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A week in the life of a global estate agent

publication date: Oct 17, 2006
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With the summer holidays over, it’s exhibition time. I’ve had a new stand produced by our new best friends Nimlok who have a vast production facility somewhere up in darkest Cambridgeshire. They have come up with a versatile and visually stunning stand. It’s small and cute, like a puppy and it will hopefully grow larger in the coming years. Irritatingly, also like a puppy, it has a ferocious bite. Putting the frame thing together is a full on war zone job. During the first erection, I was wearing a suit. Bad mistake – said suit was left in a right mess and needed dry cleaning.

We had a dry run at a property show in Dublin last week which was disastrous in terms of numbers of punters through the door, but reasonably high on quality of leads. The organizers held a drinks party for stand holders – presumably to apologize for the lack of visitors - but that was a disaster too with the bar running dry after 15 minutes.

On to ExCel where the turnout of over 14,000 produces good business. Anyway it’s...

Monday

A long drive from Surrey in my wife’s Estate car loaded to the hilt with our stand, brochures and so on, to Fishgard in South Wales. The ferry to Rosslare is a leisurely 3 hours and then a wonderfully scenic drive through the countryside to Kilkenny. 11 hours door to door – thank goodness for mobiles and blackberry to keep in touch with business.

Tuesday

Having arrived in the dark yesterday, I’m pleasantly surprised that my outlook is over the River Nore with the beautiful Kilkenny Castle opposite. Full cholesterol breakfast and we’re off to set up our stand at the World Ploughing Championships. Hmmm, you read it correctly – this is the Irish farmers’ idea of heaven. They, and most of Ireland it seems, pop this date into their diary at least a year in advance. In their eyes, the excitement factor is tractor droppingly high. This is the country’s’ biggest event – four days, 50,000 visitors a day. A total of 260 acres of which the exhibitors have a mere 60 acres (the rest is, of course, for ploughing). It’s massive, and so are the queues and traffic jams. And this is set-up day! I notice that wellies are de rigueur.

Kilkenny is as close to a film set town as you can get. The River wanders through it with the medieval Castle on one side, crossed by an ancient stone bridge with my pleasant but out of place, modern hotel on the other side. This was once the capital of Ireland, and Parliament Street has a row of traditional painted shops. I counted five butchers (as well as three churches and one cathedral) – and not a single supermarket or McDonalds – all in a place with 5000 people. How refreshing is that. Of particular note was the local Estate Agent whose window card details are still hand written – he was closed at 4pm!

Wednesday

Someone said “Whatever you do, don’t leave your wellies behind” – well, I’m glad I took heed. The sky resembles a miserable grey school blazer, the rain is horizontal due to the 75 mph gale. The locals seem unperturbed as they are perfectly dressed. Yours sincerely has a lightweight beige summer suit, nice Jermyn St shirt, silk tie etc. I do have the required boots though. I’m told that with 200,000 visitors, mud will literally flow down the streets at some point.

In the afternoon I get a call from Tony Smurfit (from the ultra rich Smurfit family who own the K club which hosted the golfing Ryder Cup). We share a mutual friend, and he kindly sets up a meeting for me at the K Club to discuss some new homes being built there.Unsurprisingly, we are inundated with people in the property exhibition. None remotely interested in property - they all want to get out of the rain! Still a good handful of A grade leads by the end of the day.

Thursday

The traffic to get to the World Championship is unreal – an hour and a quarter from just down the road. We’re still looking for the needle in the haystack as far folk walking past our stand. I take a break to look around the other exhibitors.Listening to the PA system, it persuades me to visit a local school’s stand to buy a charity ticket. The winning prize is a pair of “good quality heifers”.

Elsewhere, macho men chop huge logs against the clock with axes, saws and chainsaws – and I find it curiously good fun. Sky Sports are recording it. This is followed by an Austrian troupe in leiderhosen, dancing and smacking their thighs. They finish with a cow bell rendition of something from “the sound of music”.

The local farmers are great fun, a joy to chat with if you can understand them – and that is the main problem here. We cannot understand a word of what most of them are saying. I saw two chaps trying to have a chat, and they couldn’t understand one another. Lord help us.

Friday

Pretty good weather today and I venture an hour north to the glitzy K Club where the Ryder Cup is still very much in evidence. An unbelievable number of corporate marquees and spectator stands remain. So many that it will be December before they all go. The limited number of houses and apartments built here back on to the golf course and range from €1.2m up to €3.5m. A clear sign that the Irish market has been in overdrive. So far they’ve been bought by Irish and Americans – not a single Brit. My job is to change that statistic.

Back to the ploughing and I’ve joined the locals at last – Laura from my office has bought me a cattle prodder. A long wooden stick rather like a driver (as in golf) without the head. Just about everyone here has one, and despite my out-of-place summer suit, I feel more a part of the locals. I could now prod if need be. Mind you, most of the locals use the prodders to remain upstanding after a touch too much time in the Guinness temples – most of which are busy from 9am.

The farming stands are varied – all the political parties are here and the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and President Mary McAleese visit causing almost no interest from the locals. They are more interested in deep fried beefburgers, the local radio station tent, slurry agitators, tractors and the EU subsidies, (The EU has the biggest marquee of the lot – appearing to shout “free something for you all!”).

Saturday

The last day and I venture out to see more ploughing action. Ireland, England, New Zealand, Spain – the whole lot are here. More than 50 countries in total, and all to prove to us viewing public that they are the best plougher in the world. It’s riveting – can Italy get over a little wobble half way down their ploughing thingy (what do you call it?!). I’m getting a bit keener on this and notice with a certain knowledgeable frown that the Lithuanian had clearly been on the vodka, as his ploughing line was all over the place. Apparently the Austrian wins. Good on you mate!

The property exhibition has gone well. It’s been hard finding the real buyers amongst such a vast crowd. But many have sought us out and to our surprise, most enquiries are for South Africa and Portugal with a good average budget of 350,000 euros.æ

After three weeks working without a break, I’m off to Spain for a brief holiday. 1p each way courtesy of Mr Ryanair. Back to the sun, but still dreaming of ploughing.

James Wyatt MNAEA, MARLA, TRC, REALTOR ® is a partner at Barton Wyatt International, Virginia Water, Surrey
www. bartonwyatt.co.uk
Daily Mail Property Award Winners 2006 “Best Surrey Estate Agent”