An Interview with Alex Goldstein
A fast paced, insightful interview of Alex Goldstein and how he started his professional career.
What are his motivations and what are the issues with the current estate agency sector? Why did he leave the corporate world to set up on his own?
Hear how Alex rose through the ranks of some of the UK’s very best estate agents and now has his own business helping those looking to buy and sell property in Yorkshire and London.
An Interview with Alex Goldstein
Full transcript below:
Michael: This opportunity is for everyone to understand what Alex is all about and really how he got to do what he does so well, so first question for you Alex I suppose is, what’s your background? How did you get into this sector?
Alex: I suppose it was just by sheer chance many years ago when I was at university I got some great work experience and from there doors start to open, you get a insight into the estate agency world, got a great job with Cluttons who are a big name in the South East and London and sort of worked up the rankings and quite a lot of experience over 13/14 years.
Michael: A really big company, you must have gotten a huge amount of experience looking at it from both sides of the fence I suppose?
Alex: Yeah, very much, I mean you really have seen sort of all sorts of properties ranging up to stuff you see in the press on a national scale so some stuff that you’ll remember for the rest of your life dare I say on some of them.
Michael: So, what made you start up on your own then? I mean you’ve got a pretty good job, you’re working in some pretty big organisations, you’ve got some real kudos there. What’s the reason you decided to pack it all in and start your own business?
Alex: Yes, great question. I suppose I became disillusioned with the way that estate agency was being run, it was very different to when I first started. A lot of businesses nowadays and especially estate agents, it’s all run on targets, it’s key performance indicators, its daily targets and its all about how many calls you’re doing, how many deals you’ve got and its almost that you’ve got this big stick mentality from head office and I just felt that your almost incentivised I suppose not to look in client best interest at times and it didn’t quite fit true with who I am, and I suppose morally didn’t quite feel right.
Michael: Ok, I suppose, when you say from a moral perspective, what do you mean?
Alex: Well as an estate agent nowadays, and a lot of these guys it’s all about I suppose the short-term. It’s all about short-term targets, get it in and bill it. So, I remember very well that you went to see, say you’re selling your property, I’d go to see you and before I’d even stepped through the door in the back of my mind I’ve just got to think I’ve got to get Michael to sign that terms of business, I’ve got to get his instruction. It may be conversely that the best advice to you to maximise the value of a property could be, Michael you know what, let’s go and get outline planning permission for that big extension, let’s add value by doing that, then let’s put it on the market. You’ve got to look in client best interests and now I don’t have targets, or KPI’s or anything like that, its genuinely looking in your best interests as a homeowner to get the best buyer.
Michael: It’s almost like one of those programmes that you see on television isn’t it, where you have a expert, people often call you the Phil Spencer of Harrogate. It’s a bit like that sort of situation where you have somebody like Phil Spencer who’s an expert in property, comes in, looks at the property and gives them an objective perspective. From that objective perspective people then start to build trust and understand where you’re coming from. From your point of view, why do you think that’s going to be beneficial for the client?
Alex: A lot of it nowadays is the fact that you’ve got a expert like myself, who’s got a lot of years under his belt and experience I think is absolutely key, critical on dealing with let’s face it your most important asset on this planet.
Michael: People say that it’s also the most stressful thing to purchase as well, a house.
Alex: I think divorce is just behind it and I think death probably just behind that, it is still one of the most stressful things in your life and actually the biggest key to it is actually predicting problems before they’ve happened and to nip them in the bud so again you can keep the process very smooth.
Michael: Proactivity I suppose as opposed to reactivity.
Alex: It is that but also it comes down to experience and for me it’s one of the biggest frustrations out there at the end of the day. Estate agency isn’t licensed anyone can start up, you could start up tomorrow your own estate agency and just start going and as long as you tick the right boxes legally you’re absolutely fine. The biggest problem I have to say is a lot of these online guys that sort of buy franchise opportunities. Yes, they are amazing sales people, they’re from car sales or I used to be insurance sort of thing, dealing with property is something very specialist and shouldn’t just be sort of glibly sort of thrown away and very often they get caught out because they haven’t got that foresight and knowledge and experience to see through a problem and it’s very often where I have to get involved because a sales gone completely off kilter and it’s down to someone like me to come in objectively and just get it back on track.
Michael: And the other thing of course which must be a huge issue is that it affects the confidence in the individual and in the world of estate agents selling property that they think that everybody’s tarred with the same brush.
Alex: Unfortunately, yes, I mean it doesn’t matter whether you’re an estate agent, a politician or dare I say a traffic warden, I think every sort of sector in this world you’ve got a tarnishing of sorts. Estate agents used to be I think the most hated role out in the UK, I think that is topped by the bankers and the politicians at the moment, but it is a great pity because there really are some superb estate agents and negotiators and actual team setups and it’s just knowing what to look for, with experience behind the scenes to guide a client through those sort of fairly tough times.
Michael: Ok, so let’s look at it from a slightly different perspective now, lets look at it from the consumers perspective. What is the advantage and what do you do for me having decided that I want to sell my property, what exactly is the process that you follow and what would you do for me?
Alex: So, if you’re looking to sell your property and I go as you know I cover Yorkshire and London, as I’ve intimated already it’s about where you can maximise value. Now this could be going through planning, it’s sorting the cosmetics out, it could be the finer details but also as with a lot of these it’s planning behind the scenes and actually getting the agent out is one of the last things you actually do. So, it’s sort of making sure you’ve got the solicitors lined up, it may be that we call on a surveyor to check for the roof, so we’ve got that absolutely nailed down.
