Is that it?

We have finally bought a flat, after years of renting right in the heart of the village (in a top secret location). It’s still just about in Blackheath.

Having been surrounded by a sector of retail that I’d never had to go anywhere near until the last few months – visiting the ever expanding Estate Agents of Blackheath was a strange sensation. So here’s a completely non-scientific survey:

Winkworth – Helpful, good for renting, but didn’t quite manage to find the place we were looking for. They found us our first rented flat in Blackheath, and we were very happy with it.

Felicity J Lord: Didn’t seem that interested in helping two completely helpless newbies in starting their way out on the journey. Felt like we couldn’t afford anything in there, but were probably just daunted by the process of buying a flat.

Kinleigh Folkard and Howard (KFH): Worked very hard to find us a place, including one that I’m totally convinced was actually haunted. Felt incredibly bad when we ended up buying a place with someone else, as they had showed us more properties than anyone else. I think they thought we were freaks. They may have had a point.

Foxtons: Ha! We’d just looked at a flat in Ryculff Square (near the PoW pub), offered by KFH. Then we looked at one next door, being sold by Foxtons. The Foxtons one was £20,000 more. It had a freshly painted front door, and some iron railings in front. Everything else was comparable. We didn’t go back.

Comber & Co: Rented us our second dodgy flat, promised a load of work that was never done. Implied that they would be more involved with the management of the property, then were uncontactable as soon as the contract was signed. As a result, we couldn’t bring ourselves to even look into their shop when trying to purchase a place.

Humphreys Skitt: Showed us one place that we totally fell in love with, but then started a bidding war between buyers, pushing it well over the asking price, and over what we felt it was worth. Left a bad taste, so we avoided after that.

John Payne: Well, we purchased our flat from them. Really not convinced that they added any value to the process. The estate agent got my name wrong twice. And slammed the phone down on me when we had a disagreement. Buying a mobile phone for £15 per month would require better behaviour… And yet, they won our business.

Which leads me to this great post about Makers not Takers:

If you’re making money from other people’s ideas, without creating anything, you’re accruing a debt. You’re a sinkhole in the system, into which value flows without any commensurate output. That’s not entrepreneurship, and if you even think it’s a business, then I have a queasy feeling about you. I imagine that your handshake is probably slippery.

Clearly this quote has nothing to do with Blackheath, but when you look at the estate agents encroaching on every part of the village, and then look at the real “Makers” of the village – Black Vanilla, Hand Made Foods, The Bookshop on the Heath, Buenos Aires Cafe, etc., I think you get the point. Be a maker, not a taker.


Filed under blackheath

29 responses to “Is that it?

  1. Andrew

    Agree with the overall sentiment but found John Payne to be one of the most helpful in the process of buying our first house.

  2. digitalgoldfish

    We found KFH went above and beyond when we were looking for a mortgage with them, and were also really helpful showing us flats. Ended up buying with Comber and Co, and they cost us £5k because they didn’t get their act together – Was really annoyed!

  3. Dear Blackheath Bugle, firstly may I congratulate you on being a homeowner and hope you enjoy your new home.

    I wanted to respond to this post regarding ‘the dreaded estate agency industry’ but before I do I would like to tell who I am and how I became one!! By trade I am a wealth manager and nearly three years ago an opportunity arose whereby I take over the Managing Director role of an estate agent……Conran Estates. To be fair I took over an estate agent which had no direction and just did what many others did with no originality, no formal training and horrifically dated marketing…….. ouch!

    So what are we doing differently which separates us from the rest? There are so many things which I could bore you with but can I mention one which benefits our local area (I will happily discuss everything else if you give me the nod)!!!

    I live in Blackheath and have three offices in Greenwich and I feel very strongly about buying local products and services and supporting the local businesses. So, I set up a, non-commercial, email newsletter which provides true value to all our 11,800 readers (past clients and contacts mostly local residents). I do not bang on about Conran Estates rathermore we write interesting articles about the property market, mortgage market, money saving tips, local area news, Charity and Business discounts and events. I personally went into every business in Blackheath and Greenwich and got email addresses so that I could offer their services to our 11,800 readers (no charge). Many businesses have taken us up on the free offer and they have written articles and gained value. From this exercise I have realised what great businesses and business owners we have in our area. For example the charity work Karin at Belle is doing, the amazing knowledge and passion for wine which Christina of Davy’s has etc etc. I would love a Blackheath trader to come forward with their story?

    Next newsletter I am setting up a ‘trust a trader’ section of this newsletter which people can use our trusted tradesmen and women in the area!!

    We are very forward thinking and we have to be because, as you stated, we have no physical product to sell so we may as well offer a service and do it really, really well!!

