Just one of our fab Catfest prizes!

June 19, 2016


Loki – 60ft Narrow Boat complete with Captain for the Day – your personal Cruise on the Historic Grand Union Canal


  • Full day on board starting 10am for up to 4 people sailing the Grand Union Canal as passengers on NB Loki
  • Spacious 60ft Narrow boat with Lounge, Kitchen, Bathroom & Bedroom. Large cruiser stern for those wanting to try their hand at steering and comfortable front section to just sit and watch the wildlife along the canal.
  • Join the cruise at Bugbrooke – Wharf Inn. Cruise to Stoke Bruene via the historic 1-mile-long Blisworth Tunnel.
  • While you explore the Narrow Boat Museum and Locks in Stoke Bruene and perhaps a pre-lunch drink at one of 2 pubs by the Lock, your captain will be preparing a hot lunch to eat on board – served and washed up afterwards by the Captain.
  • After Lunch return again via the Blisworth Tunnel to the Wharf Inn at Bugbroke in time to catch the 6 o’clock news on Radio 4 as you drive home.
  • All-inclusive cruise but bring your own wine, spirits or beer
  • The prize must be taken before the 31st of October 2016

Special Announcement!

April 11, 2016

Special announcement!

After months of planning, deliberation and research, Cat and I can finally confirm the details of Catfest 16. The date (as many of you know) is Sunday 28th August, start time 2pm. The event will run onto midnight and probably beyond.

It will be held in our garden as last year in a festival setting.

Seven acts are confirmed and include rising star Daisy Bell, the fantastic Danni Nicholls (recently seen at Salford Village Hall, on Vintage TV and supporting Toyah in London) and the brilliant Balsamo Deighton (comprising two extraordinary singer/songwriters in Steve Balsamo, arguably the best ever Jesus in the West End’s Jesus Christ Superstar, and Rosalie Deighton, whose wistful vocals are simply beautiful).

Add into the mix Catfest 15’s returning star turns Straw Bear and Fred’s House plus a couple of other great bands – The Alice Band and Simply Wed – and you know you’re in for a musical treat from start to finish.

There will be a wonderful selection of festival food including hot choices, cheese, ice lollies and much more. There will be beers, wines, Prosecco, coffee, tea and soft drinks. There will be music. There will be merriment. There will be magical memories made. ALL OF THE ABOVE IS INCLUDED IN THE ADMISSION PRICE!!!

You’ll need a bit of cash on the day as there will be opportunities to have a go at some fundraising games and activities to win prizes.

Thanks to our kind sponsors, Rightmove, Beasley & Partners Estate Agents, Fine & Country Estate Agents, Thomas Mae Land & New Homes Consultants, Reapit, Property Industry Eye, Knightsbridge Estate Agents, Auto Imaging, Negotiator Magazine, Moneypenny, Melior Clinics and Stephen Brown – their generous financial support has meant that we can keep ticket prices to a reasonable level and crucially that the maximum amount of money can be raised for Macmillan Cancer Support, which is where every single penny of profit will go. We aim to raise a five figure sum!

So, to be on the guest list for this amazing event, you simply need to email me at julianodell@live.co.uk or text me on 07718 634235 and pledge a minimum donation of £50 per person (kids under 5 go free, 5-10 year olds £10, 11-17 year olds £25).

We are limited on numbers so do get in touch asap and feel free to invite your friends to do the same.

Marvellous x

Something for your diary…

March 28, 2016

I am delighted to say that my wife Cat and I can confirm that we are going ahead with Catfest 2016. Our first version last year raised £3000 for Macmillan Cancer Support. This year we are aiming for bigger and better things!

More artists, more attractions, more guests and critically more money for charity! The date is Bank Holiday Sunday 28th August with the fun starting at 2pm and running through until midnight and beyond. Great food, copious drink, amazing music and indescribable merriment are guaranteed.

I am thrilled to announce we have received sponsorship from some amazing folk including Rightmove, Beasley & Partners Estate Agents, Kevin Ellis of Thomas Mae Property and Development Consultants, Property Industry Eye, Negotiator magazine, Moneypenny, Melior Clinics with the promise of more to come.

We are delighted to confirm that although the line-up has yet to be completed, we have some phenomenal musical talent on show – including the awesome Balsamo Deighton, rising star Daisy Bell and the magnificent highlights of Catfest 2015 Straw Bear and Fred’s House.

