As a landlord, I must admit I keep very up-to-date with the housing market. And having bought and sold several investment properties over the past few years I have strong views on what’s wrong with the entire estate agent sector and why it’s ready for a serious shake-up.
As I see it, an estate agent is offering a service – an important service at that, with a house being the most expensive thing you are ever likely to purchase. Yet there’s often such a lack of consistency from local branch to branch that it’s all a bit of a gamble for both the buyer and seller. You hear it time and time again – agents don’t listen, show you properties you’re not interested in, don’t feed back viewing comments to sellers and are often late for appointments. Even worse than that, the majority haven’t moved to the 21st century and have such a poor digital offering that it only compounds the whole painful experience. All in all, it’s a situation that you as a customer have little control over. This is becoming an alien concept to today’s consumers, who have high expectations and are now more digitally savvy then ever before. This is why I strongly believe the sector is long overdue for digital change. It’s time for the UK’s estate agents to sink or swim.
In many other sectors now, the customer is in control, whether it’s ordering groceries to arrive at a certain time, checking your bank balance or calling and tracking a cab. I can even find out if my take-away order is still in the kitchen or en route to me. However, the biggest purchase of your life is in the hands of someone you don’t know, who never returns your calls when you need answers. You can’t control the process in any way.
It’s no surprise then that new entrants have come to the market and are very slowly starting to shake things up. With Purple Bricks you can now sell your own property and still have access to the big portals like Rightmove. As a potential seller you have control of photos, viewing appointments, marketing your property (because after all who knows it best – you of course), and you can manage your account 24/7.
Digital disruption in sectors often creeps up but once it arrives mainstream, traditional players that haven’t evolved are in big trouble. The smart estate agents will be adapting now, looking at what customers of the future will want and how they can add value to connect up the entire home buying and selling experience. They will thrive if they innovate and start behaving differently – the rest will simply disappear from our high streets. After all, think of those famous brands who didn’t adapt to digital trends – like Blockbuster – and where are they now?