I absolutely love my Profession, I’m not so fond of the Industry.
I’ve said that for years and I find myself saying it more often than ever these days.
Even so I find it amazing that so many within the industry are getting caught up in an almost pointless debate and miss the real issue.
There are endless discussions taking place on the subject of High Street versus Online Estate Agency. Why?
Estate Agents ARE ALL ONLINE AGENTS!
They were from the moment, some years ago, they all admitted to being too scared to withdraw from Rightmove in an effort to curb rising fees, that was long before Mr Springett and Agents Mutual popped up to wave an ineffectual stick at that particular industry topic.
Over thirty years ago I listened to Estate Agents bemoan the amount of money they paid to newspapers for pointless advertising, ‘We never sell anything from a newspaper advert, or hardly ever’, was the stock comment.
We live in a digital age if people in the industry hadn’t noticed. Society chose to go online and the property portals provided convenience, they gave the public something they wanted and in so doing gave agents access to a market place in a way newspapers never did. Many portals have come and gone along the way so it wasn’t all roses and glory for everyone.
All estate agents are all online agents whether they like it or not.
The real debate actually is the one of ‘Service against Budget Listing’.
Why is it the real debate?
The reality is that there have always been agents who will sell their wares based upon fee and nothing else, long before the internet arrived.
Ask most people who are thinking of moving whether they expect a service and what that service entails and the answers will probably vary somewhat but will probably focus on the ‘front end services’.
Provide opinion on price, marketing and find a buyer.
How many would answer a little more in-depth, that the things that really matter come in the run up to preparing for selling, in selecting the right buyers, in making the process less painful wherever possible. Most will assume they will get proper sales progression, checks on buyers, someone to help explain the steps and provide guidance. Help with removals, with organising the changeover, a source of tradesmen for when something goes wrong once you’ve moved in. There are an inordinate number of points where an agent providing a service can help their clients.
I believe most people assume that all agents do much of the above, irrespective of what they charge. The reality is they don’t do they.
As many know, there are too many companies who don’t care, who don’t progress sales with passion and understanding, who care more about getting a signature on an agency contract and pushing a client to accept an offer than they do about people’s well-being. Some are upfront about it, many aren’t. The industry has suffered from years of over promising and under achieving on the service front.
There are clients, and unfortunately they aren’t necessarily the ones who choose a cheap option, some full fee agencies are guilty of this, who will struggle to get answers from their agent, who don’t receive the service expected. Most homeowners employ an agent assuming they provide a real service, one from which ultimately everyone in the chain will benefit. Often one or two agents will do the work of all the others involved. Some sellers therefore will receive the benefit of a service they haven’t actually paid for. Some sellers may bear the brunt of not having a service available to them or of having a void in the process where an agent is lacking in effectiveness, intentionally or not.
High Street versus Online? On both counts you will find companies offering cut price stripped down packages and you will find on both sides agents who provide a value service.
The debate I want to listen to, the one I want to see happening is this.
What is the real future of Estate Agency as a Profession?
Is there a place for service oriented companies or must everyone become a ‘one shilling’ agency. Will the industry fragment into a few big players and lots of individual one person self-employed agents who, as is often the case in North America, get licensed and sell one or two properties a year as a sideline to their regular employment.
The question really is to the general public. What do you want from the Estate Agent of the future?
My Profession cares about people, about helping them realise their dreams. unfortunately not all the industry does.
The answer lays with the public and I believe, thankfully, the majority of them do care about receiving a service.
I accept that there will be agents who won’t help, who will misinform, misunderstand, there will be some that are inexperienced and don’t know how or when to have the right conversations with clients, it has always been that way. I also know that I am incredibly happy when the work I do means people get to move home, when I solve problems, calm troubled waters and I will never stop loving the look on people’s faces when I hand them the keys to their new home. I speak to many agents who share the same passion, the same drive to provide a fabulous service and I speak to many people who have great stories and praise the work their agent did.
Let’s make it a bigger debate: What is the future of Estate Agency: Service or Budget Listing? The follow on from that is; How will the industry change?
I’m incredibly excited about the future, I feel the Profession has wonderful opportunity ahead and will rise purposefully to the challenges the future brings.