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Home Is Where The Heart Is

06.05.21

With a heartfelt desire to provide a more personal approach for their clients; Paul and Alex Clarke established Mr & Mrs Clarke the discerningly different estate agency. Abode2 caught up with the couple to find out more about their 'buying with the heart in mind' philosophy.

 

Where has your passion for property come from?

Alex and I met at university and after we graduated we moved to London and bought a flat in Islington. We realized that the most important aspect for us was to create a comfortable space where our friends and family would feel welcome.

The apartment needed a lot of work and we spent six months renovating it. We loved the entire process and we lived there for four years. It was a very special time in our lives and every Friday evening our friends would come over and every Sunday our families would visit and we’d have Sunday lunch.

We bought our next home in Sussex, with much the same idea – people would pile down at the weekend and we’d enjoy spending time in our home with our friends and family.

Then we decided to launch Mr and Mrs Clarke, and began thinking about having a family of our own, so we decided to move closer to Alex’s parents. Again, we undertook a huge renovation project that lasted about nine months. The result is a beautiful, cosy home that we enjoy spending time in as a family, and also with our friends and parents.

We’ve always loved interiors, design, and architecture but they’re not the driving force for us, it’s always about the people that inhabit the space.

We love areas to enjoy spending time in; so our kitchen has a really large, simple table that’s practical for hosting large groups. We bought the table for our flat in Islington and it’s come with us for the last 15 years. The kids’ have scratched it, the corners are chipped and it’s sun-bleached, but we’ve crammed twenty people around it for Christmas dinner, we’ve had serious discussions around it and I think it kind of embodies what a home is for us.

 

What are the key ingredients to helping a buyer find a place ‘to call home’?

There are four main points to consider. Firstly, we feel it’s important to encourage viewers to sit down and feel at home. Buying a house is a very emotional process and you’ve got to embrace that first feeling; so if you walk in to a house and you’re greeted by a wave of happiness, carpe diem. I think a lot of property decisions are based on numbers, price, and square footage, which are obviously important, but we believe the decision about where to call home is more soulful than that.

Secondly, we encourage buyers to slow down and absorb the surroundings. Although it may feel a bit strange in someone else’s house - we suggest that they relax, have a cup of tea and take a seat in the garden.

When you’re buying a space to live in it’s much more emotional and soulful than a property and that’s why the homes we advertise look and are a little different. It’s not just about the multi-million pound piles. Home may be a one bedroom apartment or a 10 bed manner house.

Our first question, and my third point, is usually, what are your priorities - For example, when we bought our current home, we wanted a large garden and a good size kitchen. You have to think carefully and compromise on the less important aspects. Finding absolute perfection in a home is impossible, so you have to look at what makes you happy and then make your decision. Our final point is to spend some time in the community in your chosen location. We’re currently finding that a lot of people are moving to somewhere they don’t know intimately. We suggest you go for a walk around, visit the local pub, talk to people and try and understand the community - you’re buying into a neighbourhood – not just four walls.

 

How do you go about marketing properties that ‘love being lived in’ – how do you get that emotional feeling across to potential buyers?

We always try to tell the story of the property and capture the lifestyle and imagery. When we’ve looked for homes ourselves, we’ve always been disappointed by the marketing so we wanted to improve this aspect.

We love looking through interior design books and magazines and we take inspiration from their styling when presenting a home online.

There’s nothing more disappointing than walking into a house that’s been advertised by an estate agent using a wide-angled lens to discover it’s a lot smaller than the photo made it look.

When we take a client to view a home, we show them a glimpse of the lifestyle being led; we open the French doors into the garden, light candles and put the fire on. We try and create an appropriate play list for each house and something that really resonates with the home owners and the potential buyers. We tend to put a ten-track play list together and which sets the tone. It’s about creating a scene and making it enjoyable.

 

What is the stepped process for a potential seller who wishes to market their home with you?

We’ll have an initial chat with a seller, so they’ll call us, we’ll listen to what they want and if there’s a synergy between us and they like our approach to advertising and believe you should showcase a home in a beautiful way then we want to work with them.

Our process is a bit longer, than many other estate agents’, and is about enjoyment, it’s for people who are emotionally invested in and love their homes.

We then work on the logistics of selling a home – we prepare the advertising, and then start welcoming people into the home to sell it finally we go through the legal process with solicitors.

I think traditionally estate agents have felt they need to get 100 people in to show that they’re being proactive, but price point, area and other factors may be completely wrong. The transactional sales process to me, just jars with the idea of selling a home. We want to find one buyer for that right house.

Are you a fan of the future of house hunting potentially going virtual? How will Mr and Mrs Clarke adapt to his more impersonal approach?

I think it’s got a really important place. We began with some live virtual viewings and our first client to work with us, in this virtual sphere, was a buyer in Hong Kong that wanted to see a house we were advertising in Warwickshire. He loved what he’d seen online, but he was unable to get to the UK for a couple of weeks, so we decided to do a virtual viewing the next day. I literally walked him around the house on my phone and he absolutely loved it, he moved his flight by a week, as he was eager to view and he ended up buying it. We decided to incorporate this way of working into our process and as covid hit, it naturally became a really big part of what we do.

I think a lot of estate agents do 3D viewings, but they lack any kind of soul, so we’ve set up virtually your home which is in a Zoom based format. Our client walks around the room as the camera person and I or one of our agents hosts the viewing and the buyer sits on their sofa and gets taken around the house; it’s all live and really good fun.

Some clients prefer not to do it, which is fine, and others love it; they get to tell the narrative, show where they’re working, the kids may pop in and it’s real.

If you’re living in London and a house in Yorkshire comes up, instead of travelling for six hours you can do the initial viewing from a distance. It doesn’t replace real life viewings and the tactile aspect but it’s a really useful tool for both our clients and buyers.

It also enables other family members to get involved, If your parents can’t travel for four hours or so – we’ll set up a virtual viewing.

 

What advice would you give a potential seller considering putting their home on the market in the current climate?

You’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to enjoy the process. So often you hear that selling a home is one of the most stressful things in life, but it shouldn’t be.

Be mindful and take things slowly and get things perfect. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to take the time try and remember, if it doesn’t sell in the first week, it doesn’t matter. Be clear about what you want and what you’re doing. If you’re buying another house; inform us and your buyer. We communicate our client’s expectations from the outset and if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. It there’s not a synergy, it causes anxiety and problems, so we encourage our sellers to communicate with us and then we’ll relay that to the buyer. The other point that we feel is important is to try and have everything set up beforehand so have a survey prepared before the house goes on the market – so any potential problems you can make clear to the buyer immediately, rather than much later down the line.

 

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