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Written by rosalind renshaw

Like so many agents, Denise Barnes built up a profitable and highly successful local business, complete with her name above the door. She was, rightly, proud of her achievements – and also her 50-strong staff.

With retirement beckoning, she wanted to do the right thing by them, and since her exit strategy was to sell up, she was determined to be careful to choose the right buyers.

Enter a pair of purchasers making all the right noises. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer is: absolutely everything. The flirtatious buyers take her out to dinner and ‘buy’ her a car, the sale takes place and subsequent events unravel into an unstoppable nightmare.

It is not very often that EAT raves about a book – but this one really is a page-turning must-have for estate agents.

‘Seller Beware’ by Kent agent Denise Barnes should be mandatory reading for every agent thinking of selling their business. Or, indeed, thinking of setting one up in the first place. Nor is it just for agents: its messages apply to just about anyone in business.

However, ‘Seller Beware’ is not your usual boring business tome: it is a gripping, true-life story, brimming with human interest, of something that should have gone so right, and instead went so horribly wrong.

Did Denise choose the right agent to sell her business? Well, she did choose the first one she met.

Why was she fooled by the buyers? Even she clearly still scratches her head over that one.

What would, and could, she have done differently? Plenty, as it turns out.

Very few novels have hooked EAT as much as this piece of true-life reportage (don’t start reading it five minutes before lights out, because you won’t be able to put it down).

Everything is here – humour, tragedy, relationships, bad guys, good guys, and sheer human resilience. Denise’s mother dies, a number of Denise’s loyal, hard-working staff lose their jobs, her legal bills mount terrifyingly, she is banned from entering the offices, and some of the tactics adopted by her sellers as they try to avoid paying her (and succeed) take the breath away.  

The road to ruin is emphatically not a good journey.

The sale that should have made Denise a small fortune ends with her having to come back out of retirement to rescue the business out of the administration into which her buyers placed it.

She had, it turns out, no choice: legally, the rental agreements on virtually all the ‘shops’ remained her hefty and ongoing financial responsibility – and this, by now, was the middle of a recession. It was hardly the best time to start up again as an estate agent, and after three years of unremitting stress Denise found it hard to go back to the full-time work she thought she had quit.

Fortunately, her staff (or at least the ones who were left after the redundancies) proved complete heroes, loyally backing her and her new business partner. Today, Denise is in the process of being bought out again, but this time she has a trustworthy buyer in her business partner.

This well-written book (Denise’s post-retirement career is a full-time author) is heartfelt and well observed, and should serve as an awful warning to anyone thinking of selling up.

As her case shows so vividly, there must be a reason why LSL invented its exit-strategy wing, and why there are a few business transfer agents who specifically deal in estate agencies. Neither is mentioned in the book but clearly both would be options for sellers at least to look at – along with Denise’s many tips, delivered with the benefit of hindsight and intended to help others avert a similar disaster.  

Do read it. It’s terrific. Apart from anything else, EAT has negotiated a special deal for our readers.

You will be able to buy it for £9.99 – cheaper than any other retailer, including Amazon.

Call 020 7091 1264 and ask for Katy, or got to www.politicos.co.uk/promotions and enter EATODAY to buy it at this discount.

My real-life nightmare: an estate agent tells her story


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    it's cheaper on amazon when you inc p&p

    • 06 April 2013 14:52 PM
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    I admire Denise Barnes and I will buy the book. I think one lesson to learn, whatever business you have, is to restructure the lease completely on "your way out". Leases should be surrendered to the landlord and new ones granted to the new "owners" of the business. Easier said than done I know, but if you start off with a leases with break clauses, it is much easier to achieve. Although all you agents out there are without question property experts, do seek advice from a commercial property expert and a good lawyer. Right. That's my bit said for today.

    • 05 April 2013 09:16 AM
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    Sounds a great read, there are some Sharks and Sticklebacks in our profession, Im glad this Lady can now move on. Good Luck in the future Denise

    • 05 April 2013 07:36 AM
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