The return of the real estate agent
Mon 07 Apr 2008
For the past few years I have been getting a call about once every two months asking how worried I am about the ‘rise’ of the internet only estate agent.
My stock response has always been that I am entirely unconcerned as in my view they are not estate agents at all but more of a ‘property shop’. However, if I’m honest, up until the past 8 months there has probably been a small niche for the internet only estate agent. Very low fees or a fixed fee, internet only advertising, no accompanied viewings, no negotiation, no local advertising, no local presence etc. etc. In a bull market there is an argument that this works in some instances (very, very few) however, not any more.
Now I think things have really changed and that estate agents once more have a chance to prove their true worth. I don’t want to blow our own trumpet too loudly but now the proactive, hardworking, experienced and ‘gritty’ agents can really shine and sellers who do not understand the immense added value that such an agent can bring will probably still be ‘sellers’ at the end of the year.
The only real problem for Estate Agency owners is if they have enough of the right people or if they have fallen into the (easy) trap of just employing ‘nice’ people over the past 3 years and now the market needs agents who are not only good people but who can also sell.
At Marsh & Parsons we have built a selection of offices in prominent sites across central, south and west London. It would have been easier and cheaper to rely more on the internet. Perhaps I have slight Luddite tendencies however, I don’t believe the Net will ever replace the professional estate agent and the events of the past few months have cemented that view in my mind. I would guess that we will see many of the ‘this is easy money’ estate agencies close along with the internet only ones and, I hate to be harsh, but good riddance. We have been judged by the actions of the lowest 5% of the industry for too long and this might be one of the good things that come from the current slowdown.
As a matter of interest, I read that the much hyped entry of Tesco into the market has been put on hold. As far as I am concerned this is (was?) just another type of service offering which serves some kind of purpose when everything is rosy but when times are tough, people will revert to the professional estate agents who will, with a bit of luck, realise their true worth and put their fees up!