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Option Homes Ltd - News- The changing face of estate agency… and how some agents (and their clients) are getting left behind

The changing face of estate agency… and how some agents (and their clients) are getting left behind

Date Added 14/01/2016

The old adage that, if you stand still in a fast moving market, you rapidly get left behind, has never been more applicable to the estate agency sector than right now.

The fact is, the way prospective purchasers search for a property has changed fundamentally in the last few years… but by and large, what we`re going to buy has not. However not all agencies have the model to fit that new way of doing things.

The Internet is responsible of course. The old method of scanning the pages of the Evening Standard or local weekly, or trawling through all the windows of agencies in your chosen area has long gone. Nowadays you input your parameters into one of the property portals and do 90% of the process online.

By the time you view a property, you`ve already eliminated a high proportion of the properties. You`ve effectively shortlisted.

That makes it critical for the agent to really be at the top of his or her game in dealing with enquiries: making sure that visits are professionally accompanied, enquiries diligently followed through and negotiations handled professionally and thoroughly.

He can also play a big part in guiding prospective purchasers through the minefield of different choices now available, and which are not always well explained on line: what does shared equity entail? Would a 55+ development be right for me? What are the ups and downsides of living in an apartment rather than a house?

And all that`s before helping someone from outside the area needing help on what the local schools are like, and what sort of broadband speed they can expect.

There is also a big role for agents to play when it comes to maintaining databases of prospective purchasers – holding plenty of information on what would really tick their boxes or waste their time - and really working those lists when new properties come along.

So that means that a property agent must provide to a very high level:
1 an online presence that covers every possible search;
2 the flexibility and marketing nous to realise that not everyone relies on the Internet – and that 65% of people move within a six-mile radius;
3 a customer service that is totally geared to converting prospects into sales;
4 local knowledge to ensure the vendor gets the maximum amount for his property.

Easily achieved? Like any market, there are some companies that have the fundamentals in place… while others think they can shortcut their way to success.

Firstly, covering all your bases on the Internet has been made much, much harder by the arrival of a third force in property portals: Onthemarket.com.

When Rightmove and Zoopla effectively ruled the roost, you simply went onto two portals to cover all your options. Now agents have to dump one of the two biggest portals for the privilege of going onto Onthemarket – which has signally failed to win the market share it promised its original backers.

If you`re selling a property you cannot now be on all the portals: any agent you select, by definition, can only manage two out of three. That has not helped vendors or purchasers. It remains to be seen whether this will prove to be a retrograde step for the industry.

Secondly, we`ve also seen the rise of Internet-only agencies, who, for a far smaller sum than that demanded by High Street agents, will help promote your property to the world. Except they cannot, by definition reach all the prospective buyers out there, and they do not provide the thorough back up required to seal the deal.

You might save a few thousands quid this way – but equally you may not get anything like the price achievable if you`d had more than one buyer keen on your property.

And don`t get me started on agents who promise to sell your property for a fixed fee: if you were keen to get your fee in the door as quickly as possible, because your margins were really tight, would you really worry about haggling over the last couple of thousand pounds on behalf of your client?

So, in many ways, the last couple of years have seen the service provided to property vendors by the estate agency sector slip backwards in total terms.

All doom and gloom? By no means. As `Big Data` becomes more accessible to different sectors, it`s opening up the UK market to a better brokerage model set to transform the way we buy and sell homes.

Recognising that there must be a better way for agents to deliver value to their clients, an organisation called the INEA MLS (Independent Network of Estate Agents) was established in 2009. It is based, in turn, on the hugely successful network in the US which has one million realtors signed up.

Over there, property is sold very differently: agents collaborate with each other to give clients the very widest exposure to potential buyers, and share the fee accordingly. This multi-listing approach also ensures that purchasers have to do far less legwork finding the right property for them – a win/win situation.

Go to one agent and they`ll tell you ALL your options in a locality – not just the ones he`s keen to push. All this plus the power of the Internet, on top of highly sophisticated information sharing systems to keep vendors up to date on how their property is faring.

As it happens, this is the way that Option Homes operates: we work alongside 600 other agencies nationwide to deliver what we think is simply a better way to buy and sell property. It gives us the reach of a major national agency combined with the local knowledge and customer service of a small one.

And no, you don`t pay any more for this level of service! That comes as standard…
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