Timeo Danaos et Dona Ferentes

First coined in the Latin epic poem, the Aeneid, the phrase ‘timeo Danaos et dona ferentes’ means beware Greeks bearing gifts and relates to how the wooden horse was used to attack the Trojans.

By Antoine Lurot Founder & Chairman – Lurot Brand

First coined in the Latin epic poem, the Aeneid, the phrase ‘timeo Danaos et dona ferentes’ means beware Greeks bearing gifts and relates to how the wooden horse was used to attack the Trojans


All too often sellers or landlords are seduced by the agent who plays to their desire to obtain an inflated value for their property. But, like the Trojan horse, the agent in question knows that they are often overpromising an unrealistic price. Having won the instruction, they then spend the ensuing weeks explaining to the disgruntled vendor why they aren’t achieving the price that’s been set. Eventually either the price, or agent, is dropped.

To avoid that, make sure that each agent that comes up with an enticing price can support their price with recent details of comparable sales. Of course, what the market will bear and the price a vendor may wish to ask can often differ. By all means, try your luck for six weeks at that price, either on or off market, but don’t leave it there any longer as you will be in danger of damaging your property. We all like to believe that our property will be ‘hot’ and sell quickly but only once in my 50 years have I been fortunate enough to have a purchaser – affectionately known as Estuary John, a City worker, declare, ‘If I don’t have an ‘ouse, I don’t have a wife’. Money was no object – but sadly, he’s not typical.

Today, serious purchasers are typically very knowledgeable about the market and values at that moment in time. The internet has helped to ensure that properties are viewed and scrutinised in terms of comparable values, decorative suitability and perceived kerb appeal. It’s a rare purchaser that hasn’t done their research before they undertake physical viewings. So, they are very aware if a property has been on the market a while and it can lead to low offers as there’s a feeling that the seller might be having a problem. All this means that selecting the right agent is critical from the outset.

At this point it’s important to restate that ALL agents have a fiduciary duty to their client. It is bound in law that it is our duty to perform to the maximum for those that are paying us. But, to make a seller happy, we have to also make a purchaser happy.


Firstly, they must fully appreciate the emotional and rational needs of both the vendor and the purchaser. They must then marry their motivations and desires to ensure that a sale is successful. Assessing long term personal aspirations may help to identify appropriateness of a property.

Secondly, a good agent will work with the seller to achieve the best price. That may mean delivering some hard truths which wouldn’t be inappropriate for the recent incumbents at 10 Downing Street, ‘Dear client, your statement wallpaper is very striking and highly individual, but it will be difficult for many viewers to see past it to the potential that the property offers’. In other words, you might not like magnolia, but sometimes the blank canvas approach achieves higher values. Occasionally we must advise, ‘Your collection of Toby jugs is extremely jolly, but covering every available surface may make it difficult for a viewer to visualise themselves in this property.’ Less is more, particularly in mews homes and you need the honesty of that approach from an agent. Reverse psychology can also come in to play when we advise a purchaser that a property ‘needs work’. That may horrify the vendor but it often excites a purchaser and their response is often ‘Mr Agent, it’s not as bad as you said’.

Many larger estate agencies sell the benefits of their international office network. Internet portals mean that all firms now have a global reach and boasting international offices is a red herring when it comes to mews properties. Why? Well, mews homes typically appeal to a UK, US, Australian and Western European demographic. Other nationalities tend to prefer lateral living often in more modern blocks. It’s all about knowing your market, talking to them regularly and having a strong database of qualified serious potential purchasers who ‘get’ mews homes and the sort of lifestyle living in a mews offers.

It’s vital to cultivate the relationships with buyers because it is then that we can help drive the best price for the seller. Sometimes our greatest successes have been when we’ve interpreted a purchaser’s wishes correctly but relocated them in an area they would never have considered.

Ensuring that we are helping buyers to navigate the complex web of solicitors, lenders, valuers and surveyors is all part of delivering for our vendors. A good agent will smooth the whole process and navigate both parties to a happy conclusion.

What they would be fired for doing at Lurot Brand is showing someone round, opening the bathroom door and declaring ‘here’s the bathroom’. Our sellers and our buyers are intelligent individuals who expect the agent to add real value. The added value that we expect to deliver is not stating the obvious but offering insight into mews living; explaining the way in which mews homes can be developed – or not – depending on their size and location and if the property is being viewed as an investment, where we would provide some real-time knowledge about rental values.

As the economic climate becomes more challenging there will still be a need for homes to be bought, sold and let. Agents will need to provide real insight and expertise to help what will inevitably be a nervous and fractious market. Of course I am biased, but I believe that when times get tough, that’s when the tough really get going and the specialists who have real knowledge and insight will win out over the generalists. In short, and if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor, before appointing an agent, beat the Trojan horse as if it was a piñata and ensure that they will truly have your best interests at heart.

When all is said and done, it’s all about making the best use of your estate agent


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