I was reading in an estate agency magazine last week about the ‘Rise of Machines’ and whether the internet estate agency model could really replace the high street agent. It reminded me of a conversation that I had with a vendor last week.
The conversation started off with me waxing lyrical about how we market property and why we do it in a certain way. I’d had two very similar conversations earlier on in the day but this time it went completely off track when the vendor asked me how I was going to vote in the EU referendum.
Personally, I’m undecided yet I see plenty of positives for sticking with the status quo. But what if it was better spreading our horizons a little bit further? For a business, there lies the eternal question. Stop a dozen people in the street and you won’t find a universal answer to the EU in / out question. But maybe that’s down to all this constant verbal diarriah we hear everyday about the pros and cons. Politicians who tell us made up figures based on what they think we want to hear? In business as in everyday life they’ll always be someone who prefers shop B to shop A. In business, we need variety, different options, constant innovation and a need to adapt to what the consumer wants.
I got back to reading through the article and amongst the words ‘online’, ‘fee saving’ and ‘modern’, I also read ‘trust’, ‘face to face’ and ‘service’. Whilst the ‘internet agents’ tailor their own offering by taking bits of traditional estate agency to suit their business model, the smarter traditional estate agents take parts of ‘internet estate agency’ to service their own perceived view of what the client really wants.
The trouble with all this is that rather than having distinct differences between businesses we run the risk of having estate agents who each have bits of what the others offer and there is a danger that a once clear gap of difference is further diminished. The choice for the vendor then has a danger of just coming down to who is the cheapest.
As my Gran used to say ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’ and whilst many lower fee agents seem attractive, what I’ve witnessed from those type of agents in the Plymouth area in the last few months are long tie-ins, with-drawl fees and properties selling at lower prices than they should have. I’ve also heard horror stories about the service that they have given (or lack of). Despite all this I still see properties on the market with these agents.
One box does not fit all and the Internet estate agency model will not replace the high street agent. Believe me, I place myself as an innovative agent and if having a high street office did not work for us, then we’d shut up shop tomorrow and trade from elsewhere. We are certainly not there yet and the benefit of having buyers and vendors able to visit us 7 days a week – without an appointment – still is a strong enough reason to continue doing what we do.
We are not a low fee agent. Our difference is in our service.
When ‘experts’ in magazines can’t agree on what is right for the customer – perhaps us as ‘agents’ simply have to speak to our customers and ask them ‘what they want’ in the future. Rather than telling them ‘what they need’?