Remember the local estate agent who knew almost everyone in the town and had the ability to make things happen with just his landline and a shop window? I don’t, but that’s how it used to be apparently.
The high street also had a solicitors office and a some financial advisors – a place to go and get the business of ‘property’ done. You would see the property in the local paper and in the shop window and soon enough poof! – a buyer appears.
That all died in in the 90’s, around the time ‘mmmbop’ by Hanson was driving us nuts with 31 weeks in the top 10.
Rise of the High Street Agent
Estate agents proliferated in number like horny rabbits with branches opening up everywhere. Their rise has been in line with an unprecedented rise in property prices with low interest rates and a debt boom. Almost two decades of property good times and everyone was in on it.
Today, just take a short walk down high streets like Putney for example and you’ll see swathes of twenty-something suited agents rushing around looking busy on their phones.
With so many agents how was anyone supposed to keep up?
Online Property Portals
In it’s place came a new way of helping wide-eyed buyers and sellers – a place where they can have an aggregate of everything. And like every other disruptive online technology, it was a turning point, a realization towards something vastly easier.
The portals became the go to place for applicants (the buyers and sellers) and all the agents, surely enough, decided that’s where they need to advertise their properties.
And with so much information on offer to users, we all became experts. You could easily form your own ideas on the market, on property prices and what your options might be.
But not all agents use the same portals, and some portals have restrictions on how properties can be listed. If it sounds confusing it’s because it is. For example newer portals like On The Market don’t show price reductions or how long a property has been listed – both very useful bits of information. The additional tools some of these portals offer are not the most reliable either – if you’ve ever tried the Zoopla property estimate you’ll know what I mean.
But as our obsession with price per square foot broadens to areas outside of London, so does the fight for online real estate – the space where buyers and sellers are ultimately to be found. This is where the real war is waging and where estate agency is most under threat.
New online platforms like eMoov, Purplebricks and even same clothes wearing Sarah Beeny with Tepilo are looking to cut themselves a slice of the estate agents pie. Despite big marketing budgets there are no real game changers here.
They are all essentially pitching to save you money by offering a low fee and some of these sites only charge for components like floor plans and photography with no seller agency commission at all. But these flat fees are applicable regardless of a sale.
How much of their property has actually traded is unclear and who are these local experts they use? Some of their methods touch on legislation, and if unchecked, all of this can make portals not the most reliable of places. How much this is the future of agency I don’t know, I will be writing about this in the near future as it seems to a be breeding ground for a lot for misinformation.
Back to the Future
All of this leads me to a wonderful belief in an almost perfect union of old and new. By this I mean good old fashioned service that is personal, understanding and adaptive along with use of the latest tools in making sure you are making the best informed decisions.
Nothing will replace experience and knowledge along with an ability to negotiate and progress a deal – all things an online platform will never be able to do. A good negotiator can easily earn their fee. Some things will always require a personal touch.
There are lots of good estate agents, a lot of whom are adapting comfortably to the new ways. If you need help picking one or if you would like something more personal then as a buying agent and property consultant I would be happy to answer your questions.