Confidentiality is an essential art form when it comes to property. Says Jamie Freeman, Country House Buyer at Haringtons
Keeping secrets has to be a stock in trade for a premium house buyer. Everybody values their privacy; you don’t have to be a celebrity to want to keep your personal circumstances private. The press take an interest in the top properties and then want to know who bought them and for how much. We won’t let that happen – we take confidentiality extremely seriously at every level.
Exclusivity keeps secrets
With the best will in the world, it’s difficult to keep the lid on confidential details in a large firm. Those immediately involved with a deal will understand, but someone else might hear about it by the coffee machine and not realise how important it is to keep quiet. Everything we do is treated in the strictest confidence. And one of the advantages of a small, highly exclusive firm is that we can keep it so.
Over the years, we’ve acted for many people who have wanted total confidentiality, either because they are well known, and don’t want the press to get hold of it, or because they simply didn’t want unnecessary publicity. I would love to tell you about them but I can’t!
How to keep it anonymous?
Because of our reputation we can carry out a property search without our client’s name needing to be known. The agents trust us when we say we have “a client”, and that’s good enough for them.
However, occasionally, we use a false name which works …up to a point.
I remember some years ago doing this, and when I took a client to a house, I was told that the owner was not going to be there, that the agent would show us around – the agent already knew who my client was.
Anyway we turned up at the front door, and as you can imagine there was some embarrassment when the owner appeared and my client standing beside me was clearly not “Mrs Brown”!
Being a trusted agent
Many vendors want confidentiality as well, and to achieve this they often ask their agents to only talk to a very few trusted people. Quite often this will include us being asked to enter into a legal agreement, saying we will only tell one client about the property and nobody else.
Finally in almost every purchase we request a confidentiality clause in the purchase contract stating that none of the information relating to the deal will be made public, particularly the name of the buyer, our client, and the price.
As I said this might be a celeb trying to keep away from the press or it could just be someone like you and me who does not want the press to make a story out of it or the selling agent to get free editorial by releasing the sale details to either a local or national newspaper.
You never know who knows who
Our senior partner learned this lesson 36 years ago: you never know who knows who. His father was interested in racing and Jonathan told him he had visited a training yard in Lambourn that he was going to sell privately. Little did he know that a week later his father would be chatting to someone at a dinner party, and the “someone” was the trainer’s soon to be ex-wife! There was hell to pay…
We are all a very closed book – and don’t even tell our wives what we are doing!