Hot Box

September 2, 2022

We take a look at the human side of buying and selling a home.

In the days before technology invaded the estate agency industry – flooding it with helpful and not so helpful ‘proptech’ – estate agents kept buyers’ details written on index cards that were stored in plastic boxes. These were called hot boxes in the trade and all estate agents had them.

Depending on how long buyers had been looking for a property, each card bore the scars of persistent scrutiny and revision. The cards told the stories of individuals or families. Notated were names, contact details, price range information, aspirations, desires, and even dreams. The longer the search, the fuller, more dog-eared and coffee-stained the cards became until they formed part of their subjects’ stories reflecting the struggles to make dreams come true.

Why so much detail on the cards?  Because how on earth can you find what someone truly wants in a home unless you’ve asked them and understood their answer?

Nowadays the computer has long overtaken the hot box. In some ways it’s an efficient change. But in other ways it depersonalises the process. You can’t get much more personal than a home and its occupants. A hot box was a list of human beings being human and looking for their safe place.

Strokes on a keyboard rather than scribbled notes have replaced the hot box – the lowest of low tech. But all is not lost. Because the best estate agents still have hot boxes, it’s just that these days they keep them in their heads. They haven’t needed them much over the past few years. But now they are being pressed back into service as the market changes in favour of buyers.

So, when you’re looking for someone to sell your home check out several agents. Find out what they think your property is worth and why. But also discover if their head is a hot box. Ask who’s buying, what they might be able to pay, and why they might want your house. This knowledge is basic estate agency. If someone has to use a computer to match home with buyer they’re in the wrong job, because it still needs a human to understand what another human wants and why.

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