From pet whisperer to child minder: Confessions of an estate agent


As Swoffers celebrates its 50th anniversary, two of our directors have been reflecting on their many roles including pet whisperer, counsellor, child minder, 24/7 guru, joy seeker, shepherder of process, juggler of many balls, and manager of expectations.

With a combined work history of 60 years, you might have thought that Shauna Clapham and Spencer Noyon had seen it all, but the truth is they are learning all the time, and people can still surprise them.

‘We do it because it’s part of the service,’ said Shauna, describing the variety involved in being an estate agent.

‘You have to look after people’, agreed Spencer, ‘and make yourself the first port of call for them.’

In any people-centric business there are bound to be some funny and memorable stories along the way. For instance, there was the time that a colleague had to drop his trousers in a greenhouse because a bee flew up his trouser leg.

Spencer went a step further when he accidentally sold the wrong apartment after the developer changed the numbers in the time between an offer being agreed and the sale going to court.  He also got locked in a 3 ft by 3 ft lobby with a client. It was in the days before mobile phones, and he had to shout through the letterbox to get help. He also spent one Saturday afternoon chasing a dog around a garden after it escaped out the back door of the property.

There are plenty of stories of tenants who stay in bed while a viewing is underway, lots of tales involving keys, and anecdotes about pets, such as making sure the cat does not go in the same room as the parrot.

The varied nature of the work means that a good estate agent needs many skills. Spencer said the most important attribute was loving people and property.

‘You have to be passionate about property, you’ve got to live it and breathe it,’ he said.

‘And we’re very fortunate to have 30 plus members of a team who all feel exactly the same way.’

For most people, buying a home is the biggest purchase they will ever make, so among the estate agent’s skill set is the occasional requirement for a thick skin.

‘If the phone stops ringing for viewings, or you’ve got 250 houses on your books and you’re only getting one or two viewings a day, you have to put in the hard graft, you have to be picking up the phone and you can be like a window salesman, you will get a lot of people who don’t want to talk to you quite frankly, and you mustn’t lose confidence, you’ve got to pick up the phone again and go on to the next person.’

Getting out of the office, meeting people, and seeing fabulous houses makes being an estate agent an attractive option, but Spencer said it also involved long hours and being available at any time.

‘What people don’t see is the hours of work behind the scenes, doing all the paperwork or being shouted at, or chasing deals, or losing deals and managing the expectations.

‘So yes, there’s a glamour side, and there’s a hard work side as well.

‘And I think if you’re just chasing the glamour, it’s not the job for you.’

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