Details of ticket availability (entry is by donation to Macmillan) will be released imminently. Last year’s attendees will be first to be invited but we will be extending those invitations to a wider circle thereafter. Please do get in touch by Facebook message or email julianodell@live.co.uk if you are interested (no obligation). Really hope you can make it an event to remember!

A Sunday morning story…

March 20, 2016

Once upon a time…

Here is a property related tale but be warned, it is more a horror story than a fairy story…

My wife and I are seeking an investment purchase. A potential property appeared on a portal on Friday.

We phoned at 9.15am on Saturday to arrange to view on Sunday afternoon. “Gareth” answered the phone. We told him that we wanted to view. He didn’t thank us for the call, asked no questions whatsoever about our motivation, ability, requirements etc etc – didn’t “piggy back” other potential properties. He seemed keen to get us off the phone. He told us he would try and get us a viewing on the Sunday afternoon. We enquired whether it was occupied and he said it was “chain free” – this is jargon (which should be avoided) and didn’t answer the question anyway. He said the Sunday viewing would depend on whether “the owner was ok with it” and whether the agent “had a slot available” which I assume meant someone from the agency would show us round. Gareth checked that the number of the phone we had called in on was the best number for them to reach us on and we confirmed it was. He took no other contact details and had a surname with no initials. We then asked him if he’d seen the property. He said he hadn’t. We asked a few questions about the garden and interior condition etc – he could not answer any of them. I quickly realised that we were probably talking to a call centre and that the actual estate agency office wasn’t open at 9.15am on a Saturday. Gareth was in reality a glorified message taker. But at least we had spoken to a human being who would set the wheels in motion for the viewing to be arranged.

4 hours later, we had heard nothing so phoned the agent again.

A different male answered the phone and initially knew nothing of what we were asking about re a viewing. We explained we had spoken to somebody at 9.15am. He responded by saying “We aren’t open at that time”. We pointed out that we had spoken to someone called Gareth, who had advised us that he would try and make us a viewing for the Sunday. The new male retorted by saying Gareth had misinformed us and that they “don’t do viewings on a Sunday”. There was no further explanation and no apology. His tone was dismissive and irritated. He then did actually find a note about our viewing request but which had no detail of what time or day we wanted to go. We asked whether he was actually going to have called us at some point. He didn’t answer. We told him we weren’t pleased and observed that the vendor of the property in question would probably not have been too impressed. We then asked whether he was the manager – he said he wasn’t. We asked his name – he said “Fred” (we are yet to establish whether this is his real name).

We are viewing two other properties today – sadly not the third. We live 60 miles away and I work every day in the week and often Saturday so Sundays are the only realistic option for viewings.

I train estate agents around the country and help them reach exceptional levels of service and behaviour. We work on this on the premise that there are plenty of estate agents for the public to choose from including “internet only” practitioners and many “high street” competitors and it is crucial to raise standards above those of your competitors to achieve great results.

The agent in question is a well known “high street” agent but anyone sharing my type of experience would question what they bring to the customer experience over and above even a very basic online agent where I could have made a viewing myself direct with the client and who could have answered my questions more capably.

In this case, I recognise I am simply an investment buyer and perhaps as such I am one of a number whom this agent doesn’t need to treat well. We are no doubt ten a penny right now. But of course unbeknownst to them, I may have other investment properties that need managing, and/or a property to sell locally. At the very least, I am a potential recommender and, assuming I buy an investment property in their patch, I am a future local landlord and vendor. I could give this agent quite a bit of business in the future. But I won’t be doing that.

PS: On a final note, I sit as a judge on industry awards panels every year – if you recognise your agency from this story, please don’t waste your time putting in a submission. Your chances of winning aren’t huge.

