Getting to Know – Jeremy Monks

  • Jan

We’re enormously appreciative of the people that make up our extraordinary team here at Exquisite, so over the coming weeks we’d like shout proudly about them and allow you to get to know them a little better!

Right at the heart of our work family is Jeremy Monks. Whilst some may rival his many years of experience within the industry, few can match up to his inimitable sense of style that is often a talking point here in the office, which is where we caught up with him for a chat. 

Jeremy, how long have you been doing this job, and were you always an estate agent?

“I’ve been an estate agent for forty years this year, and no, my first job was as a professional cricketer! My father was from Lancashire; he knew some people at the county cricket club and got me a trial. In those days cricket wasn’t particularly well paid, but I enjoyed it. I went up there for a season and played second eleven cricket, but they didn’t take me on for whatever reason, so I went down to Northamptonshire for trials. They were the poor man’s cricket club in those days though and couldn’t afford to take anyone else on sadly.”

That must have been disappointing, what did you do next?

“By then I was 18, and my auntie and uncle had a china and glass shop called ‘Booths’ in The Arndale Centre (as it was known then) in Luton. I had given up college for cricket, and I was never going to be an academic as I enjoyed sports more, so I started doing part time work at the shop over a Christmas period. Auntie Mona started off in a little store in Bute Street, and then became one of the major independent china and glass people in the country believe it or not! I enjoyed it so they asked me if I wanted to go full time, which I did till I was about 21 or 22.”

It’s still a far cry from selling houses, how did that end?

“I came home one day, and my dad said, ‘I’ve got you an interview. You can’t keep working for your aunt and uncle, it’s not fair on them and it’s not fair on you. I’ll take you tomorrow, I’ve got you an interview with Connells Estate Agents in Leighton Buzzard.’ 

He said he’d drive me there as I didn’t have a driving licence, but I wasn’t keen; I didn’t know anything about it, and we had a bit of a falling out over it! Anyway, he told me do a bit of research, which I did, so he took me, I got the job and I’ve never looked back!”

When you began, what made you realise that this was the career for you?

“John O’Kane was the man that interviewed me; he was a really nice guy. To this day I still know him, and I became part of a very nice team. Obviously I began as a junior negotiator, then became negotiator, then senior negotiator and then after 18 months in Leighton Buzzard, I got my first manager’s job which was in Stony Stratford, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes.  I was there for about nine years and later again for another nine. Then there was a new office  in St. Neots that I opened so I was there for two years, and I then became the ‘new office opener’. I used to do that, or trouble shoot offices that weren’t doing very well. I then opened the Bishop’s Stortford office, which is where I met the woman who later became the mother to my son.”

You’re very people orientated. Opening branches and being manager sounds like it took you away from that interaction with clients, did you miss that?

“You’re creating the business yes, but you’re right, I’ve always been a valuer, a lister, that’s what I like doing the most, which is probably why I have never had my own business; It would bore me senseless! I like to work as a team player and working for Exquisite Home is the best experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve found it when I’m nearly 60, which is amazing. I’m very much the master of my own destiny, so if I don’t have any appointments I’ll go out and get them; I can’t just sit there and wait for them to come in.”

To what do you attribute your success and longevity in the industry?

“I think a lot of my success is down to my individuality and my love of getting to know people. I don’t believe I am ‘the norm’ as an estate agent, as in, I don’t think I look like a typical estate agent and whenever I go and visit clients to value a property, the first thing we  do is sit down together and talk. That can be for five minutes (if they’re in a hurry) or for half an hour before I even start looking at the house. By the time that has finished, there’s normally a comment about my shoes, or about the socks, or about what I might be wearing; and then you’re building a relationship before everything else. I also phone everybody (not text!) the day before I go and see them, just to say ‘Hi, I’m Jeremy, we haven’t met before, I’m coming out to see you tomorrow.’ Then when they open the door they say, ‘Oh hi Jeremy, how are you’ – straight away – and I think that’s definitely the start of building a good relationship.”

Well, that leads on to the most important question of all! Everyone knows you for your sharp snappy dress sense, which always gets you noticed, but when did it become a thing for you?

“Always! I was a New Romantic, so that’s where it comes from –  bands like Duran Duran & Spandau Ballet. It was punk that was in fashion when I was a teenager in the late 70’s – groups like the stranglers and the clash blended into that period – but the 80’s was definitely the most influential time of my life. It was a time when you could be who you wanted to be, take Steve Strange for example, and yes, I had the long hair, the frills and the make-up! I’ve seen U2 about four times, Blancmange, Simple Minds, you name it.”

Do you have any photographs? 

“I don’t have any pictures, which is really annoying! You’ll probably find some lurking somewhere, but I don’t think I have.”

