Meet Murray Lee, a man with an impressive 48 years’ of experience in the industry he has truly seen it all. We spoke about his journey in the industry and how much it has evolved over the years. From joining the first portal, to joining Rightmove when it was once free (yes, there was a time this was true) Murray began his career as a junior negotiator and though the industry has changed, there’s one thing he has maintained which is his love for the customer and making sure that they get the best service possible. Here’s his story:
Can you tell me about why how and why you got into real estate? How long has it been now?
Nearly 50 years. I was working in a supermarket in between sixth form and university, and the exam results didn’t quite go the way I wanted. So my mother said, you got to get a job. I happened to walk past an estate agency In Edgware in 1973 with a job offer for a junior negotiator pasted on the door. So I went in and asked about the position, got the job on the 1st interview and I have never looked back.
I was 17 and I had passed my driving test. They gave me a company car, which was unheard of in those days. And I’ve never looked back.
I’ve stayed as an estate agent all my career with various agencies, all in North-West London, which is something many can say. From 1976. I moved around between three or four different agencies in Hendon until 1989 when I did a little bit of property development also in Hendon, using my skills as an estate agent, working with somebody who was a client of mine who was starting in property development.
Unfortunately, the property market was struggling in 1986, and he decided to stop development, concentrating on renting his portfolio. So I had to return to being an estate agent, which I did back in Hendon for another company that offered me the position to manage their branch and revitalise their ageing business. They had been trading since 1932 so there were a little old fashioned. I brought them up to date for that time.
I was then offered a position in Golders Green and I joined a company called Kingsbury’s Estates, which was it was actually dormant at the time. Another agent, mainly with only letting experience, had taken it over and invited me to join as the Sales Director and overall office manager, which I did.
We grew that business for 18 years from 1994. In 2012, the opportunity came up to take over a new company just formed called Dreamview Estates. The owner had started the business in January with limited agency experience and reached out to me to join him as a partner and run the business myself. Kinsgleys was very successful under my guidance and it’s still going.
I have been building and running Dreamview Estates since 2012 and we have grown into one of the most well respected and successful agencies in the area looking to celebrate 10 years in 2022. I’m not sure where the time has gone
So you’ve really seen it all?
I’d like to think that I probably have!
Every day something tends to surprise you I mean at the moment, economically and socially, we should be sitting here doing nothing, but we’re actually quite busy.
The property market is quite strong and that, in itself, is amazing.
How was last year for your agency?
Well, I think you have to break it down a little bit. Initially it was a bit of a shock, to try and do nothing and go “cold turkey” from March to May. But as soon as we were allowed to open the doors, things took off like a rocket and we were very busy.
I think it’s been quoted often in the media just how busy the property market has been?
And how prices have increased year on year Which doesn’t seem to make sense economically to me.
With so many people out of work, and businesses closing and all the major high street shops making people redundant it doesn’t seem to be logical. But even with 48 years in the business, who am I to say?
We are in a little bit of a “bubble” here in North West London.
However, as I have become well connected through Facebook and other media, fighting the “Say No To Rightmove” campaign I am finding a lot of estate agents all saying the same thing. So I believe it’s the same across the country.
So there doesn’t seem to be a logic to the economics of buying or selling houses when the country is in a pandemic.
With your 48 years in the industry can you talk a little bit about how much has changed?
When I first started a property detail was a sheet of paper with feet and inches for sizes of rooms, no pictures and no one had heard of a floorplan. We only had typewriters a Gestetner printing machine, which is a machine where you turned a typewritten stencil which spread black ink through the gaps into the details.
So it’s grown leaps and bounds and it’s come on dramatically, probably since about 1994 when the internet first came into play. Prior to that, you’re printing your own details sticking your own single mini photographs and so on.
You know, it’s a real different world to what it was, sadly, and I say this an awful lot, I think, down the line, it’s lost some of the customer services, due to everything being done through text message email, or through the internet. You often don’t get to meet the people maybe more than once or twice. If they don’t buy, then you lose the relationship. Agents don’t build a long-lasting network as I have over the years.
Here, we pride ourselves on doing things in a hands-on way.
We don’t simply type an email rather than pick up the phone, we pick up that phone because we’ve gone on to ensure the customer relationship is still very much present.
I remember the very first time I saw properties listed on the internet I thought, who’s going to want to do that?
You had a dial up modem, green screen downloaded pictures, very green and black, and you couldn’t really see much. As I said, I wish I had never said that.!!!!
Well, of course, it’s changed dramatically. Then the portals started coming around, the very first portal was swallowed up very quickly by Rightmove, who then did it all for free. That’s all changed as well. They now charge a kings ransom for marketing your portfolio I’ve been very vocal on the Say No To Rightmove campagin
I think we’re to dependent on portal advertising and you could probably do away with an office.
I don’t intend to because I think that’s our presence and part of our branding and give us local awareness. That’s who we are. That’s the brand. Even though the amount of people coming into the office last year was dwindling. In the old days, we used to advertise in newspapers and waited for Thursday for the newspaper to come out.
Now course, it is more instant. As soon as a property gets listed the phones start ringing. So you couldn’t be more different.
But I think we’ve lost some of our customer service or that relationship with our customers. Estate Agent’s reputation generally has been a little tarnished and we’re seen only as email pushers in my view. It’s very remote.
The problem is that we’ve all got software that we all use doesn’t seem to be able to drill down far enough to the person’s details thoroughly, making it harder to send our customers more targeted properties. And people’s minds change all the time, it’s important more than ever to speak to your customers.
And how do you see 2021 progressing?
Well, we are hanging over from last year, we’re still quite busy, but we are noticing fewer new instructions coming on the market.
The shortage of properties on the market is creating a lot of activity. We’re getting viewings of what we have available and I’ve got to say it’s been positive so far. That dynamic may change and that therefore makes it too early to say what’s going to happen.
Have you noticed a change in the tenant demographics of who’s moving into or out of your area?
No, I don’t think so. OK, a very unusual area. It is predominantly a Jewish area, and people stay within the confines of this local area because they’ve got synagogues and temples. Remember Jewish people don’t drive on Saturday. So they need to be in a very local area. So for me I haven’t noticed a major difference just based on the existing demographic of the area.
What advice would you give to agents that suffered this year?
Keep your costs down to make sure you can financially weather the storm.
And just don’t forget to provide a service, that is what is important. You give your clients value and good service and they will come back to you.
What is something that you are looking forward to in the new year?
Easy, more instructions. Always more instructions.