Julian O’Dell
March 2016

The sweet smell of success

February 1, 2015

The Sweet Smell of Success…the rewards for qualifying your prospects in an exceptional manner are numerous, as this story shows…
“You are a very special person”, she said as she handed the younger lady a huge bouquet.
The recipient of this floral tribute was an estate agent who had just agreed a sale on a property, which had been on the books of a competitor for 12 weeks without success. Her agency had found a buyer within two days.
And the giver of the flowers? No, not the vendor, but in fact the person who had just agreed to buy the property in question! Having said that, the owner came in after exchange of contracts with a similar bouquet.
Why then did the purchaser deem it appropriate to reward the agent and to bestow her with such praise? The answer is simply that the agent is one of the few who actually qualifies her applicants properly. Let me explain…
The lady applicant in this case had visited the various agents in the town to request to be registered on their mailing lists. Old school maybe, but it was this particular customer’s preferred approach. Among her requirements she explained that a garage was essential, and being a straight-talking individual, she pointed out in no uncertain terms that she did not want her time wasted by agents offering her properties without such a facility.
One negotiator dug deeper and found that the key reason for the garage was that the applicant owned a convertible BMW, which she wished to park safely where it could not get damaged.
She was a divorcee who had sold and completed and was staying with family and was ready, willing and able to move quickly as a cash buyer.
The lady viewed several properties, which unfortunately proved unsuitable, but she remained mustard-keen to buy.
A few days later, the agent in question contacted the applicant to discuss a potential property. The agent described the relevant benefits of the house in question, which broadly met the lady’s needs, but mentioned that the one thing lacking was a garage.
At this point, the applicant sharply retorted that she couldn’t believe an agent had contradicted her instructions on this issue. Once she had finished her heated outburst, the agent calmly enquired of her as to whether the reason a garage was so critical was solely due to storing the car securely. The answer was affirmative.
The agent then went on to explain that the property in question was on a small private development accessed only by the residents via electric security gates, and that parking the car on the property’s driveway would be no less safe than housing it in a garage.
Overall, the nature of the development would suit a single woman perfectly, and the property in question was ideal in every other way. The applicant sounded unconvinced and grumbled again about having her wishes ignored. This call took place at 5.15pm on a Tuesday.
At 9.05am the following day, the agent’s telephone rang. It was the now somewhat humbler applicant who conceded that she had driven past the development the previous evening and had been impressed. She would be “quite interested in viewing”. The appointment was made for 3pm the same day, and the lady made an asking price offer at 3.45pm. The deal was done at 4pm, less than 24 hours after the agent had brought the supposedly unsuitable property to the applicant’s attention. The flowers and accompanying compliment (and unspoken apology) arrived the following morning.
The sale was doubly sweet from the agent’s perspective as the applicant had been on the databases of all her competitors, including the one who had originally been instructed to sell the property. Needless to say, the house had not been offered to the ultimate purchaser by that agent, presumably because it was deemed unsuitable due to the lack of garage.
The moral here is that thorough qualification makes selling easier.
When a house hunter tells an agent what they are looking for, it is critical to establish what are the real needs as opposed to just their wish list.
Furthermore, finding out the reasons why the applicant places importance on their requested features will reveal whether they may compromise on certain items. Be nosey!
An applicant asking for three bedrooms must be asked whether two might be considered if every other aspect of the property were right. Similarly, should a potential buyer say they are looking to pay up to £200,000, it is crucial to test the true maximum. “If I found you the absolutely perfect property, what would be the very most you would be prepared to pay?” is a question that should be posed to all applicants.
Sadly, our mystery shopper exercises prove that very few agents adopt this approach to qualification.
Incidentally, I have to concur with the customer’s view that the lady estate agent in the example is “a very special person”.
But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? After all……she is my wife!

The first rule of estate agency…

June 17, 2014

Repost but still highly relevant 9 months on…

Agencytrainer's Blog

Back in 1983 when I first started in the estate agency industry as a keen but raw recruit, I was lucky enough to be trained by a gentleman called Anthony Ekins, whose influence on my career has been greater than that of any other individual. Such was the charisma and inspiration of the man, that despite having three simultaneous job offers from agents at the time, it was only him I wanted to work for.

Amongst other things during his training and mentoring, he imparted the first rule of estate agency, which is as valid today as it has ever been…”If you have the best stock of well-priced properties, the buyers and tenants will find you.”

The subject matter that my existing and new client firms are requesting us to cover on our forthcoming training sessions serves as a clear barometer as to the typical challenges that the market is…

View original post 692 more words

Are Lettings and Sales businesses really that different?

April 4, 2014

The short answer is “No”.

