In the 15 years plus that I have been marketing commercial property, the situation has changed. It used to be that I spent many an hour sat unsticking the back of photographs to stick to property particulars, formerly the mainstay of information for anybody interested in taking a property on.
These particulars were then posted to businesses in the area, backed up with a rather dull looking advert in the local press, giving the size and an address and perhaps a photograph that could be barely made out in black and white. There was no real need for trendy design, catchy strap lines or indeed a press release to go with it. It was simple but it worked.
Local agents served a local market and if you needed to know who was moving where you knocked on a door and asked the question. More often than not you would get an answer as it was in everybody’s interest to be friendly and who you knew was fundamental as to whether you had the edge on competition for a product or building that you wanted. Things have changed but the principle’s remained the same. Knocking on doors has, for many, been replaced with networking and social media. It’s just not the same.
Newspaper advertising has been replaced with rather faceless internet data-bases with property professionals jockeying to be first in the list if that makes a difference. Some agents still keep basic information (like the asking price or rent) to themselves in the hope that this will generate a phone call, which remains the most valuable thing of all. I’m not in the business of keeping my clients available property a secret.
One item that hasn’t change a great deal is the property board. They are an opportunity to express a degree of dominance in the local area. I often think they represent a failure to know who’s looking and a rather desperate roll of the dice! Some say it’s a necessity.
Our approach to boards is perhaps to our detriment as we believe, in the majority of cases, that once a job is complete the board is removed. A road without property boards to me represents contentedness, affluence and confidence. It’s a road or estate where companies have settled are doing good business and have made the right property decisions and have the right relationships with their landlords. Availability boards are however useful on estates where there are multiple units available so that interested parties wishing to aspire to be in a location such as this can register their interest with the property agency or management company dealing with that site. This is the way it should be.
Equally boards can be used to focus a purchasers or prospective tenants mind. In the times where the legal process can sometimes be painfully elongated the presence of a board on a site that is already under offer can often focus a purchaser’s mind as there is always an opportunity someone may come and steal a march on them by offering that little bit more money or are a better risk. In truth though this is very unlikely. For a vendor to “change horses” at a late stage in a legal process a great deal of risks must be mitigated which are difficult to do. But nonetheless a board can focus the mind and at the end of the day all both parties really want is to get the deal through the finish line.
The days of business owners driving around an area remain with us. Boards are helpful but often irritating if they outstay their welcome. I can’t see them disappearing from our streets anytime soon.
-Anthony Wiggins MRICS
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