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Donna Kerwick

Client Liaison Manager at Gnomen Ltd

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Hybrid hits new heights as agents continue to invest in technology

There's been a long and protracted debate about the benefits of online and traditional estate agency models over the last few years, with high street operators emphasising the importance of customer service and their online counterparts focusing their arguments on price.

Estate Agents, Hybrid, Online, Traditional, Technology, Investment

This debate between the two polarised sides of estate agency will run and run as agents understandably look to defend their own chosen business models.

What's been interesting, though, is an overriding theme that has emerged in the last six months, and that's the rise in profile of so-called 'hybrid' estate agencies.

Hybrid estate agents are those which offer fixed fees and have an emphasis on their online offering, while still providing an office for clients to meet as well as a full service, including floor plans, sales progression and so on.

Despite staying true to their 'traditional' routes, it seems many of the country's biggest estate agents are now turning their attentions to the hybrid model.

It all started back in November 2015 when Connells purchased Hatched, one of the original online agencies which started out ten years ago now.

There's also been the continued growth of hybrid agencies like Purplebricks and EweMove, but it's in recent weeks that things have really started to kick off.

First, Savills announced that it had invested in fledgling hybrid agency YOPA, then Countrywide – the UK's largest estate agency – launched it's own hybrid offering for three of its many brands.

Savills' investment was part of a £16 million round of funding carried out by YOPA, which stands for YOur Property Agent.

Savills' chief executive, Jeremy Helsby, said the firm has been monitoring the advance of online and hybrid models for the past year.

“This investment broadens the group’s access to the UK residential sector by enabling us to take an interest in the high volume segment of the market, comprising over 1m transactions annually, to which Savills has had little exposure to date," he said.

It's been reported the investment secured a minority stake in YOPA, however this is still very interesting considering Savills' size and heritage.

Meanwhile, Countrywide is now offering vendors the opportunity to choose between a traditional or hybrid offering at three of its brands.

Vendors will be able to control their own sale for a fixed price or choose a traditional comission-based service, switching between the two if they like.

Countrywide is clearly taking technology seriously as it has put its largest ever training and marketing spends behind this initiative.

The group has also confirmed that it's hoping to roll out a similar service for its lettings and financial services divisions.

Of course, an important role for traditional, customer-focused estate agency remains and it's highly unlikely that the above firms will ever fully stray from their roots.

But what all this does show is that the big players are weighing up their options and thinking hard about technology and how it can improve their offering.

Of course, most agencies won't have the capital to launch their own hybrid arm or plough significant sums of money into a start-up hybrid.

However, this activity from the market leaders is a timely reminder that investment in technology and choosing the correct tech partners for your agency is mightily important.

Customer service and a local presence will always be the cornerstone for the majority of agents but those who harness the power of technology effectively could be the ones who stand out from the crowd.

Here at Gnomen, we help property managers, estate and letting agents to run every aspect of their business smoothly.

We provide the latest cutting-edge, all-in- one property software, allowing agents to manage staff, offices, customers and multi-channel marketing through our cloud-based system.

For more information, please get in touch with us on 0208 123 9019.

Here you can also check out our property website design and software.

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