This may come as a slight surprise to some practitioners, as there appears to be a longstanding perception on the part of some within their number who insist that sales and lettings are entirely different businesses. Well of course they are, assuming lettings does not involve generating valuation enquiries, winning quality instructions at the right fee, attracting interest in those properties, accurately qualifying prospective applicants, conducting effective viewings, successful negotiation techniques and so forth….hang on…so perhaps they are not so different after all?

Obviously the ongoing responsibilities and client contact where properties are managed do contrast to the “one hit” sale approach, but the “front end” or “sales” element of lettings demands the same disciplines, skills and focus. Too many lettings/property management agents have been reliant on technical knowledge of the legal and administration side of the business, but have sorely lacked a cutting sales edge. With so many new practitioners competing within the lettings/property management marketplace, exceptional sales skills within the process may make the difference between success and failure.

Huge numbers of lettings agents, representing a large majority of those I have spoken to in recent months, have been bemoaning the lack of available stock. We have worked with a number of our client firms to rectify this unsustainable situation. Some have been previously too reliant upon the “churn” of existing stock and maintaining activity levels through relets rather than actually growing the business by way of securing managed deals with new landlords.

Building a database of local landlords is crucial if there is an objective to grow the business. Every landlord dealt with by the company, past and present, whether they did business with your firm or not, should be on that database. Canvassing locally through effective leaflets and targeted letters has proven a useful method for some agents. Research on the internet can help access useful information as to who owns rented property in the area. Arranging, advertising and hosting an investment buyers/landlords information evening is a great way to get your message across to a captive audience. If the lettings agent has an associated sales operation, the list of local landlords can be expanded by accessing the records of any investment buyers who have registered looking to buy over previous years. Even if these customers did not buy from your agency, the chances are that they bought elsewhere and therefore may well still be a current landlord.

A few exceptional lettings agents ensure that all new tenants registering as seeking rental property are asked about their existing accommodation. The tenant often gives the agent the details of their existing landlord, who is instantly added to the database. Some agents incentivise the tenant insofar as if the landlord goes on to become a client, the tenant is rewarded for the provision of the lead.

Populating a landlord database is time-consuming, but will reap rewards once it is in place. Monthly email or snail mail communication should be carried out to update those landlords on market activity and data, changes in legislation, new aspects of your service and, in short, to ensure that those landlords perceive your firm as the most active and knowledgeable in the area.

I initiated a “Top Ten Investment Purchases” feature in our estate agency’s newsletter some years ago. It lists the best ten properties for sale based on rentability and crucially gross annual yield percentage. All this time later, the feature remains the most read element of our monthly newsletter, and prompts contact from interested parties who are current or potential landlord investors. It is a sure-fire winner and one I would strongly recommend!

Many lettings agencies focus on “doing deals” and quick income rather than building their business and protecting their future through increasing the number of managed properties. Some sales agents who jumped on the lettings bandwagon in the midst of the last sales downturn rapidly realised that it was not as easy as they thought; some swiftly leaping back off the bandwagon when sales appeared to pick up again.

Some of those still involved have shied away from management as it is a responsibility deemed to be too much hassle or simply an area that is beyond their sphere of knowledge and experience.

“Let only” deals are all well and good, providing a bit of quick income. In truth, however, the regular income gained from an extensive portfolio of managed properties ought to be regarded as the bedrock of a lettings agent’s operation.

Ultimately, a steadily growing reliable income stream from managed properties provides the stability and profitability that safeguard a business over the longer term. This is an objective that takes time to achieve although the adoption of “best practice” principles will accelerate the process.

One key element to success is to ensure your management service stands out and offers genuine differences from that offered by your competition.

This could include greater frequency and quality of routine inspections, perhaps to include a detailed follow up report with photographic evidence of ongoing condition. Offering online access for landlords to keep up to date with progress on the letting or management of their property has been very well received by clients of firms who have set up such a facility. The assignment of a personal property management specialist to oversee all aspects relating to their property, a robust rent guarantee scheme (with minimal excess and small print!), an organised accounting process that pays the landlord swiftly and accurately, a smooth checkout process that minimises void period, and diligent reliable approved contractors will all prove to be instruction winners.

The other massive differentiator between reasonable and exceptional lettings agents that has been evident on my recent training and consultancy travels, has been the quality of the property valuers/listers themselves.

Exceptional companies ensure that their firm’s representative is sufficiently experienced, knowledgeable and skilled in securing the landlord’s instruction in the face of whatever competition they are up against. We have worked with a vast number of listers and trained them in the disciplines of fulfilling the role of an exceptional lettings instruction specialist.

