Internet only? Does a handyman only use a spanner?

Added on January 30, 2018 in Main Blog, Plymouth City Office Blog
ChrisCityofficefront

It may sound bullish, but as a business we have never regarded ‘online only’ agents as competitors. Quite simply, they are a bit like a handyman with only a spanner in his tool bag.

The last two years have seen a significant rise in the online only estate agent, tempting customers with their no commission, no nonsense, fixed fee service. But recently there have been signs of a fundamental shift in the property industry. Recently a number of ‘Internet only’ companies have taken the jump into purchasing high street premises whilst High Street agents, originally keen to have their own ’internet only’ offering, are beginning to steer away from increased online activity in favour of infrastructure investment; enhancing their High Street presence and exploring new promotional strategies. Why? Simply because the online version itself is not commercially viable – not if you also want to be able to speak to an agent who has local knowledge, at your own time of choosing, in your locality and who offers the professional service that sellers and indeed buyers also crave. Because of this there is a growing belief that the majority of buyers and sellers don’t want the online only option; they are more interested in the full service agent.

It’s no coincidence that the leading ‘Internet only’ agents are now spending thousands of pounds to emphasise that they have ‘proper estate agents’ available to talk to. They also realise that their own business model relies too heavily on technology. In the end, people trust people.

Amongst market leaders there is a growing feeling that the industry itself has a great opportunity for very good agents to separate and distinguish themselves, based on knowledge, value and professionalism. You’d be stupid to not use the very best technology in your company but those that say that ‘online only’ estate agents are the future, should look at other industries that have seen similar changes with the rise of new technology. As an example, increasingly many would be happy to browse and book for a cheap holiday or weekend away online but when it comes to spending a bit more money on a special holiday (where you need the experience to know whether it is the right choice for you), the bespoke, independent travel agent is proving more popular than ever.

High Street based Estate Agents should be wary however. Those who say that traditional estate agency is dead are right – or as right as they can be – in that what we used to do as an industry has changed. Although there are many estate agents locally and indeed nationally still living in the past and doing things the way they always have, the very best have embraced all that is good about online and are making plans to make sure they fit very much into future consumer trends. Those who don’t will be left behind. And whilst high profile media coverage has exposed the flaws and underhand tactics employed by some ‘online only’ estate agencies almost certainly shaking consumer confidence, we’d be foolish to think that this doesn’t also happen in high street agency too. I’ve been an estate agent for over 15 years and still see and hear of things in the industry that make me shudder in disbelief! – so quality and value is just as important.

At Mansbridge Balment, we have seen growing numbers of customers who recognise the value of using an estate agent with a strong local knowledge and High Street presence, an agent that works tirelessly behind the scenes to deliver a customer experience that truly reflects the commission it charges. Remember, and this is still one of the many irks against online agents, that they get their fee even if a house doesn’t sell. Little incentive then to go that extra mile. It’s that behind the scenes work that makes progressive agents like us stand out from the online only crowd. Maintaining an effective communication bridge between buyer and seller at every stage of the sales process, having the expertise and experience to head off pitfalls before they happen, opening seven days a week and reinforcing the customer experience with a robust money back guarantee – and it’s the work we do that our customers don’t see that often really makes a difference to a sale and gives added value.

We recognise the importance of the internet; technology can support the estate agency model, but only as one part of a diverse and dynamic package of other services. Our approach will not offer the cheapest fee, but it will deliver great professional service and tangible added value. The very best Estate Agents like ourselves work in the industry as a career and not simply a job. They are members of Associations like Propertymark NAEA and are always investing in their staff and offering to the consumer – they really are on the ‘Professional’ side of the industry itself.

It may sound bullish, but as a business we have never regarded ‘online only’ agents as competitors. Quite simply, they are a bit like a handyman with only a spanner in his tool bag. It’s ok on its own but if you need to do the job properly you’ll need other tools. What has your agent got in their toolbox?

Chris Mervyn MNAEA. Branch & Marketing Manager (Plymouth Ltd).  NAEA Propertymark West country Executive