I recently purchased a house in the Inner Avenue area of Southampton and was able to compare the estate agencies I came into contact with. The people I purchased from used Enfields in London Road. I sold my old place in St Marys using Morris Dibben, also in London Road, Southampton.
One can compare different agencies in a number of ways, I chose \'business model\' and \'how I felt they dealt with me\':
In my local area (this relates to the London Road branch, I have no knowledge of other branches), the Enfields model is based on providing accurate market valuations to prospective customers. Given the state of the housing market, this means they are often saying something that you (the seller) might not want to hear. They don\'t try to get the instruction by telling you what you do want to hear (i.e. by exaggerating the value of your property).
In contrast, my local branch of Morris Dibben over-value properties by about £10,000 (a property that will sell at about £175k will go on the market at about £189k rather than £179K). They exploit the folly of sellers who wish to pretend that the falling housing market of the last four-five years hasn\'t happened. In my opinion, from observations of and encounters locally with sellers, people who bought at the top of the market are particularly vulnerable to the blandishments of the Morris Dibben valuers. People who overpaid at the top of the market \'in order to get on the ladder\' seem to be especially prone to the Morris Dibben pitch.
The results of this are visible in the Inner Avenue area of Southampton in terms of Morris Dibben For Sale signs that are almost permanent fixtures. One house in Peterborough Road has had a Morris Dibben For Sale sign outside it for about two years. There is a house in Dover Street, the seller believed the nonsense she was told about the value of her property and now finds herself faced with the prospect of reducing the price again (she has reduced it once already, several weeks ago, but it was so over-valued that she will need to do so again). When they do finally sell a house the sign will stay up for months, if they can get away with it, so that it creates the impression that they are effective. (The Enfields sign was removed after a couple of days without my having to ask.)
Having encouraged you to market your house for more than it is worth, Morris Dibben then attempt to get you to accept very low offers. Their attitude is that you are being unreasonable in holding out for £5k less than the advertised price when that price came from them. "It\'s your price, from your valuer." I would say, impishly, just to see them look flustered and change the subject.
Enfields provide a realistic price, houses they market sell faster and thus their costs are lower. Morris Dibben is stuffed full of staff and activity and that looks good - "hey, what a busy place" - but they might have to show 50 potential buyers around your house, or more, and you (the seller) will have to go through the possibly painful process of admitting to yourself that you\'ve been manipulated. Activity, in itself, is not a virtue; it depends what those people are doing (and to whom). The price of the house in Peterborough Road has been reduced by the vendor by £5k, but it is still over-priced and this evening the For Sale sign is still there. I would recommend that people who want to sell a property in Southampton go to Enfields in London Road - the valuation they give your property will be lower than their main local competitor, but they are being honest and that is a good thing.
How I felt they dealt with me
I only dealt with Jonathan Pinhorne at Enfileds so this only applies to him (but he is the boss and so his attitudes set the tone). I dealt with many of the many staff at Morris Dibben and this is a general comment on the culture in that branch and how it effects the way they dealt with me generally (i.e. there is a culture in that office and it affects everyone, some individuals more than others).
Firstly, Enfields are a franchise which means that Jonathan is the proprietor, what happens in his business reflects on him, personally. Morris Dibben are part of the giant conglomerate Countrywide PLC, which has "10,000 personnel nationwide, working across 1,300 estate agency or lettings offices operating under 46 local high street brands . . ." (wikipedia). You get a personal service from Enfields, it is run by someone who does give a shit. I can\'t say the same for Countrywide, as represented by Morris Dibben in London Road, Southampton.
If Morris Dibben start off by telling you fibs about the value of your house, how does it develop? Well, with Morris Dibben I often didn\'t know what was going on - later, they lied about my house sale to the people I was buying from (who were buying from a seller who\'d hired Morris D). It was a blatant lie and a very blatant attempt to pressurise me by threatening my purchase. A member of Morris Dibben staff told the people I was buying from that my sale had fallen through, which it hadn\'t; the intention was to scare the people I was buying from and thus pressurise me into accepting a lower price than I wanted from my buyer. When the people I was buying from agreed a price with the people they were buying from, Morris Dibben withheld that information from me. From that point on I had almost no contact from them at all. I was able to rely on Jonathan from Enfields for news that Morris Dibben should have told me, without him it would have been a lot more stressful and the whole thing could have fallen through. I was very impressed, hence this detailed assessment.
To put it bluntly, I was paying Morris Dibben to stab me in the back and work for my buyer rather than for me. Then, just to top it off, they ignored me all together. Their business model (in that branch, I can\'t speak for elsewhere) means they are always furtive, they have to be dishonest throughout because of where they started from (a dishonest valuation).
When I moved into my new home there was a welcome card from those I had bought it from: the first sentence in it reads "Despite the best efforts of Morris Dibben to cock things up for us all, [the house] is now yours!"
Next time I have a house to sell? Well, I have learnt a lot and I will sell through Enfields. I\'m not prone to recommending businesses, even if (for instance) a builder is very good in my experience, I will say no more than \'they were good on this occasion\'. But I would recommend Enfileds whilst Jonathan has the franchise on my local branch. His approach is the opposite of the stereotypical estate agent.