These individuals are trained to talk a landlord’s language in terms of yields, capital growth, funding, returns and more, so potential experienced clients feel comfortable and confident in giving their business to someone on their wavelength. Equally, the lister can hold the hand of an inexperienced landlord and reassure the client that the potential risks and aggravation of letting a property will be alleviated by instructing the firm in question.

Alongside this flexibility, these valuers are adept at understanding and promoting their company’s USPs and selling the benefits of a managed service over that of let only, thereby not only winning the lion’s share of available new instructions, but winning them on the right terms and fees. Anything short of an exceptional approach in this key part of the process will mean business is lost to the competition, representing an increase in their chances of long term survival and success, at the potential expense of your own.

Julian O’Dell

TM training & development


March 24, 2014

Just thought I would share a little story which reminds me of the great quote from Will Rogers: “If businesses spent the same amount of money on improving their services as they do on advertising then they wouldn’t have to advertise them.”

Scene: A hotel in Leeds. Julian O’Dell, managing director of TM training & development arrives after a long drive to run a training session for a group of 30 delegates. He arrives an hour before start time to get the room set up. On entering Reception, he sees a board on the wall informing him that the TM training & development session is being held in Meeting Room 7. Armed with this information, he approaches the Reception Desk…

Julian: “Hello. My name is Julian O’Dell from TM training & development. I’m running a course today. Please could I have the key for meeting room 7?”

Receptionist sighs. Shuffles some paperwork. Disappears through a door behind reception. Returns with plastic key card – inserts it into machine, presses buttons and then hands it to Julian. All this without saying a word.

Julian: “Thank you.”

Julian then walks to meeting room 7. A two minute walk carrying various files and equipment. The key doesn’t work.

Julian walks back to reception. The same two minute walk carrying the same equipment.

Julian: “Excuse me, but this key isn’t working…”

Receptionist: “It should work.”

Julian: “I’m afraid it doesn’t.”

She printed and handed over another key without any further comment.

Julian then walks to meeting room 7. Again. Another two minute walk carrying the same various files and equipment. The key doesn’t work. Again.

Julian walks back to reception. Again. The same two minute walk carrying the same equipment.

Julian: “Still not working I’m afraid.”

Receptionist (with a sigh and a frown): “I could give you another one.”

Julian: “A sorry would be nice…”

Receptionist: “It isn’t my fault it’s not working.”

Julian: “Well I’m the customer, and it certainly isn’t mine…”


…of both the exchange between customer and receptionist, as well as the end of any chance of TM training & development dealing with that hotel again.




March 15, 2014

After finding out on March 7th that my wife was ill again, today was a huge day for our family as we met with her oncologist to review all the test and scan results.

I am pleased to say the news about the return of my wife’s cancer was as positive as we could have hoped.

The results of her CT scan on Tuesday revealed that the cancer is only in the base of her spine and has not spread elsewhere. It is being combated by way of a combination of radiotherapy, steroids, specific diet and a cocktail of drugs with unpronounceable names.

In short, my beautiful wife has cancer again. It is not curable but it will be managed by expertise on the part of some amazing professionals alongside the love and support of our awesome family and friends.

Thank you again to all of you who have sent kind messages of support via Twitter, Facebook, text messages and telephone calls/voicemails. Sorry that I haven’t had the time to come back to you all individually but your words and sentiments have meant so much to us and even managed to raise a smile during one of the longest and most difficult weeks of our lives. Please keep rooting for us – it is a long hard road ahead.

On a final note, if you find someone you fall in love with and who completes you as I was lucky enough to do in 1986, make the most of every day together, never take them for granted and treasure everything they say and do. You never know when the opportunities to do so might be snatched away from you.


Sad news

March 11, 2014

I’m hesitant about using social media for such a horrible reason but it is a quick way of updating you all on the situation my family and I find ourselves in. I’m beyond sad to inform you that my beautiful wife has been diagnosed with a recurrence of the bastard that is cancer. We will find out the extent of the battle over the next few days. If you are someone who prays, please pray for her. If you don’t pray, please think positive thoughts for her. Our close friends and family have been made aware and are already proving to be a formidable support network, but to have as many people rooting for us as possible would be fantastic. Thank you x