The headline that so many Londoners it is said have been waiting to see has at last appeared. The agent that everyone likes to hate has battled with an unenviable image since it was set up 25 years ago and founder Jon Hunts’ competitors were the most vocal in their rage at his success. To add to their pain, they couldn’t believe it when he sold the firm earlier this year for a rumored £490m.
The fact that the firm had succeeded despite the pages of bile that you can find on the internet if you search for Foxtons is perhaps an example of the old adage that I was taught when I first started selling houses. There are some firms whom you want to sell through and some that you want to buy from. Foxtons was one of the former and it is these firms who make the big money. The ‘gentlemen’ firms may be nice people to do business with with but their clients don’t pay them to be nice to buyers and tenants – they want the highest price that they can get and aren’t too worried what the other side thinks.
The headline is not all it seems since it and the many others refers to the American version of Foxtons which is reported to be laying off over 300 of it’s 380 employees due to the US housing slump. It may even file for bankruptcy. I expect that this is not the whole story as like the London agents, many American brokers have whinged about Foxtons tactics in the US and complained that they shouldn’t be charging so little in a market that routinely grabs 6%+ to sell a property.
What is worth noting however is that there are more and more people who think that it may well be only a matter of time before we could see similar conditions here in the UK and whilst it unlikely to result in the demise of one of London’s’ most colorful estate agents, it will bring pain to many and as in previous property recessions, the loss of one or two brands from the market.