The Alex Goldstein Property Show (Part 9)

December 2016

Get expert property advice and insight, in this fast paced property podcast. Property concierge Alex Goldstein delves in to the world of removals and high end decorators with his two guests. Plus we answer if estate agents are worth their fees, what to be aware of with joint agents and lots more property insight and tips!

The Alex Goldstein Property Show (Part 9)

Full transcript below:

Alex: Welcome again to the Alex Goldstein Property Show, the only property show on Stray FM. We aim to answer all your property questions, queries and quibbles with a show that is chock full of useful tips, tricks and industry expert information. If you need that property fix, then connect with the Alex Goldstein social media accounts to get the very best property advice whenever you need it. In this months show we will be getting the inside track from Evans International removals and Gold Standard Decorators. We also discuss whether joint agency is the best option and of course we have the Alex Goldstein top tips. We’re brimming with top information as always so we’re straight on with it.

This month we’re discussing whether estate agents are actually worth their money. We constantly hear in the news today how an established business sector has succumb to the age of the Internet. The estate agency sector has obviously long been involved with the emergence of the internet. Alongside the established high street branches, are now a new breed of online and hybrid agents. These new start-ups market themselves as doing everything that the high street guys do but for a fraction of the price. Now, what’s not to like, they’re passing the saving onto you, the customer because after all, lets face it, estate agency is just about taking some great photographs, placing them on Rightmove and sitting back whilst the viewings pour it, right? That is completely wrong, putting a property online is only a small fraction of the story and let’s face it, anyone can upload anything to a website nowadays. So, what are you paying for when you go to a high street agent and why this price difference? As I think of it, it’s a common misconception that an estate agents fee is just put toward marketing and flash offices, which is what the online and hybrid agents would have you believe. But getting a property marketed and under offer, that is actually the easy bit. The real work and value comes once on offer is made, ultimately leading to what actually matters in that exchange of contracts. That is the key to great estate agency. Like myself many of the established high street agents have spent years on the job. We instinctively know how to read a situation, manage people’s emotions and predict what issues could occur before they actually crop up. Being face-to-face with a buyer or a seller is crucial in helping to avoid and pre-empt problems down the line. Property at the end of the day is a people business and good estate agents never lose sight of this, being proactive for their client, right up until the point of exchange. As a recent client of mine said to me the other week, online hybrid agents, they can find you a buyer, but after that you’re very much on your own. Your sale is passed to a large faceless call centre where conversations are scripted. Your file is flipped around between several teams and they don’t know who you are. So, if there’s a problem you’re probably going to find out too late and there’s very little on hand support to help you deal with it. And all this comes after you’ve already paid them because some online agents take their commission from you upfront, so their incentive to keep working on your behalf completely vanishes. For most of us, our house is our most valuable asset. We invest, time, love and energy creating a home that we treasure. We work tirelessly towards the day many of us dream of, that hallowed moment when we pay off our final mortgage instalment. And when we come to sell our homes, we hope our efforts are going to be handsomely rewarded. And while there’s certainly a market for the online hybrid agents, the key to great estate agency is being personally on hand, visible, experienced and proactive. Currently as I see it, high street agents have this corner covered but time will of course tell.

It’s great to have Robert Crossman from Gold Standard Decorators here in the studio with me. I often sum Robert up, he’s the only decorator I know that listens to dare I say Classic FM and that is all you need to know about the guy. Great to have you here Robert, thank you for coming in. I suppose getting straight into it, when it comes to selling your home I think a lot of thought goes into colour schemes, what is actually best, because I think the media say one thing, you’ve probably got a completely different angle on it all as well. Just talk everyone through your thinking.

Robert: Well you do have to go neutral. You might love aqua marine, you might love aubergine, but the chances are the people looking to buy your home won’t. So, if you’ve got a neutral colour my preference these days and it’s definitely on the upper curve of the designer chart is an off-white with a grey tint, looks chic, looks clean, doesn’t stand out as being yellow like magnolia might for example and people can see the size of the rooms much better in a lighter paint than a dark paint.

Alex: What’s the issue in your eyes with just going white? Because again a lot of the TV and the newspapers say take everything out, paint it white and away you go, what’s wrong with that in your eyes?

Robert: Right well, if you have a grand designs style contemporary home then you’ll probably already be white, so that would be good. If you’re a Victorian semi then white wasn’t and in my opinion generally has never been a colour of choice for people in period properties, and white all over might suggest that the owners have slapped on a quick coat of emulsion very quickly to hide all sorts of, goodness knows what rather than portray a sensible colour scheme as I’m suggesting.

Alex: You’ve obviously seen a lot of properties like myself, what do you advise in terms of presenting your room when it comes to selling? What would you say to homeowners?

