The sky is cloudless; the dragon’s breath fog has cleared and the town is bathed in sunshine.
The local coffee bar is bustling – baristas are doing their thing with steam,
locals are shrugging off their coats in readiness to catch up with friends over coffee
and there’s a soothing hum of conversation about the place.
I’m here to chat to Heather Cook, owner of Parrys Abergavenny and more recently the Parrys branch in Monmouth. For Heather and her business partner, Vivienne Reece, March is an important month of the year, and this year for several reasons. First it marks the fifth year since they expanded and moved into their beautiful offices and sales suite in Nevill Street, Abergavenny, and is also the second anniversary of their purchase of Parrys in Monmouth. March 8th also happens to be International Women’s Day, so what better way to recognise and celebrate female achievement than to shine a spotlight on these two leading female entrepreneurs in the local Estate Agent industry.
“You know, this business is actually all about people,” says Heather, sipping her cappuccino. She’s been in the Estate Agency business since the eighties and has more accreditations than you can shake a stick at, (most recently she and Vivienne undertook training to qualify as Associates of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). Even so I narrow my eyes. People? Not property? I ask her to expand.
‘There’s nothing quite like taking somebody to see a house and matching them with the right property. It’s that feeling of being able to help somebody achieve their dream and I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from that, no matter whether that’s in a house worth £50,000 or £500,000.’
In an era when so many of us research and shortlist houses online, Heather points out that the human aspect of getting to know clients and having that initial conversation to understand their needs is one of the most important parts of her job.
“My role is to encourage people to see a variety of properties during their search so that they can identify, through viewings, what their needs actually are in reality.”
According to Heather many people discount properties out of hand from what they see online. “It’s tough to persuade somebody to go against their instinct and view something that they’ve already taken off their shortlist, but I’ve sold properties to people that they’d previously dismissed and said they absolutely didn’t want to view. You’d be surprised. I always encourage people who are looking for a home to come and chat to us, even if they’re doing their own research online as well.”
It’s clear as I’m chatting to Heather, that this industry and everything that goes with it is her passion, despite falling into it rather than consciously choosing it as a career path, and I wonder what it must be like, as a female being at the cutting edge of an industry that has traditionally been dominated by males.
“Yes, it can be tough,” answers Heather quite matter-of-factly, when I ask her about sexism. “It’s not so prevalent these days, but there have been times, even quite recently, when I’ve showed up at a property and the owners have expected a man instead of me. But nowadays there are more and more female estate agents in senior roles, which can only be a good thing.”
Clearly a lot goes on in the everyday day in the life of running a successful and bustling Estate Agents such as Parrys. Heather explains that there’s always a lot to respond to such as ever changing legislation, GDPR compliance, moving with the market and keeping up with technology to name just a few of the challenges, so she is thankful that she and Vivienne have one another.
“We’ve worked together since 2006 and became business partners in 2013, we make a great team,” says Heather. “I also think the fact that we both live locally and are involved in our community gives us an edge.”
In fact, Parrys has regularly sponsored events such as the Abergavenny Food Festival as well as supporting local schools, sports clubs and taking part in larger events to support homeless charities and the Fine & Country Foundation. Heather, Vivienne and the team have taken part in a sleepout supporting the Cardiff based homeless charity, Llamau, one of our team from Monmouth office, Katie Garn, took part in a trek to Nepal last summer with the Fine & Country Foundation, rebuilding houses devasted in the earthquake. We have not only taken part in the annual Monmouth Raft Race the past 2 years, on our first attempt we came first in the Ladies and Small Business categories – this really brought out our competitive spirit! …so people and community are evidently important to Heather and her experienced team.
At this point in our conversation, as we’re reaching the bottom of our coffee cups, I’m keen to get a bit of inside information about the selling of homes. Is it true, for instance, that people make a decision about buying a home within the first ten seconds? Heather’s blue eyes are alight with humour.
“Yes! It’s well known that this industry is driven by emotion, but I’m always amazed that somebody will spend more time choosing a dress for £50 than they would choosing a home worth £500,000.”
So how can a seller possibly compete with this initial yes/no gut response on first entering a home, I wonder. What can they do to grab a buyer’s attention?
“De-clutter, obviously,” says Heather. “But more than that. People buying homes want a space with lots of light, and you can achieve that by removing any big, dark pieces of furniture. If you’ve got a big piece of furniture in your hallway, move it. It will make your home feel small if your viewers have to negotiate their way around it.”
Heather is a mine of information and I could go on picking her brain all day, but there’s business to be done and I can’t keep her holed up in this café for hours. As we’re shrugging our coats back on and clearing the table of smartphones, papers and general business clutter, I want to know one more thing; if she could choose a perfect home, what would that be?
Heather pauses, thinks for a moment, sits back and smiles. “Somewhere with a big dressing room and a separate area for shoes,” she says, “And outside, a lake and a big summer house where I can do my pilates and have my own space to just be me.”
Parrys Estate Agents is located at 21 Nevill Street, Abergavenny and, 2 Agincourt Square, Monmouth. Call them or drop in to chat to them about all your property needs from buying to selling to lettings and rentals. You will always be welcome.
Monmouth Office: 01600 713030
Abergavenny Office: 01873 858990
Thanks to Focus Magazines, Abergavenny.