Liquid error: wrong number of arguments (2 for 1) Are the days of high street estate agents numbered? | Marsh & Parsons Sales and Lettings Estate Agents London

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Are the days of high street estate agents numbered?

Wed 04 Mar 2015

TV property expert and Tepilo founder Sarah Beeny predicts the number of traditional agents to fall

Digital disruption has now reached the most established of bricks-and-mortar industries property. Thanks to

online-only estate agents such as Purplebricks and Tepilo, as well as the reliance of traditional agents on

advertising portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla, buying a house could be the next service to become


Entrepreneur and television property expert Sarah Beeny, who launched Teplio in 2009 as an advertising

website before relaunching it as an online estate agent in 2013, says: Selling is all about knowing where the

buyers are and the buyers are no longer going into estate agents offices on the high street, so they are becoming


She concedes that the industry has been very slow to catch on to consumers shift online, just as bookshops

were initially blind to the rise of online sellers such as Amazon.

WH Smiths and Waterstones could have taken that ground just by clicking their fingers, but they didnt move

quickly enough because they were stuck in their ways, she says. And its a similar story for traditional estate

agents who she believes have got their fingers in their ears are just hoping it will all go away.

One of the major pulls of online estate agents is the huge difference in cost. Using Teplio, home owners can sell

their property for 495 plus VAT, which includes a personal sale manager to organise viewings, negotiate offers

and complete the sale. Meanwhile, Purplebricks, which was founded by Michael and Kenny Bruce who owned the

Burchell Edwards chain before selling it to property giant Connells, charges 665 plus VAT, and assigns sellers

with a local property expert.

Singling out London estate agent Foxtons for comparison, Purplebricks marketing director James Kydd says:

Foxtons is pretty adamant that it doesnt negotiate on fees. It charges 2.5% plus VAT for sole agency and 3% for

multiple agency, so if you sell a property for 2m youll shell out something like 60,000 in fees whereas we

would charge under 1,000. Foxtons declined to respond to the comments.

Kydd believes this huge gulf in fees is the reason traditional agents have been so reluctant to embrace digital, as

it would mean they could no longer justify what he calls the obscene amount they charge, particularly if aspects

of the sale process were automated.

Traditional estate agents are fighting back though. John Waters, a partner at upmarket estate agent Knight Frank,

agrees that the first place people now go when looking for a property is online, but he is not threatened by the rise

of digital agencies.

Most people I deal with in prime central London have neither the time nor inclination to [handle the sales

process] themselves, he says. He admits it may be a different story outside London, however, as many vendors

already host their own viewings.

It is the online property advertising portals Rightmove and Zoopla that he believes are having a bigger impact on

how agencies operate, so in order to claw back some of the control Knight Frank and other agencies including

Savills and Chestertons have combined forces to launch their own online portal called On The Market, which is

being backed by a TV advertising campaign.

It dawned on us that were providing all this data and information for other people when frankly theres no need

to do that, says Waters. We all run our own websites that are much more sophisticated than they used to be so

the capability is there to run our own portal too.

On The Market is effectively run by estate agents for estate agents so it costs them far less to list a property than

on Rightmove or Zoopla. However, the fact estate agents have to drop one of the other two big players if using

On The Market has created some hostility in the industry, as many feel the agencies behind it do not have sellers

best interests at heart, particularly as the reach of the new portal is smaller than competitors.

Its not saving the customer money or giving them a better service, its trying to ensure high street agents dont

have to pay [Rightmove and Zoopla] as much as that its hitting their profit margins, says Beeny, who is further

angered by the fact On The Market has banned online agents from using it.

On the Market CEO Ian Springett responds that it is a much needed competitor to Rightmove and Zoopla and

that the site has been designed to attract serious buyers, rather than people who are casually searching.

Not all traditional estate agents are feeling the pressure from online players, according to Beth Hilson, marketing

director at Marsh & Parsons, although she admits it may sound nave.

There are so many industries that have gone online so we have to accept that it could happen [but] we separate

ourselves from the companies that rely purely on using the web to generate their business and their enquiries.

Thats part of it but its not the whole picture, she says.

Even though Marsh & Parsons uses both Zoopla and Rightmove, which Hilson admits do generate leads, she

claims we actually get more enquiries direct from our website because were constantly investing in getting

people to come to us.

She also warns that while there are some reputable online agents, because sellers are paying a flat fee upfront

there is no incentive for those businesses to get people the best price.

While many have predicted the demise of the traditional estate agent not least Beeny, who says she would be

stunned and amazed if the number of high street chains doesnt fall Hilson says Marsh & Parsons is bucking

that trend, having just opened a new office in Shoreditch with plans to open a further three later in the year.

Were not preparing for any drastic change in how people sell property, she adds. Quite the opposite. We are

absolutely committed to growing and being on lots more London high streets.

Compared to high street estate agents fees, homeowners can make savings by using online estate agents to sell

a property

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