They’re fighting to keep a presence on a battle-scarred high street, littered with retail and leisure casualties, while at the same time facing the onslaught of regiments of online-only services determined to occupy the digital property marketplace.
This doesn’t have to be a conflict that is doomed to fail for traditional agents. Of course, the sector is facing the biggest shift in buyer culture it has encountered for many decades, but it is more than capable of evolving and embracing new opportunities, which will provide it with a sustainable future.
The recent demise of Thomas Cook, albeit in another sector, sent further shockwaves through our industry as another household name disappeared from the high street. Thankfully with the intervention of Hays, the travel agency will continue to have a presence on the high street, which should act as a spur to our sector that businesses can have confidence in traditional bricks and mortar retail.
The solution is to ensure that estate agents have a more comprehensive offering that can serve consumer demand. This is what Hays Travel does and provides the model into which it can build on its existing retail portfolio. Ultimately, for our sector this means having a high-quality online platform, where buyers and sellers have control of the process for a lower fee, coupled with the exceptional personal service they would expect from a full-agency operation.
Establishing an effective hybrid model brings these areas together, helping to maintain a high street presence and secure market share from the larger digital-only operators.
This is what we did in our agency, MovingWorks, which led to the creation of digital sales platform love2move that we have expanded into a network of like-minded independent estate agents across the country.
And through the application of this model, agents can actually protect their position on the high street through having tiered fee structures, which reflect the type of service customers’ require.
Customers are often not aware of what is involved in the completion of a transaction, so providing a tiered structure enables this to be explained as part of the full-agency as opposed to the lighter-touch, lower fee online-only option.
As a result, agents are able to charge higher fees on full-agency listings as they provide real value for money because customers will know they are receiving a premium and comprehensive service.
Combining these models will future proof an agency and also improve cash flow. We have seen agents in our network benefiting from the short-term cash flow that is generated by upfront fees for online sales supporting the longer revenue lead times of the traditional full-agency model.
A FRESH IMPETUS !
We are already seeing the emergence of agency hubs, rather than satellite offices, which I believe will become the norm. They can utilise a network of self-employed, highly knowledgeable agents operating in local territories that will offer a hybrid model. They will benefit from the dual revenue streams of the hybrid model creating a more sustainable income platform.
Instead of working with a field agent, customers who want the full-agency service and are happy to pay a slightly higher fee for an enhanced service, will also be willing to travel to a hub office for a face to face advice with an experienced expert agent.
This has happened in retail where consumers now supplement their online purchasing with trips to retail parks and malls, enjoying shopping as a leisure experience, and perhaps a future option for estate agents building on the hub concept.
While some agents may feel battle weary, I honestly feel that the shift that is being felt across the industry should actually provide fresh impetus to embrace the transforming landscape and create a more sustainable business model for the future.