all need to be registered and qualified and stamped with some tattoo by a government department that we’re able to somehow get involved in the negotiation of your property you want to buy, sell, rent or let, part of the reason there is space for this debate is because we confuse the consumer ourselves by allowing these different labels to come in when they are not specific enough, given the value of the assets that we’re talking about.
Jason Tebb: I think that consumers are aware that when they are generating an automated, in our case, an automated valuation model, that it is an estimate of a property’s value. I think over time, and I think, we sort of disagree, but agree on the fundamental part of it, but disagree on, on the language that can be used. I think over time we will see a movement to words like appraisal or estimate or, you know, words like that that maybe indicate to a consumer that it is just that and an estimate.
But let’s move on to the ever hop topic in the UK, which is the current housing market and the state of it, or the future, what may or may not happen. It’s always talked about, always has been, always will be. You’re regarded as one of those few commentators who correctly called the market peak in 2007 and the impact on property values due to the changes introduced to Stamp Duty in 2014, where do you think we are in this cycle right now?
Henry Pryor: So can I start with the caveat? If I knew, then my backdrop would not be home, you would be talking to me, I’d be on my yacht in the Mediterranean, because imagine how clever I would be. Equally, I’ve also looked at your website and you’ve given me no clues. So as long as we all understand, nobody knows what’s gonna happen.
Jason Tebb: Spot on.
Henry Pryor: My guess is that if you buy a house today, it will be worth 5% more in 12 months time 5 in five years time, it’ll be worth what it’s today.
Jason Tebb: Interesting. Interesting. I think you can’t get much more bullet pointed than that, that’s for sure.
Henry Pryor: What do you think? What does OnTheMarket think?
Jason Tebb: My, so my personal view, not the views of OnTheMarket,, but my personal view, is that we are in such an unusual time with such a big supply and demand imbalance. It’s that fundamental lack of supply that has really, despite all the economic headwinds, the geopolitical stuff going on, the rise and the cost of living, despite all of those things, transactions are still taking place. You know, our own data shows that 61% of properties last month were sold within 30 days of coming to the market and certainly went under offer subject to contract within that time. So there’s been no denting of enthusiasm or sentiment from the buyers and it really is, you know, quite often it’s sentiment that both changes markets and moves markets upwards or downwards. I personally think as more stock starts to come to the market, I’m seeing valuation numbers rise, I’m seeing more listings come to the market for sales for lettings, but as that starts to come, we, we’ll probably not see the month on month, 1.5, 2% rises that we’ve seen in the previous quarters that will start to level off and then there will be a gradual rebalancing of that market as supply starts to rise a few more buyers drop outta the market due to affordability issues and then we might see in the future, what I would love to see, which is a normal market. I think every agent wants a normal, normalised market, rather than something that’s doing one or the other. But that’s just my own personal view of what we’ll see.
Henry Pryor: I’m still optimistic that for the remainder of my professional career, however long that is and into the foreseeable future, residential house prices will not be in exact science and there won’t be algorithms that can pinpoint exactly what something’s worth and that a good estate agent can get you five possibly even ten percent more than a lousy estate agent. And the reason why the consumer should instruct in a estate agent to sell their property is because although they have to pay them money and despite the fact, as I said before, there’s no law that says they must, a professional who knows what they’re doing, who’s in touch with their market and who can market a property and not just sell one, can get them an appreciable amount more for that property than one who just slaps it gently on a website and waits for the phone to ring.
Jason Tebb: Understood. Understood. You talked earlier about, (how) you are in a way, a professional consumer, because although you’re a professional in the industry, you’re looking at my site and there other, obviously other portals are available.
Henry Pryor: Apparently.
Jason Tebb: Apparently so. But we get thousands pieces of consumer feedback, it was one of the first things I did when I joined the business was start to engage with consumers, but most importantly, with agents. We’ve done these listening tours which you may have seen online, where we’re getting thousands of agents together and, you know, 10, 15, 20 in a virtual room at the same time, listening to what they want and need from us. So feedback is really important to us as a business but your perspective as a professional consumer, what would you like to see on our portal or what would you like to see in the future for us?
Henry Pryor: I’d love your website and any others that think that they have a go at challenging your position, to work out and be upfront about who your customer is.
I think your client is the people who pay to list their properties on your website and as somebody who was very much involved in the first version of what was then Prime Location, that morphed in succession into, OnTheMarket, I’m a big fan of the shareholders and the founders of your business and what you’re trying to do, but I begrudge and bemoan the fact that property portals bemoan the fact that property portals are designed to advertise, quite understandably, their clients wears. And therefore, to give you a classic example, it’s incredibly difficult on your website to see the listing history, which is so important to somebody who’s actually buying a property. That’s something that has had to be removed by force, or you’ve had to be encouraged at the point of a gun to supply in an interesting environment at the moment where we’re seeing trading standards and others coming forward saying you all now have to give much more transparency and much more information to consumers, like what the length of the lease is, and whether the property is freehold or leasehold, and lot of debates about what the mobile phone signal should be. These are, I think, if consumers, i.e people who wanted to buy properties and rent properties, could find a website that also, cuz it by definition would have to satisfy the advertisers who pay to be on there by providing enough information, but not to compromise their agent advertisers, then that is what’s still missing, despite the millions of pounds that have been invested by all of you in a sector, that’s changed out of all recognition. OnTheMarket and others provide an invaluable service, which enables consumers to be much, much better informed about what they do and what they are doing.