Michael: So how do you get paid from the selling perspective, how does that work?
Alex: Well once I’ve sort of bought in and advised on independently the most appropriate agent, I sort of, I link in with the agents on a weekly basis, I remain proactive. So, I would ring said agent once a week on behalf of Michael who’s selling the property, get the latest from them, it takes me sort of 30 seconds to a minute to understand where they’re going because I’ve been there and done it myself and then I can report back to Michael. Twenty minutes / half an hour, Michael this is what’s going on, this is what it all means, proactively with my experience we need to, I don’t know change the online advert, agreed, great, agent please can you get on with it. So, all of a sudden, you’re now speaking weekly with the estate agent, you’re being proactive because you’ve got me on board. The key to it is the appointed agent, who’s been instructed independently of me, charges you their standard commission rate in the market, the agent pays me a cut of their commission. So, if you are selling a property you have absolutely nothing to pay me at any point to have me on board, so I suppose it’s into a no-brainer type category.
Michael: So literally the agent will pay you so the house owner, the homeowner who’s selling has got no cost for all that objective perspective?
Alex: No, the cost remains exactly the same, it just means that you’ve got extra expertise and knowledge and guidance. The agents like it because in effect I have, forgive the analogy, packaged up you and the property. We’ve got the planning, we’ve got the solicitor, we’ve got the right marketing strategy lined up, you’re ready to go. It’s win-win situation, the agent still retains a good proportion of the fee, I get paid a percentage of that, it’s win-win, and that’s where I can link in with a lot of the solicitors, the private banks, I’ve done stuff with Google in London as well because again it’s a very unusual service.
Michael: Ok, fantastic. The other week I was out and about speaking to a solicitor and the solicitor was raving about you and saying how you actually helped one of their clients. How does that one work?
Alex: That’s very kind you know thanks for mentioning it and this was actually on the buying side of things and this was actually for a client of theirs who was getting very frustrated. They were in a good position to proceed but they weren’t getting any traction with the agent, they weren’t getting tipped off early and they were very fortunate, they were all cash, there was no mortgage, they were in rented but they just weren’t being taken seriously.
Michael: Ok, so just one thing I just want to make clear here, so this is the other side of the business, where you’re actually going into the market and purchasing properties for clients. So just rewind a tad and just explain how that part of the business works. So, you’ve got the selling side that you’ve just talked about and this is the other side of the business.
Alex: It is, and again very often people get frustrated or they don’t have the time or very often they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s all well and good you hear on the TV and in the media, this is how to buy a property, this is what you do but actually putting that through into real terms. If you’ve ever done it before it’s actually incredibly daunting. So again, adding value through there and I do a lot of relocations as I said I cover Yorkshire and London so people moving between the two, I can effectively hold their hand and guide it through. But, again it’s with experience I am an ex estate agent at the end of the day and you know how the system works, you know how to get your client to the very front of the queue and sometimes and again it’s a big trend at the moment, what’s called the off-market sector. And this isn’t necessarily with estate agents and if it is it’s not on the open market, it’s not online, very often you’re going direct to the developers that have just finished a new project or because I’ve been in the business a long time I know the homeowner so if you give me your criteria, we’ll go out and search for whatever specification you’re after, we negotiate and we secure on the right terms and see it all the way through and I act on behalf of you, the purchaser, in that instance and you just pay me a fee for that service.
Michael: So, this is a service where you’re paid a fee but again you give a completely objective perspective and from what you say to me then you actually have access to properties that are probably not on Rightmove or not on other websites that most people would look at when they’re trying to buy property.
Alex: Probably just over half the purchases I have done have been completely off markets, no one really knows about it, and you are just placing the buyer, my client with a specific type of property and it’s guiding them through that. It’s also then bolting on a lot of connections that I’ve got. Again, I don’t get anything for it and I always say to everyone up front, if someone moves into a property, they buy a property and I don’t know they want to do the extension, they need the roof sorting, or they want some really nice carpeting to go through, who do you know, who do you go to, who is trustworthy?
Michael: Well that’s a whole ballpark on its own, getting tradesmen in and knowing who you can trust and getting the best price and all that.
Alex: Absolutely and again just I’ve been round the block as they say, a lot of years, I know a lot of these guys, they are completely trustworthy, and I don’t charge for it, they don’t charge any more. Again, it’s looking at the bigger picture which I wasn’t always allowed to do in the corporate world is that if I can help you, as a buyer and indeed as a seller, if I help you and the general cause, again it helps you, it helps me, everyone wins as I see it. It’s not about getting a lot of businesses to do sort of backhanders in brown envelopes and all that, I’m not into that at all and keep it very simple.
Michael: So, it’s all about really adding value to the client in every respect whether it’s from a purchasing perspective or from the selling perspective, it’s all about adding value.
Alex: Yeah very much so that’s exactly what it’s about.
Michael: So, the other night reading through the Yorkshire Post and you’ve got a column.
Alex: Yeah, I do, Yorkshire Post Property Column, I think the next ones out in about two weeks’ time, and again that’s giving you an insight into my world. It’s not selling anything as you may sometimes feel, it’s just giving really good advice and expert opinion and experience that’s what it’s about.
Michael: Well fantastic. So, in summary you’re buying properties, you’re selling properties, you’ve got 14 years’ experience, you basically have the majority of your stuff is not the kind of stuff that you would see on Rightmove, it’s something that’s offline so if people are interested in properties that they probably don’t even know that are for sale, you’re the man to speak to.
Alex: Yeah, I very much put it like that.
Michael: Thanks very much for your time Alex.
Alex: My absolute pleasure, thanks very much Michael.