Estate agent David Cantell’s walk to work
As Anissa and I step out of our apartment on Richmond Hill and see the Turner view, we never fail to be inspired by the iconic setting. It is a daily reminder of how special Richmond is and how privileged we are to live and work here.
As we turn into Friars Style, our working day begins. We chat about what we expect from the day and talk through the progress of any properties we are selling or letting.
We really value our contribution to this community. Don’t get me wrong, we love the property sector and it is in our DNA but we always go beyond the business transactions and offer the kind of practical and emotional support our clients need. We’ve got a great back-up team and often reach out to them.
A few months ago, we spent the journey to our office chatting about the sale of a particular house. We walk past it every day so, unsurprisingly, it isn’t ever far from our minds during the walk to work.
A chap had passed away and his family was selling the house where his partner, Vince, continued to live. Vince needed time to grieve but the family had wanted to sell the property immediately. It was a very unhappy situation but sadly a familiar tale of modern times. It had taken two years for the family and Vince to agree to market the house through solicitors and both parties were still not speaking. Sticking points such as the whereabouts of photographs, though seemingly insignificant, were threatening the sale.
The family wanted to hire a clerk to undertake an inventory of everything that was left in the house but Vince refused as he felt it was too intrusive. Given that Anissa had known him for several years, he allowed her to visit with the list from the family to see what remained and could be sent to them. Vince found everything and more, both of sentimental and monetary value. I was then able to let the family know that Vince had no intention of keeping what wasn’t his – hoping that this would build bridges.
I organised a delivery for the family with the help of a local mover. Neighbours and friends pitched in to help Vince pack for his move to an apartment. It was a real community affair as the pain and anguish of the last two years had left Vince vulnerable and at times, unable to cope.
Just as we were ready to exchange, a problem arose. The family’s solicitor wanted Vince out before the exchange and subsequent completion. This wasn’t practical as Vince needed the funds from the sale to complete on his new apartment. His solicitor, based next door to our office, popped in and asked us to help.
As the estate agent, we are in a position to speak with solicitors as well as the buyer and vendor; we are often mediators. I spoke with the family and I think because of the additional items returned and the rapport I had built, they instructed their solicitor to exchange and complete, trusting that Vince would leave.
Vince did leave on the day of completion and as we walk past the house every day to our office further down the hill, it is an absolute pleasure to remember how the community rallied round.
David Cantell on why putting the heart into estate agency counts.
When I started as an estate agent fifteen years ago, I realised very quickly that selling property is far more about people than it is about sales.
Selling or buying is always stressful and sometimes I am part therapist, part school researcher, amateur architect and sometimes even marriage counsellor. Throw into the mix the high value, the antiquated conveyancing process – leading to uncertainty until exchange - and it is easy to see why emotions can run high.
One of my most poignant moves was with a lovely lady of advancing years. We first heard about Victoria when a neighbour posted on a community email that she needed to swap her house for a ground floor apartment, because she had a debilitating condition. We knew it was a long shot but we wanted to help.
We formally valued her house and we became quite friendly; eating out together and sampling her wonderful cooking. We got to know her quite well. Victoria was great fun, despite tragic and challenging circumstances. Her first husband died suddenly, her daughter was ill and her lovely second husband was in a home after a stroke. Yet, despite her own degenerative condition and a daily struggle with the stairs, she wanted to wait for her husband to pass away before selling.
One evening over wine and nibbles, she told us about a fabulous apartment she wanted to view on the river. It was all systems go. My wife and Victoria visited the property. We found a buyer interested in her home and the offer on the dream apartment was accepted. Victoria couldn’t quite believe that for once, life was working out in her favour.
Then one Sunday Victoria called us – her daughter had been found dead by the local police. She was devastated. At the funeral I calculated that her daughter was my age; the realisation hit me hard. It may be cliché, but a tragedy like that puts everything into perspective. She needed our total support in order to move and start living in a home that would at least reduce the stress of dealing with her own illness. The problem of the stairs became even more important to her and therefore to us. With every hurdle in the selling and buying process, I began to realise that this was the most important move I had ever handled.
We did get the deal across the line and she moved into her perfect apartment with a beautiful river view. She still sends us jokes and stories on email.
Moving home is always an emotional process but very few transactions meant as much to me as this one. Victoria is one of the bravest people I have ever met and it was a privilege to be her estate agent.
©RiverTribe Magazine 2017