Robert: Well you have to remember that somebody looking at your home isn’t going to comment on what a wonderful colour scheme you have or how gorgeous your furniture is, how super the carpets are in oatmeal or beige, they’re going to pick out the clutter, the untidiness the uncleanliness and any crack, crevice, hole or scuff mark they will definitely see. So, all of those have got to go, you’ve got to declutter, you’ve got to clean and although it’s time consuming a quick decorate throughout will resolve all of those issues and it won’t take you that much longer than a good deep clean and will probably add to the value of your property.

Alex: You mention about those hairline cracks and sort of plaster work defections sometimes you sort of get. What do you do from a decorating perspective, how can you get around this?

Robert: Well everybody will have heard of course, the secret to a good decorating job is preparation. That’s broadly true. I normally think that a decorating job you’re going to spend days on the prep and hours on the paint, so pitching has got to be right, cracks have to be gouged out, filled, sanded and if needed repeat the process.

Alex: And people often want to I suppose add value to their kitchens, very much something that’s a hot topic today, do they replace the kitchen, or can they add value to the kitchen in another way, what are your thoughts when it comes to kitchens?

Robert: Well in the old days people used to say that the kitchen probably added more value to your home than just about anything else in the home. In my experience these days people will almost certainly rip out the kitchen whatever it is, whether it’s high end, middle end or low end so I certainly wouldn’t recommend replacing the kitchen. If it’s looking a bit battered and a bit worn you can certainly smarten it up, there are primers available today that stick to anything, glass, Formica, metal and then onto that you can paint whatever finish and whatever colour you like, and it’ll make it look clean and respectable. And the people who buy the house will almost certainly rip it out anyway.

Alex: Quite right but I suppose for initial presentation purposes.

Robert: Yeah it stops them being hit with a big negative.

Alex: It’s often a bit of a hot topic in the decorating world, dare I say, you’ve got the brands out there, you’ve got the Farrow and Balls at the very high end, you’ve got the Dulux’s and you’ve got the trade paints and the more value end. What is the actual difference? Is there much? You can obviously colour match but how do you see it?

Robert: In terms of quality of paint, I don’t suppose there’s much difference. Farrow and Ball make claims about the quality of their paint. Most professional decorators don’t particularly like using Farrow and Ball mainly because often you have to use three coats, super finish though it’s absolutely dead flat matte, which gives an almost chalky like appearance. Not practical if you have pets or children because it can’t be washed. The trade paints like Johnston’s, Leyland’s and Dulux are all good quality paints and as all your listeners will know Alex, paint is a solid suspended in a liquid, either solvent based or increasingly these days water-based. The liquid evaporates leaving the solid behind, the solids generally speaking these days are vinyl, plastic. So, when you see vinyl matte, the water in the paint will evaporate off leaving a thin skin of vinyl, which is durable, washable and protects the surfaces, dries almost completely flat matte, it doesn’t have a sheen. I would recommend to anybody who still thinks that a shiny paint on the walls looks good, it doesn’t, get a matte.

Alex: What about window sills and skirting boards because that used to be the fashion of doing gloss on it.

Robert: Those people still when they’re looking at a decorating scheme still think the ceilings have to be brilliant white matte emulsion, all of the woodwork has to be brilliant white gloss. It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t, depending on the colour scheme your going for you can paint all of the wood and walls the same colour, which will make the room look bigger. And on the wood my preference certainly and I think most homeowner’s preferences would be for eggshell. It’s a nice flat-ish finish it doesn’t put a spot light on all of the imperfections that you’re going to get, particularly in older homes where you’ve got dents and signs of decades and generations of repair and redecoration to the wood and it gives a nice matte finish. But I know your listeners should think about being adventurous here and forego the white gloss on the wood, go for the same colour as the walls, try one room and see what you think. Always looks fantastic in my opinion.

Alex: And people often I suppose go to all the big DIY shops, they think it’s all fairly straightforward, with your experience why would you disagree with that? What are you putting in with your time that you’ve done in the trade?

Robert: As opposed to people DIY-ing or getting a decorator? Well I mean some DIY-ers are perfectly competent. I see a lot of houses where the DIY work has been terrific, I’ve seen more where it’s terrible. You’ve got to get paint on the surface that it’s supposed to go on and nothing else, clean lines between paint colours for example, blemishes shouldn’t be visible, cracks, blisters, holes shouldn’t be visible. People looking to buy a house will see all of these things, a quick slap over of a paint to hide badly prepared surfaces wont fool anybody, you’ve got to do a decent job and it is worth getting a decorator in. It’ll be a few hundred pounds you might not want to spend but it won’t give your possible purchaser a opportunity to knock something off your asking price because they’re going to decorate when they get in.

Alex: Quite and yes that’s one of your sort of cardinal sins with your experience in terms of as you said don’t cut a corner with the decorations and as you earlier said it’s all about the preparation work.