    Keep up the good work and I love reading your posts and experiences. I have a few ideas if you are keen to chat?

    Warmest regards

    p.s. if anyone wants to sign up and get value from our newsletter you can do this online at and simply click the ‘newsletter sign up’ button at the top.

  4. Steve

    The trouble is that these estate agents don’t just sell and rent bits of the village: some of them OWN parts of it too, I read somewhere. Anyone have further info?

  5. Jennifer Williams

    Really perceptive comments about estate agent, which will help would be renters/buyers. We always thought you were living in the new flats overlooking the ex- library yard.

  6. TG

    Have any of you had any experience renting through John Payne? Am about to put my house up for rent and trying to work out who to use…

  7. Anna

    Congratulations on your flat purchase. Glad to hear it’s still in Blackheath, so you can carry on bugling!

    My boyfriend and I bought our first flat through Winkworth last year – we were a bit suspicious at first (just a general suspicion of estate agents), but they turned out to be really helpful and knowledgeable, and everything went through fine. Before buying, we were renting through John Payne – I can really recommend them too – as with any letting agents, we did sometimes have to keep on at them to get things done/fixed/changed, but they always did everything in the end – much better than any I’ve ever rented through before. Sounds like we got pretty lucky in Blackheath, going by your experiences above!

    • Anna

      Oops, when I said we rented through John Payne, I actually meant Oliver Field. Can’t comment on John Payne therefore, but can highly recommend Oliver Field for lettings!

  8. Gill

    I found John Payne similarly rude and had to force my other half to speak to them as I couldn’t bear it.

  9. Adam Jones

    As Marketing Manager at John Payne, I’m sorry to hear you had some negative experiences with us. We’re all big fans of The Bugle here, and to read this morning the damming opinion of estate agents in general as ‘takers’ rather than ‘makers’ was disappointing.

    My experience (biased as it may be) working alongside the men and women who work in sales is that they work extremely hard in a very hectic environment.

    That you were on the receiving end of a moment of frustration, I can only apologise and say that is very much the exception rather than the rule. We’re human and we occasionally make mistakes (such as getting your name wrong), but to say that estate agents don’t create anything of value is a little unfair.

    Value is in the eye of the beholder. We (I’m referring to all estate agents now) create value for the person selling their house. Buying or selling a house can be a frustrating experience, and as an industry we often get a bad press, but what many people forget is that we’re employed by our vendors to get them the best price possible for their home, and make the whole experience as smooth as possible for them. At the same time, we’re matching applicants to homes, and progressing sales. As you can imagine, it’s a real juggling act involving many hours of research and resolving problems when they occur, whilst simultaneously avoiding wasting applicants time showing them properties they are unlikely to be interested in.

    More specifically, as a company, we also create value in other ways.

    We recently worked with each of the local societies representing Blackheath, Greenwich, Westcombe Park and Lee to create an impartial guide giving a flavour of the local areas. That may not be valuable to you specifically, but others have found it very useful indeed, and it gives some free promotion to those local societies.

    We’re very mindful of the local community, advertising with many local groups, including Blackheath Rugby Club, Royal Blackheath Golf Club, Blackheath Bowls Club, The Westcombe Society & Blackheath Concert Halls to name a few.

    It’s also an in-house policy to support local businesses where possible, so we buy our stationery through nearby suppliers even though it’s cheaper elsewhere, and work local printing firms, even though they aren’t as cheap as the ones over in Wapping.

    We’ve always offered free advice to potential buyers or sellers (or even just someone with a passing interest), and free appraisals of properties. These things are inherently valuable to those receiving them.

    Sure, estate agents don’t make sausage rolls or delicious ice cream (sorry – gelato!), but taking a bigger view, we keep the local property market vibrant, which helps keep the local economy moving, which in turn gives everyone value.

    The fact that there are a high number of estate agents in the local area is a sign of the sheer volume of supply and demand (if it wasn’t there, we wouldn’t all still be in business). It also encourages healthy competition, which in turn keeps agents fees competitive.

  10. TGP

    A fascinating and useful post, thanks BB! I haven’t needed the services of an estate agent for many years, but judging from my postbag, it is still a minefield out there. Good to have some up to date views from someone I trust.

  11. I’ve gone through the process three times in my life, but not since we moved to Blackheath from Lewisham in 1989. Payne was good then, but I can’t remember which agent we bought through (or which one we sold our Lewisham house through: a very different experience).

  12. david

    I found my current flat in Paragon Place through KFH and have kept in touch with them since. helpful and friendly. well worth working with in my view

  13. Jim

    Buying a property involves being very clued up on prices and the process. To go to any estate agent and trust their views / valuations 100% without second (third, fourth?) options would be very risky.