Did you ever go to work wearing your guy liner?

“No, but I did have my long hair dyed blonde. It was very fashionable then, and it did get me noticed. Ever since then I’ve always dressed quite gregariously for work, and it does make people remember you.”

Apart from the hair, what else has changed over time?

“I like to use my personality before the brand. People still buy people, and I think that is one of the big differences between then and now. My kids like to text all the time. I don’t answer their texts, so that they think I’m dead and have to pick up the phone to speak to me! When I started, you had a pen and a telephone, you didn’t have a laptop, and you had to talk to people. We do still talk to everybody here, but we also have the greatest technology, with all the drones etc, but I never have to sell Exquisite Home, because it sells itself.”

Do you think the future lies in all the technology, for example video walk throughs and so on?

“I would  turn it around and say, ‘would you ever buy a house from just a video – no’. We’d sooner have more people in the office qualifying our applicants than using that technology. People are surprised at that, but a lot of the people I go and see are older people, who like the  fact that we talk to people, and I know full well that the service we provide here in the office is fantastic back up.”

What do you enjoy most about the process?

“I like getting to know people. Looking round a house, you’ll always find something to pick up on and start a conversation with, whether it’s football or having children. I like to let them talk, and I’m always genuinely interested. It’s all about reading people and finding out what they want.  People don’t always want to sell straight away, so I’ll keep in touch and check in on them regularly. I don’t believe I ever sell anything to anybody; I always have the mindset that I just want to help people. Everyone’s home is their castle, whether it’s a two up two down, or a mansion set in ten acres, it’s still their home and it’s important to remember that.”

What’s been the one defining moment of your career?

“I remember the first valuation I did on my own when I was first starting out. The house was around the half a million-pound mark, which was a lot of money back then, and I won the instruction; the feeling was just – wow!

More recently I visited a house in Capel that was on the market with another agent. I approached the door and left them my card. Half an hour later they rang me up, and that was the first house I took on with Exquisite – it was a great feeling.”

How about any negative experiences, you must come across them from time to time?

“Well yes, many years ago there was a man who I used to see wondering around Bury St Edmunds. He stood out because he spent a lot of time just standing and looking and always wore plastic gloves; he seemed like he might be a bit of a loner. One day I went to value a property, and it was him. He opened the door but was very fidgety and looked uncomfortable. I was quite shocked when I arrived to find all the rooms piled high with things. There was stuff everywhere – he was clearly a bit of a hoarder –  but even stranger than that, there was no bed anywhere. It was definitely one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had. I naturally thought ‘what’s going on here’, but you can’t exactly ask someone outright.

I valued the property, he said thank you very much, but then seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth – didn’t answer any calls messages – to the point I actually became quite concerned about him. Over the next week I probably visited about three times to check he was ok. I could hear a radio playing in the background, but he wasn’t coming to the door. It’s always difficult to know how to respond in those situations, but back at the office we decided to call the police. They went round but there was still no reply, so eventually they broke in and found him upstairs, just sitting in the chair. Still to this day I don’t really know what happened to him, but it was definitely one of those ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ moments.”

So where do you live now, and which areas do you cover?

“I currently live in Haverhill,  which is about 19 miles south of Bury St Edmunds, so I cover west Suffolk. I live with with my wife, our dog Tallulah and our five cats: Missy, Diego, Monty, Jessie & Ian White, but we’ll  soon be moving to Oulton Broad as I have family there. Then I’ll be looking to cover Ipswich, the East Coast of Suffolk and up into Norfolk. My wife will be retiring soon; we both like the water and life is too short! I still feel young, I’m still very much into my eighties music – in fact I’ve just discovered  a band called ‘The Allergies’ which are great – and we’re off to Mexico for my sixtieth. Life, currently, is very good!

What would be your idea of the perfect house to live in?

“Location is important for me. We’re moving to move to be near The Broads or near the sea. If we only make one more move, practically speaking, it should be single story, (not that we’re old, we’re young older people), or a 1930’s semi. Oulton and Pakefield are made up of 1930’s to 1950’s houses.“

And if money was no object to you Jeremy? What would you buy then?

“I’d still go to the same area, and I honestly wouldn’t want a ten-million-pound house, but I’d like one that backs on to the river with a mooring at the bottom of the Garden. If I won the lottery, I’d still have a modest house but spend the money on nice trips instead and give the money to the kids! “

This work is in your blood Jeremy, do you think you’ll ever stop?

“I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve never not got up in the morning thinking that I don’t want to go to work today, so I’ll carry on doing the Job as long as I can. Even if I won the lottery I’d like to carry on in an advisory capacity.”

Thank you Jeremy, and don’t forget to invite us all to the housewarming when you get there!



|Thank you to Evie Troy & Kelly Bayfield for the Images

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