Robert: Yep it is. I have done a number of houses for customers where the house has been on the market, they’ve not been able to sell, we’ve gone in and we’ve redecorated top to bottom and it’s sold within a few weeks after that. It does make a huge difference and for relatively speaking a minimal outlay, it’s definitely worth doing.

Alex: Out of interest what’s your biggest frustration with other decorators within the industry because I suppose it’s got a bit more of a mixed reputation if you like?

Robert: Generally, it is a sweeping generalisation here, tradesmen in the main can be pretty untidy and when you’re working in somebody’s home they do expect you to treat it with respect and tidying up as you go around is a simple thing to do.

Alex: Yep and when it comes to redecorating a room finally what are your, one of the Robert Crossman gold standard top tips when it comes to that?

Robert: Clear rooms out and if you’re looking to decorate in order to help the sales process then don’t be tempted to go for daft colours. Just pick a nice neutral as I say something in the grey spectrum is definitely in and is chic. You can be adventurous and paint the wood the same colour as the walls as I’ve said. You don’t have to go completely crazy and strip off every bit of paper and put another bit of paper and paint over that, but blemishes that are visible to you will be visible to your purchaser so make sure you deal with those. If you’re just doing a redecoration for yourself and you’re not looking to sell your house then when you’ve cleared everything out of that room, go for a different colour scheme and don’t put everything back, take that opportunity to de-clutter, maybe even look at changing a few bits of furniture. These days you can buy side tables, lamp tables, lamps, things like that because the furniture of the room isn’t just what you sit on, it’s what you put books in and lamps on and the lighting in the room is crucial as well and all of that is affordable.

Alex: Some great top tips there Robert, thank you very much. And if people wanted to reach you what is the best contact details for you?

Robert: or 07793807991.

Alex: Fantastic Robert, thanks very much indeed for coming in.

Robert: My pleasure Alex thank you.

Alex: The property hospital is all about me answering your property woes and worries when it comes to your experiences in the property sector. This week I’m answering a question from Nathan who had this to say.

Nathan: Alex, I’m currently on the market with my second agent and I’m contemplating moving to a third agent. Is this worthwhile doing?

Alex: Nathan, just be careful. It strikes me albeit on the face of it that there could be an underlying issue. Just question yourself if your home is presented, is it best priced correctly and the marketing material looks good? Now with experience, moving to a third agent can send out completely the wrong message to the market and with the age of the internet buyers can obtain a lot of sales history about a property instantly. Third agent move could indicate that you’re desperate to sell or indeed you can’t sell, neither of which you want to draw overtly to the markets attention. One possible option is whether you actually bring in a joint agent and this is a much more subtle way of getting in this third agent but do ensure this new agent is very different to the existing one. You don’t want to be doubling up on efforts but it’s more a case of filing in any gaps. Bring in a third agent or indeed a joint agent should be thought through very carefully indeed and I’ll touch base with you just to ensure it’s actually the right option for you.

Voiceover: Property Hot Seat

Val: Val Evans.

Voiceover: Business?

Val: Evans International Limited

Voiceover: Years experience?

Val: 12 years

Alex: Great to have Val here in the studio with me and just to get a real insight and feel for the home removals business sector. Val, just sort of kicking things off I mean a lot of removals is a very stressful time. What are you actually doing that’s different? There are a lot of removers out there but how do you set yourself apart?

Val: Yeah, well here at Evans International we actually pride ourselves right from the very first call we make to you on the pre-move survey is to make sure that we’re looking after your needs as the person who we are moving. We move people every single day so therefore the mechanics of the move to us are simple and straightforward but what I like to pride myself in is to take care of you, the person who is moving house, because your needs could be very different to the person that we moved yesterday or the person that we’re moving tomorrow.

Alex: So, in terms of if it’s a elderly couple or indeed a young family, I guess you will be a bit of a chameleon and react accordingly?

Val: Yes, we certainly do. We find that we get quite a lot of recommendations for families who now live quite a way from their elderly parents and if a significant person dies or they have to move into a care home then often the family could be either abroad or at the other end of the country, so they like to feel that there is somebody close to the family, that can actually help that person and be there for that person, to help them move house and look after their personal needs. We automatically look after moving the effects but what we also have to deal with is the emotions and the stresses and strains that that persons going through. And that’s where I feel as a lady in the industry I can actually really come into my own.

Alex: That’s a really valid point Val, I think because being a lady in the removal sector must be incredibly rare. Dare I say how many have you come across, ladies in the industry?

Val: Yes, we are quite a rare breed, especially a lady like myself, who prides herself being able to do all aspects of what happens within a removal. My philosophy in business has always been, I will never ask somebody to do something that either I can’t or I won’t do myself.