  14. Tom

    Interesting to hear your experiences – we have just bought from Winkworth having sold our old place with Humphreys Skitt. I thought they were both pretty good given our past experiences with estate agents.

    Along with some of the ones you mentioned we were on King Sturge’s list who, in our experience, also seemed better than average.

    FJ Lord were generally quite spivy. My wife took against their agent for his sexist comments.

    Comber and Co never contacted us once after going on their list despite having several properties on their books in our price range.

    John Payne do seem less proactive than the other agents. They don’t use professional photographers so properties on their books don’t look as good as some of the others’ when you get the details.

    When we were looking quite a few places for sale seemed initially to be only shown quietly to people on the agents’ lists. Details were only published online and in the shop window if an offer was not received in the first few weeks. I guess you have to remember that agents are paid the seller and as buyer you are on your own.

  15. SpanFan

    Can I add a mention for Kershaws – we bought our first flat from them and the agent, Angela, was the most genuine and helpful estate agent I have ever met. They even let me in the office after hours on the completion date so I could collect the keys after work.

  16. Dr Nick

    Congratulations Mr & Mrs Bugle.
    I hope you have been able to keep the LTV (the percentage of mortgage) as low as possible!
    I bought my house through John Payne (in 2001/2 – intentionally took a long time), and found them to be the only agents I could tolerate. They were local (and still are of course) and genuinely pleasant. I do hope that your experience was a blip, as the Marketing Manager explained. Mainly out of self-interest, as I might move eventually!
    I had an almost identical experience to yours with Humphreys Skitt, funnily enough. As well as an outrageously high “special offer” on commission, which when turned down, caused the agent to slam the phone down on me too. No negotiation skills, then. (10 years ago – all probably different now).
    And Felicity J. Lord proved to be extremely unhelpful, including refusing to remove a sign of theirs that had been thrown into the garden at my previous house in Greenwich. (I took it into the shop, across the road, and left it with them).
    Given that buying dwellings is usually extremely stressful, I guess it helps to polarise our opinions too.
    (BTW, I have seen several people – customers? – in Foxtons over the last couple of months. I can only assume they’ve gone in to buy coffee, only to be disappointed when told it’s an Estate Agent, despite appearances).

    Are you in Greenwich or Lewisham Borough, now, Bugle Family? There’s a big difference in council tax, and recycling facilities.

  17. JulietGolf

    Hi, congrats on your house purchase. There’s nothing like getting your very own pad!

    We bought our house a couple of years back and had spent half a year looking for our house, seeing many tens of properties. We went through several agents, but the three we frequented were John Payne, King Sturge and Humphreys Skitt. This was mainly because of the variety of properties on their books rather than the quality of their agents per se.

    King Sturge has a very good website and has some really nice properties on their books. We went through a couple of agents (they were rotated through their branch network) in the time that we were looking, but most of the agents we dealt with were knowledgeable and we enjoyed dealing with them thoroughly.

    Humphreys Skitt is an company that perplexes me. I’ve lived in many places around London and dealt with estate agents covering different spectrums of the market. The website itself is a portent of things to come… it’s staid and not particularly enticing. The agents, however, were just bizzare. In some cases, they arrange to meet you at the property, then leave you in the care of the owners of the property. In some cases, they add zero value by just following you and the owner around the house whilst the owner does all the talking. The agents don’t seem to know too much about the properties they are trying to sell, and they don’t seem all that interested anyway. In other cases, the more common practice is for the company to give you the address and not even bother to send an agent, getting you deal directly with owner directly. Utterly bizzare. I’m surprised that this company still exists today…
    …There’s Foxtons who have a brilliant website, do the hard sell and are very unscrupulous in the way they conduct their business, and there’s Humphreys Skitt who are just the complete opposite… Uninteresting and uninterested.

    John Payne has a rather decent website. Their agents are in general very friendly, although I’m not convinced that all their agents are completely clued in. Still, we had a very pleasant experience and actually bought my house through them. They did a very good job of liaising with the owners throughout the negotiation process and did try very hard to accommodate both parties without coming across as being pushy at any point.

    Just my two pennies worth… (bear in mind that this is my opinion/experience of agents in the area and your mileage may vary).

  18. Worker B


    We bought through John Payne a couple of years ago and they were very helpful throughout the whole process.

    Prior to that we rented through Felicity J Lord and that was not great, for us and for the landlord who ended up having to spend more money on maintenance than they should have.

  19. Dan

    Our John Payne experience was indeed painful. Arranged a viewing with them and turned up at the house. We waited fifteen minutes without them showing up and then gave them a call. They then said that they hadn’t sent anyone over to show us the property as we hadn’t called them back to confirm that we wanted the viewing.

