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Donna Kerwick

Client Liaison Manager at Gnomen Ltd

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Bricks or clicks – what's the future of estate agency

Gnomen - Bricks or clicks – what's the future of estate agency

Within our industry there has been a long-running debate between traditional high street estate agents and newer online operators which has focused on the future of our sector.

Broadly, the majority of 'traditional' agents believe that exceptional customer service and a strong local presence hold the key to a successful business, while those on the other side of the fence are more likely to wax lyrical about operating out of hours and saving customers money due to not having high street overheads.

This month an event taking place at the Savoy in London was looking to put the debate to bed and predict what lies ahead for the estate and letting agency industry.

The Home Truths: Will Clicks Replace Bricks debate, hosted by investment consultancy Jefferies, boasted a panel including well-known industry players such as Sam Tyrer from Countrywide, Russell Quirk from eMoov and James Davis from Upad.

Here's some key takeaways from the event, as reported by Jefferies analyst Anthony Codling…

Customers remain at the core
According to Jefferies, the debate agreed that the residential property sector will continue to be led by the consumer. They said that agents' customers need to have open lines of communication (outside of normal working hours) as well as a choice of different ways to interact with agents.

Analysis: For a while now we've been championing agents who offer their clients out of hours services. As people's lifestyles become less formulaic and more reliant on technology, there seems to be a desire for more round the clock services. Part of this, which also acts as a different type of communication, is live chat – something we wrote about in a recent blog here.

Local staff are essential
The participants in the debate agreed that agents that only offer a listing service are unlikely to be successful. The example used to demonstrate this point is that in the last year or so, many of the sector's largest online agents have incorporated more local, trained staff to manage clients.

Analysis: A local presence has been a key part of agency from the beginning and it seems that this will never change. If you have staff on the ground covering a specific market, it doesn't mean an office is a necessity – as the growing hybrid sector has shown. It's clear, though, that when selling or letting a property, consumers want to be able to call upon the knowledge and experience of someone working locally, rather than speaking to a national representative.

Low prices aren't necessarily a good thing
When online estate agents first came on the scene their unique selling point was low fees, which promised to save consumers 'thousands'. The debate discussed the trend of hybrid agents raising their fees over the last two years, agreeing that clients are willing to pay for customer service when they fully understand what they are paying for.

Analysis: Agents who can successfully sell their services to prospective clients without dropping their fees are most likely to be the industry's leading firms. There will always be a niche sector of the market looking for rock bottom prices, but it seems the majority will happily pay if the service is good enough.

More can be done to embrace technology
The participants of the debate argued that many aspects of the residential sales process are yet to be digitised. They suggested that the conveyancing process could benefit from a technological focus and that exploring whether more can be done to scientifically match buyers with sellers is essential.

Analysis: The correct use of technology really can improve an agent's business. From having a beautiful website which is user friendly to utilising the cloud and the latest property management software, agents who embrace PropTech and understand how it can enhance their offering increase their chances of success in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Here at Gnomen, we provide cutting-edge, all-in-one property software for agents, allowing you to manage staff, offices, customers and multi-channel marketing through our cloud-based system.

We also design property websites, which you can find out more about here.

For more information about what we can do for you, get in touch on: 0208 123 9019.

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