Alex: So, it’s a woman’s touch, which is unusual in that business. And what when people come to sell, what do they really need to be aware of when you’re looking for quotes from a removal company. It’s very easy especially on a estate agent side, you can get easily hoodwinked into sort of going one way or another. Is there things people should look out for when they’re getting removal companies out for the first time?

Val: Yes certainly, I think one of the most important things that you need to do when you are getting a quote from a removal company and this can start right at the first visit, the pre-move survey, when a member of the removal company will come out and visit your home and run through with you what it is that there is to move. That is an important part because we need to assess the number of staff and the size of the vehicles and also the service that you require from us. And I think the most important part for you as the customer is that you need to be comfortable with the person that is in your house, you need to have faith that what that person is telling you is that they are going to look after you and look after your possessions in a manner in which you want it doing.

Alex: How does it work? Because it’s not necessarily a case of pick up all the goods, throw them in a box or give them over to Alex and I pack it myself. What are the ins and outs and what do you sort of offer?

Val: Well as a removal company and especially Evans International, we can offer anything from just providing you with all of the packing materials and you do your own packing. There’s a very popular packing service which is what we call a fragile only service, that means that you pack anything that is not breakable, and we come in and pack everything that is. Or the one that I would always promote because it’s the one that takes the strain completely and utterly off the customer is just let us come in and do it all. It will take us maybe a day or two days to pack all of your goods, where as it will take you weeks.

Alex: What are your top tips when you come to move home, sort of getting the removals lined up, is there anything that you would advise people to do in advance or to be aware of?

Val: At the end of the day we need to remember that actually moving house can be a very stressful time. But, it is also one of the rare things in life that has to be done on that day, there is no movement, if you’re moving, you’re moving on that day. Everything else has to fall into place. So, what we need to do is we need to make sure that we’re ready. Because if you’ve packed yourself then basically that’s what you need to have done. You need to make sure that all your things are boxed up nicely and presentable and ready for the movers when they come in. If we do the packing service, then of course we will naturally do that, and we’ll make sure that we are clear of the house in time for the other removal to be able to come in and unload the truck that’s waiting outside. And you need to talk to the person that’s doing the pre-move survey and ask them at what level they are inured it because we all have different levels of insurance. Also, you need to make sure that there is things in place when accidents do happen because there is no removal company around that can ever say that they’ve never done something and that they’ve never damaged a piece of furniture or something hasn’t gone wrong, because accidents do happen.

Alex: That’s the way it goes.

Val: It does unfortunately so what we like to do is we need to make sure that we basically correct that, and we can either do it by repairing if it’s just a polished surface that has got a scratch mark on it, basically we can get that polished out or we can replace or just do whatever needs to be done.

Alex: Got you. And how, we’re moving on to I suppose the more international side of things, the clues in the name as they say with the Evans International, but how does that actually work in terms of logistics and shipping if I’m going to move say to Australia or Europe, how on earth do you actually bring all of those different threads together?

Val: Well it’s very different moving to Europe, well it is at the moment, the jury’s out on that one, but anyway we’ll move swiftly on. So, within Europe as it would be today then basically it would be our vehicle and our staff that prepare all of your furniture and move you to Europe. So, within Europe that actually stays in-house. If you’re moving to Australia as much as I would like to be that constant or consistent person, unfortunately I don’t want to travel in the shipping container all the way to Australia, but what we would do is we then work with a reputable shipping company and because we’ve been in business now for quite some time, twelve years, then we know who we like to work with. So, we work with the shipping company and we prepare all the goods for shipment in the UK, we then engage with the container and then the shipping company then takes over and appoints a reputable removal company at the point of destination and they take over from there.

Alex: Val, been really interesting indeed, thank you very much. If people want to sort of reach you and talk it through and all their issues with regard to moving, what are the best ways to get hold of you?

Val: The best way to get hold of me is to just pick up the phone, because I’m one of those people where I prefer to talk to you face-to-face than through emails. So, whatever you do just pick up that phone and call me on 01765 640882 and ask to speak to Val.

Alex: Fantastic Val, thank you very much indeed.

When you have any works done at your home keep all invoices and especially guarantees in a specific folder. This may well sound obvious but the amount of time I’ve had transactions renegotiated or even fall through because the homeowner was unable to lay their hands on some appropriate certificate never ceases to amaze me. Whilst you can often secure these retrospectively, the amount of time this takes can be onerous. If you keep work invoices, guarantees, warranties, building regulations certificates, planning details etc all together then you know you will never have an issue when you come to sell. You simply just hand over the entire folder to your conveyancing solicitor, job done.

That’s the Alex Goldstein Property Show and yet again brimming with top tips and features, if you need expert information, videos and up-to-the minute property news then head over to the website The next episode is out in the first week of January so make sure you tune in for that. Until next time.

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