Connecting over coffee.

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Why many of our first meetings are not at someone’s home.

I was talking to Simon today about how different it is meeting homeowners as a specialist estate agent, rather than as a high street one.

We both remember vividly our days as suited-and-booted agents turning up at houses where the door is opened by a mum with children hanging round her ankles and baby food spillages on her leggings. Our attire would forge efficient and instant separations between us and potential clients that we spent the rest of our visits trying to dismantle.

Although still seen as the outfit of professionalism, the suit is not the garment of connection in the home. Simon and I can count on one hand the number of times an owner wore one in anticipation of our arrival, so the suit simply says from the instant the front door is opened: “We are different to each other. We are not the same.” Hardly a barnstorming scene-setter.

Non-relatedness nicely established, the owner gives a tour of their home to the agent (for which read: stranger in a suit), unsure of what they should be saying having usually never done it before (and certainly not very often) and pointing out power sockets as though they were collectable Fabergé eggs. (Consider for a moment the character of a home where electrical outlets are given such status). In short, it’s all a bit weird.

Now compare that to life at Unique. Often Simon’s first meeting with a homeowner isn’t at their home at all. He is regularly invited – depending on the time or day – for a preliminary coffee, pint or weekend brunch. This Sunday – yes, Sunday! – he was at Tom’s Kitchen just off Kings Road, with other initial meetups including Shoreditch pubs, a deli in Primrose Hill and the Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park. (He asked me not to tell you, but there have even been a couple of Costa Coffees in there as well.)

So why is that? Why do people with unique homes not want to immediately show them off to all and sundry? Well, mainly because people with unique homes aren’t really interested in a high street approach and don’t want a slew of regular agents traipsing round. Very often they want to keep business out of their domestic sanctuary, and sometimes they’re just really busy and ask if we can meet them near their office.

Imagine being a high street agent somewhere in the suburbs and an owner asks you to meet them in Soho to talk about their three bedroom semi over a goji berry smoothie: you’d think they were mad, and your manager would never let you go. Yet this has become fairly run-of-the-mill for Simon.

It’s worth pointing out that this is an owner-driven phenomenon. Yes, we’re totally up for it, but we’ve never pushed it as some sort of contrived cool-factor (although it would have been a great idea for one!)

We notice a shared mindset between people with unusual and remarkable properties all the time and it extends to almost every area of moving home. In this instance, professional doesn’t mean a suit and corporatism; it means connection, confidence and expertise. Owners are looking for empathy and a spirit of collaboration with their agent; things all-too-often missing when selling a property.

So we’re delighted to go along for the ride, not to mention the coffee and cake.

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