You've fast developed a reputation as the singing estate agent, even appearing in a profile piece in the Times - how did all this first come about?
We had a particular property which wasn’t selling as quickly as I wanted it to. The vendor was extremely lovely which made it harder to stomach. I sat back one evening and just had this mad idea - I'm going to sing about this house.
My partner and second director of Just Knock, Tony, just looked at me as if I was completely off my rocker, but soon agreed. Within 10 minutes, I had rewritten the lyrics to ABBAs ‘The Winner Takes It All’.
I have a small recording studio in my home, so I popped up and recorded the song. Well, Tony thought it was brilliant! Funny, tongue-in-cheek, but really did sound great, too.
So, I asked the vendor if she wouldn’t mind me doing a video tour of the house with the song and she happily agreed. Again, I have the software to put videos together, so we did a little recording and ‘Wing Road - The Musical’ was created.
From something which started as a little bit of fun, it quickly turned viral locally when it was shared across Facebook. 15,000 organic hits in just a few days, we were over the moon! It generated so much more interest in the property and gave the public something so different from your usual walkthrough videos.
Is your background in agency or performing? How did you first come to tread the boards of property?
I am actually a professional singer of 24 years (giving my age away here!). I have toured all over the world in theatres and open-air events. From France to Russia, South Korea to more recently Dubai, as well as all over the UK.
Around six years ago, I wanted a small part-time job to relieve the boredom. A part-time sales negotiator position came up in my hometown for a local independent agent and I got the job. However, I absolutely fell in love with every aspect of it! I had never had any job like it!
Seeing all these lovely houses, meeting all of these different people, the chase of the negotiation and the happiness of an acceptance, as well as many other things. Of course, there are ups and downs, but they’re nowhere near as high and low as the entertainment industry!
I stayed with this company for a few years before realising that I wanted to push myself further and own my own company. This was to take a while and our first thoughts were to start up in a few years’ time. The pandemic kick-started our idea as both our industries were heavily affected [partner Tony was working as an easyJet pilot) and shut down for over a year and a half.
Are there some attributes that cross over well between the two? Confidence, presence, etc?
Oh, absolutely! You need to be confident to stand on stage and you need to be confident in selling houses. Speaking to people you've never met, dealing with difficult situations (as a singer, we meet many an intoxicated audience member – they’re rarely rational!)
And I am certain most agents would agree that the stress of selling a house brings out the most irrational side of almost anyone. Both careers you need to be extremely organised - especially with time. As well as a friendly nature. People buy from people, after all.
How long does it typically take to put together one of your videos?
I will admit they’re not done quickly. You need to think of a song which would suit the property in question. It needs to be something people know, not offensive, and not too ‘wordy’. You need the song lyrics to be heard well so a fast, almost rap-type song wouldn't work too well.
Lyric writing is not too slow. Anything from 10 minutes to a few hours. The recording will take around an hour or so, depending on how many mistakes are made. I don't want it to be studio perfect - just at least in tune!
Mixing, another hour or so. The video takes quite a while and I often get asked how it’s done. I download the song onto my phone and then lip-sync to the song whilst we record the video. If you look closely, you may see the phone appear in some of the videos.
It's done in sections and then the arduous task of piecing it all together. This part takes HOURS! If I'm lucky, two or three - however, it’s more like five. But the end result just makes me so happy. The vendor’s reaction makes it all worthwhile!
Did you expect such a great reaction to the videos?
Not in the slightest! It was an idea, within a pandemic, to really just make a property stand out a little more. It was a fun way of marketing and I never expected it to even become a thing. So pleased it has, though.
Have they helped to grow your business and increase brand awareness?
Yes, I think they have in a way. It’s very difficult to make yourself known in a pandemic when you can’t go and physically meet people so when the videos were shared over and over our name got out there. It helped get more viewings and we even had clients come on specifically for the videos. As they say, no publicity is bad publicity.
Do you think digital is the future of agency? Can you explain a bit more about what Just Knock is and its operating model?
Digital is already the present of agency as well as any other businesses out there. Social media has become the norm and there are very few people out there who do not use it. Sadly, the high streets are dying off due to the technology we all now have at our fingertips.
People want to be engaged in and immersed in videos, photos and memes. We all need to follow and keep up with the trend. Those who don’t will sadly be left behind.
Just Knock Estate Agents are an independent sales and lettings agency based in Hockliffe, near Leighton Buzzard. Started in August last year by me and my partner Tony Bailey, we are based online and operate in Leighton Buzzard and surrounding villages as well as Luton and Dunstable.
We pride ourselves on quality not quantity, and all our vendors have become friends during their sale journey. We care about them and treat them as the individuals they are. We have recently teamed up with the fantastic Keller Williams, a global company with a wealth of networks to give our clients more exposure as well as guidance for us as agents.
We are extremely friendly and approachable. We absolutely love to help people and even offer a service to help source a home for people. We encourage buyers, sellers and even other agents to chat with us, meet with us and you never know where it can lead to. We are also in the process of another song, so please watch this space.
Great insight, Claire – thanks very much for sharing. You can see Claire in action in the video below, putting Tina Turner’s Simply the Best to good use in drumming up interest for a historic barn property in Bedfordshire. You can check out further musical ditties on Just Knock's channel here, including a walkthrough set to the music of Aladdin's A Whole New World.
AllAgents awards and sustainability tie-up
Last week, I attended the first ever in-person AllAgents awards in Leeds along with my ValPal colleague Anthony Jones and our guest, Agent Rainmaker’s Kate Gregory. The brainchild of Sally Lawson, Agent Rainmaker was established in 2016 with the purpose of tackling head-on challenges in the industry and, we're proud to annouce, recently became an affiliate member of The ValPal Network.
The event itself was an excellent one – with Kate and me, who had birthdays around that time, both being given a birthday cake (see below) – and was followed up a few days later by the announcement of a unique and ground-breaking partnership between AllAgents and the ESTAS, putting aside their rivalry to encourage agents to go green.
Sustainable Agent, a new members-owned eco-scheme for agents and property management companies, is open to those agents and management firms that voluntarily pledge to become a zero-carbon business and manager of carbon efficient or carbon neutral residential properties.
You can find out more about the sustainability initiative in this EAT story here.
And finally, while at the awards mentioned above, I heard some words of wisdom being spoken by a fellow guest, who said if everyone was taught sign language in schools or from birth, we could all speak to each other regardless of language - as these things would be universal. The power of silence and what's not said was conveyed rather wonderfully on Strictly last weekend, when a dance celebrating deafness was widely praised.
Certainly a forward-thinking way of looking at things and something for us all to consider. One for you all to ponder over this weekend!
That’s that from me…until next time.
*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.