When I started, you had to have an estate agent cause we owned the information, you couldn’t find it anywhere else. And now since then we’ve had Land Registry publishing sole data, for example, we’ve got websites such as your own, that give us floor plans and flybys and three dimensional video tours and you know, you name it. But still the consumer doesn’t quite have to approach it as a caveat emptor or buyer beware, but everybody should remember that the information they’ve been given has been given by somebody who’s selling the property, not necessarily incorporating all the information, although full marks to you, you’ve got a lot more information you used to have, but it’s necessarily what the consumer needs in order to make an informed decision.
Jason Tebb: I think it’s a good point. Obviously we work within a legal framework that is caveat emptor, as you quite rightly said, however, I think that not only is there more pressure at governmental level to start to provide this information up front, not only is there more chatter about it in terms of the industry and out of it too. I think we, as a portal, as you said, are almost uniquely placed to be able to expose properties to consumers, uh, for them to engage with. And as such, we have almost a moral obligation to help to provide as much information as possible to help those consumers make an informed decision. I think that’s definitely where we’ve already taken some steps to move on and, you know, we were one the first to start to introduce some of those extra upfront information features, which I think is the right thing to do. And I think that’s absolutely where we’re going in the future. I think there’s always gonna be that balance because if I cast my mind back to when I first started an agency, one of my sales managers back then said, four photos, four bullet points, short description, that’s it. Because if you do any more than that, you’re giving potential buyers or tenants a reason not to view and I think it’s that balance that you have to try and get right.
Henry Pryor: You’re so rigjt and that’s what so many of our professional colleagues, if both in sales and lettings, forget. We don’t wanna give the consumer everything, otherwise, if you’re not careful, they’ll make their own mind up. If you are being paid by your client to sell or let their property, your job is to get people to come and see that property so that can then sell itself.
Jason Tebb: Exactly.
Henry Pryor: I still have a gripe, there is still property listed online, mentioning no particular brands, where by agents, where properties are, you know, I’d agree to deal with one agent, um, the property for sale member being sent out, but it remained fully available on that website and the relevant portals until we got to exchange of contracts. It makes me furious.
Jason Tebb: I think that it’s a challenge that we see. I’ve seen it so many times and I’m sure we’ll continue to see. It’s one of those things that I’d love to be able to crack once and for all, but it’s not gonna be something that’s gonna happen anytime soon I’m sure.
I’d like to move on to, um, the last few minutes we have to talk about you as a person really when you’re not negotiating for clients and when you’re not on the telly, what do you like to do in your spare time? What’s your interests? What are you passionate about?
Henry Pryor: I’m very lucky, we live in the country. So we’re 30 miles north of Marble Arch, still only half an hour, 20 minutes on the train into the West End, but we live on a farm and as a result, I keep rare breed pigs. We make our own bacon and ham and all that sort of stuff, which is fun.
Jason Tebb: Is that for personal use or (do you sell at) local markets and things like that?
Henry Pryor: It’s something we started when the kids were young. I wanted them to understand where food came from, the circle of life, the fact that it doesn’t just materialize on a plastic tray, that there is proper jeopardy involved in the production of what you are consuming and it deserves respect.
And it’s something that needs to be, I think, explained to the younger generation so that they don’t chuck it away and use it and abuse it. So we got them, in the first instance, in order to do that, we then found that actually it was very enjoyable. I’ve, I think I don’t it’s necessarily a top secret, but I’ll you in on it. I name all my pigs after London selling agents.
Jason Tebb: Oh, I, I feel another podcast coming just, just in, just in that alone, in that alone. Right.
Henry Pryor: It gives so much satisfaction to slap them on the back.
Jason Tebb: I bet it does. I’m glad we’re at the end of the podcast, rather the beginning otherwise this could go off on a completely different tangent.
Henry Pryor: We keep pigs and I have an unhealthy appetite for spending time in Italy with various projects there. And again, I’m incredibly fortunate, privileged as so many of us are professionally to be in, in the sector that we are in, with the opportunities that, that presents and currently with the, uh, regulations that allow people to have careers that evolve and develop in the way that they do.
And I’m a big fan of bringing on the next generation and trying to help them to have something of the advantages that I’ve had and been lucky enough to have in my career.
Jason Tebb: Thank you. And just to close, what advice would you give people starting in the industry? I often talk about, you know, how I fell into property, and I did fall into it very late comparatively, but what advice would you give people starting in the industry today?
Henry Pryor: Get on and do it. So many people, not as many as you will have, but I’m asked regularly, how do I get into the business? Should I get into the business? Is it worth getting into the business? It is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying career and of course there are people and organizations that are perhaps less worthy of your time and support. There are many, many incredibly well meaning, very generously openminded organizations and individuals who will help you to develop a career and you take that career as far as you want to. If you don’t believe in yourself, don’t expect anybody else to, but if you do believe in yourself, the world is your oyster. You can get on and do all sorts of incredibly rewarding, both financially and emotionally things in our business. And I would encourage anyone who wants to have a go at it, to do exactly that.
Jason Tebb: Well said, well said. I can’t top that. We’re running outta time sadly, but thank you Henry for joining us and really interesting to hear your views on technology and the industry in general, and particularly on the role of buying agents, we’re gonna add the links to your website in our social channels and in our show notes. And if any of our listeners would like to find out more, you can do so don’t forget, you can keep up to date with our next episodes by following us at OnTheMarketcom on Twitter, but you can also follow us on all of the other social media channels to LinkedIn and Instagram, or indeed search for on the record in your podcast app and hit the follow button.
But thank you for listening and Henry, it’s been great to chat and thanks so much for your time.
Henry Pryor: Great pleasure. Thanks for having me.