At a time when the housing market is improving, albeit that the improvement is more discernible in some parts of Northern Ireland than others, Belfast is an example of the former. In the south and east of the capital city in particular, prices are increasing steadily if not spectacularly. And that’s good, given that we are still living with the after-effects of a dramatic but unsustainable upsurge which saw the market go mad a decade ago. The lesson? You can only blow a bubble up so far before it bursts. In the wake of what happened post-2008, the market of 2016 is altogether more cautious and cagey, not least because lenders are no longer falling over themselves to throw money at us. They, like the rest of us, learned some very hard lessons. With those wounds still fresh – indeed, in many cases, red-raw – prudence and care have replaced the ill-advised and irresponsible attitude which prevailed between 2005 and 2007 before ultimately proving ruinous. Those selling and buying today are a whole lot more circumspect and discriminating. Instead of waffle, inflated claims and inflated prices, today’s vendors are demanding integrity, reality and genuine prices. In particular, they are making it plain that estate agents have to measure up. So today in Belfast any sensible would-be seller is going to ask three pertinent but completely fair and reasonable questions. Those are: (1) all in, how much will it cost me to sell my house?
(2) How much of that goes to you, Mr Estate Agent?
(3) What do I get from you in return for that fee?
Estate agents are like footballers; a few at the top end are outstanding, a great many others are just average and, as at the bottom end, some are plain awful. They take clients for granted - often they take potential buyers for granted, too – and their old-fashioned methods are out of touch with the pace of the modern world. In short, their work as estates agents is sub-standard and sloppy. They over-charge and under-invest –at the expense of the seller in either case. Their failure to stay in touch with, and be part of, what is relevant in today’s property market is hugely disadvantageous to their clients’ prospects of selling quickly and/or for the best possible price. They open at times which suit themselves rather than those whose interests they are supposedly representing, while ensuring that it’s their client rather than they themselves who pick up the tab every step of the way. Property in Belfast is plentiful. That being the case, there is no shortage of people keen to cash in at this stage. It’s time for the perceptive client to engage in some market research as to who offers most and does the job best. Who provides the best service, pays most attention to detail, is transparently cost-efficient – not least because they invest their own money rather than that of their client at the outset – and is motivated by the fact that unless they sell they don’t get paid?
Aria tick each of those boxes and a few more besides, blazing a trail as pace-setters in a highly competitive environment, witness the recent opening of a branch in Templepatrick to supplement their established head office on Belfast’s Lisburn Road.
They have staff who know the market and are totally comfortable with the latest hi-tech gadgetry. They have invested a lot of money in the latest on-line technology and high quality cameras, which means they can show any for-sale property in its best possible light to the widest possible audience.
They are not restricted by geography to where they are based physically, nor are they confined to 9-5 office hours. If you want to visit, you can do so at any hour of the day or night, 365 days a year. How? Via technology which gives the potential buyer night and day access to the world of ‘virtual viewing’. That goes hand in hand with the real thing, of course, so it isn’t instead of face to face contact and communication with an Aria estate agent. It’s simply an option, an alternative, an extra for those who are unable to call during conventional office hours. Or who don’t even live in Northern Ireland at this stage, but are keen to buy a property here.
Social media is the name of the game now and that is a reality Aria have embraced. There was a time when ‘advertising’ property for sale consisted of nothing more than a description of the dimensions and a picture in the estate agent’s window or on a board, plus an ad in the newspaper. No longer. The simple fact is that increasing numbers of people shop on-line nowadays – for groceries, books, music, clothes, furniture et al, as well as to make bookings, buy tickets or whatever else. Property is no different; increasingly those searching for property in Belfast do so on-line. Aria’s investment in equipment to facilitate this is nothing more than an acknowledgement that it’s how things are these days. Adapt or get left behind.
Conscious of that, Aria are on propertypal, reaching the masses with details of that house, flat or apartment you’re trying to sell. This means they are able to advertise and promote properties nationally and internationally as well as closer to home. The charge for this? Well, there isn’t one – it’s all part of the service. Aria have invested in high specification cameras, too, which means that any photographs they display are of the highest standard. In other words, your for-sale property is going to be seen at its best.
All pictures of houses valued at £200,000 or more are taken by professional cameramen – free of charge. The Aria mantra is “Do everything properly, leave nothing to chance and you will sell the property.”
They minimise the work required of you by undertaking it themselves. Their valuations are based on knowledge of how other properties of comparable standard in the same locality have sold. Thus the vendor knows that the asking price is a true and fair valuation.
Aria do not fill clients’ heads with nonsense by asking for an unrealistic and therefore unattainable price. Nor do they make promises they cannot be kept. If they say it’s worth £180,000, that’s because it’s worth £180,000. So expect £180,000.
Their valuation fee? It’s free; that’s part of the service, too. Their insistence on honesty also includes them offering advice on improvements the would-be seller should make in order to boost the prospects of a sale. Again there is no flannel; if Aria believe a grubby carpet needs changing or a bedroom requires a coat of paint, they will tell you! Why? Because they know what they’re talking about and they know what works. All of the advice they offer is based on their knowledge and experience of what the modern-day buyer wants and expects. Meet those expectations and the desired result will be achieved a lot more frequently and quickly. Estate agents will charge a percentage of the sale price; that is their modus operandi. But some charge a lot more besides, with the meter starting to run from the moment you enlist with them.
With their starting point being the fact that they make no up-front charges, Aria make it plain from the outset that they are in the business of selling. If they fail to do that, they don’t charge you a penny. Clearly they are in to win.