Tuesday, October 25, 2016
New vs Old - Tuesday
Still on our sunshine break in Palma, we head back to the Airbnb apartment. It was a leap in to the unknown, a bit like the first time I downloaded the Uber app and unwittingly brought a nice chap named Mohammed to our door, when I just wanted to see what the trip cost might be. He was very nice about it and didn't seem to swear much - not in English anyway…
As it turned out the apartment’s description and views were as published. They don’t seem to have a property mis-description act in Spain, or overzealous trading standards officers as far as I can ascertain. The new computerised business model, seems to work for both rental properties and taxis. I’m not so convinced it will work for on-line estate agents though - that’s still a very personal, hands-on experience.
‘Look the other way.’ Shouts my wife, grabbing my arm again like an angry lollipop lady at a school crossing.
‘I blame Napoleon.’ I mutter unconvincingly, as I turn my head and spot two lanes of fast moving Seats and Fiats. ‘If he hadn’t changed the side of the track horse and carts travelled we’d be able to drive on the proper side of the road in Europe and America.’
‘Ridiculous.’ Pronounces my wife, as she leads me across the road, straight towards the Teutonically clinical property premises, near our destination.
‘Are there any Engel and Volkers in Britain?’ Asks my wife, indicating the pristine white fascia of the German-owned estate agency operation.
‘Don’t think so,’ I mutter looking though the window enviously. ‘Some towns are still rebuilding after there blitz.’
‘That’s racist.’ Snaps my wife.
‘Try telling people in Plymouth.’ I respond.
I’ve unwittingly stopped outside the window again, gazing in at the desks devoid of detritus. Still no coffee mugs, no sales files, no half-eaten sandwiches. Just clear space, eye-bleedingly bright 4k retina display screens and one of those aluminium track pads I still can’t get to grips with. I nod self-consciously to the aryan man in the front desk. He blanks me completely and an absurd desire to sing a dubiously correct song from my schooldays, about two world wars and one world cup, overwhelms me.
‘The thing is folks don’t understand property is a people business.’ I opine to my wife, as we head towards our accommodation.
‘Hmm.’ She answers disinterestedly.
‘You see firms flinging money at unproven schemes like on-line agency, when they don’t realise you need local knowledge and experience, not a call centre in Rhyl staffed by schoolboys who flunked their GCSEs.’
‘We’re not going on a rant are we?’ She queries.
‘I thought the tapas tour might be more fun.’ I quip back.
She doesn’t laugh. Not so much now, anyway.
‘I’ve seen agents come and go, some of the kids now have never seen a property recession.’ I continue, warming to my theme as we halt outside another handbag shop.
‘Just a moment.’ Says my wife, dreamily.
‘You wait,’ I continue as she scans the overpriced cow-product. ‘A downturn will cull all these johnny-come-latelys and you won’t have anything left of the call-centre agents, other than purple faces….’
‘Is that supposed to be funny?’ She asks.
You’ll have to wait and see.
The truth is property downturns are as inevitable as corrupt politicians. Japan has been in a slump for several decades and America has seen mass foreclosure both sides of the millennium. A brutal Darwinian culling swept the high street in the two property collapses I’ve lived through and there’s not much doubt the same will happen again. Only, it will include spotty oiks on Welsh switchboards and ill-advised investors in unproven business models, next time.
‘What about Century 21?’ Quizzes my wife as we pass another property purveyor.
‘Never caught on in the UK.’ I tell her with some satisfaction.
‘But it is expensive to use an agent.’ She fires back. Should I mention those fees are paying for the super-sized jug of sangria we consumed at lunch time? Best not, the sofa bed doesn’t look too comfy.
‘Fundamentally, with all the variables moving entails, people like the certainty of no-sale, no fee.’ I conclude, as we arrive.