    Considering that we went into their offices and specifically asked for a time to view the property, we didn’t really feel like we were expected to phone them back a day or so later to reiterate that we wanted to see it. Needless to say that we didn’t bother going to look at the house for a second time, on the off chance that they could be bothered to turn up.

  20. DaveLK

    Yawn – can we go back to complaining about lamp posts now please?

  21. We have bought and sold through John Payne and been very happy with them on both occasions. Contrast to our experience buying through the Ryanair of Estate Agents – Robinson and Jackson. Aargh!

    KFH really seem to have got their act together in recent years.

  22. Penny

    I sold my place through You have to do a lot of work yourself eg valuation, description and viewings but the cost of selling is a fraction of the cost. I am not sure how much it costs now but 18 months ago I paid £400 or so all-in. I moved into a rented property and am now trying to buy. You would have thought agents would be all over me – a cash buyer not in a chain – but no. I have been let down so many times and if you want to view a property on a Saturday you tend to get the poor owner. Agents I found particularly helpful (from a buyer’s perspective) were Brown Brooke and KFH. John Payne, I am afraid, were particularly bad communication wise.

  23. Samantha

    Oh yawn shall we all stop now. Does anyone else think this is local agents having a go at each other. We are lucky we have traditional agents they are generally honest and High flyers that rip you off, situation normal. My experience is that if your realistic you get a communicative agent. I have rented and purchased in the last 3 years, these are my thoughts, whats the next subject for discussion?

  24. ElizaF

    Congratulatons on the new pad BB. 2 new homeowner tips: Never go to ikea in the week after a bank holiday (empty shelves and not the for sale type) and for housewarming parties, a jug of pimms costing about £20 to make will keep 5 people happy for 4 drinks rather than champage which will keep them happy for about 3/4’s of a drink :)

    In relation to Humprey Skitt (and I have no personal or financial interest in the company) We bought our first house (known affectionally as the cottage) with them and when the time came, sold the same house with them again and never had an issue, I always found them professional, friendly and capable of returning phone calls when they said they would – a rare virture with eatate agents. Terence from the Blackheath office even came around to advise us what house improvements to concentrate on for the current des res once the budget was restricted.

    We did advertise our first house initially with FJL because they were local but left them rapido as one of the female estate agents applied massive pressure to me to drop the house price by £30k (in the Blackheath conservation area where we were asking well within the average price anyway) Between that and the frankly awful blurry housephotos they published on the prospectus for the house (when I had provided them with professionally taken ones to begin with) I wondered if she was trying to buy for a friend (I could have been wrong)

    In between the cottage and the pit, we rented, which the wonderful John from the Blackheath property company (they used to be in the train station) sorted out. He even negociated my proposed discount from the landlord in return for 6 months rent upfront.

    When we bought the current money pit, we had giggled at the words of the estate agent from Peter James who SWORE the house was ready to move into. This was according to the last survey that came back on the house, which he himself, he assured us, had personally read. Ok he couldn’t read, but could he smell? We only wondered because the smell of damp, combined with the exotic indoor plants … growing on the walls … told a different story.

    Anyhow, he was right, after a fashion. The house was ready to move into … once we spent ££££’s on it but we expected that (well most of it)

    And that is our experience of the last 10 years of housebuying in Blackheath. I’m never moving again but if I have to ( gunpoint will have to be involved) I will go straight to HS or the BPC to help us out.


  25. Bilbo BinBag

    I checked out reviews of estate agents on All Agents before settling on John Payne.

    Some agents are terrible. Some are fantastic. None are perfect. John Payne were pretty good.

    I’m sure even the dreaded Foxtons have their good points, but when I was researching my shortlist I came across this. Hilarious.

  26. Eve

    I was looking for a place to rent a few months ago, and thought John from BPC was quite awful, to be honest. I found a place I liked and he passed on my offer to the landlord and negotiated on my behalf, but once he found out I was actually one half of a couple and not on my own, he told me that the rent would have to be £50 more expensive per month because the landlord was only offering such a “low” price as he was taking pity on a girl who – poor her – had to pay all that rent on her own. He said all that without having talked to the landlord beforehand about this, and refused to go back to the landlord to discuss my offer. I didn’t think estate agents were supposed to make decisions on the landlord’s behalf. Wouldn’t touch BPC with a barge pole.

  27. Mrs R.

    We used Brown and Brooke up at the Standard. I liked the fact he didn’t have slicked back, gelled hair. I popped into John Payne but only to ask directions somewhere, they couldnt have been more unhelpful. This could have been compounded by the fact they were trying to stop a drunk tramp entering the premises at the same time. He wasn’t with me, but I’m not sure they thought that………..

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