More changes are expected in the estate agency world with a difference in services between traditional high street companies and those who work exclusively online. At this year’s FUTURE: PropTech conference in London the focus was on traditional, online and hybrid estate agencies.
Rightmove director Miles Shipside led the debate and warned online agencies that the fee-led model has the danger that someone will always come along to undercut them. He felt that online companies would need to offer additional services in order to differentiate their business.
Regarding traditional agents, he said many have been using the same selling points for decades such as offering free valuations, accompanied viewings, professional photos or even videos and that they had a proven track record of success in selling or renting homes.
The high street agencies have the advantage of being able to meet clients – buyers, sellers and tenants – face-to-face to explain their services. Although technology has transformed the buying, selling and rental market, it is still the quality of service which counts at the end of the day. This could be from a hybrid firm such as Purplebricks, which combines online with local property experts, or traditional agents on the high street which have a long-established local presence.
Another interesting point raised by eMoov’s Russell Quirk was that clients are now getting a lot of their information online and so valuations are now more akin to validations. The agent is essentially telling buyers and sellers what they already now with regard to prices and movement in the property market.
The rise in the number of online agents offers more choice for consumers who will make a judgement on price and quality of service. Some will prefer the traditional face-to-face approach while others will prefer the ease of dealing with everything online.
However, more properties are expected to be sold or rented online in the future. At the moment, five per cent of properties in the UK are sold online with experts predicting that this will soar to 50 per cent by 2020. More traditional agents are also increasing their online presence with upmarket company Savills investing in digital property start-up Yopa to help it compete with other internet estate agents. Yopa works with a network of local estate agents as well as offering an online service where clients can book viewings or put in offers.
These hybrid agencies offer the best of both worlds with a fast and effective online marketing service combined with the use of local agents on the ground.