Finding new clients isn’t a matter of guesswork and hoping for the best – it has become a data-driven science and industry. New vendors are most definitely out there, and very much interested in selling – you just need a method of identifying them and then a technique to make sure you to talk to them in an engaging way – ahead of your competitors. And as open access public data sources, datamining technology and artificial intelligence (AI) technology continue to make rapid advances, so the ability to find new clients becomes ever more nuanced.
TwentyEA claims to have the largest home-mover database in the UK, tracking 99% of the active sales market via more than 4,500 different sources. The company has built an AI machine-learning model that will look at everything from the types of property in an area, including local supply and demand, to information on homeowners – even down to their income, and whether they have just had a baby.
“We essentially score every property in the UK and we can predict who is likely to come to market in the next two months,” says head of sales Paul Jamieson. “We are analysing hundreds of different datapoints, and we say ‘in a town with 10,000 properties we think this is the top 10% likely to move in the next two months’. It’s a predictive model. You’ve got a better chance of speaking to the right people than just blanket mail-drops. The idea is you can concentrate on 10% of your town and reduce your marketing spend because you aren’t marketing to everyone. It’s giving you the opportunity to talk and market to the people you need to when they are thinking about putting their house on the market.”
The system is continually tested to make sure it is performing at maximum accuracy. “We actually look at the properties that came to market and see how many of those are in the model,” explains Jamieson. “Our top-10% model is predicting over 50% of new instructions now, which is remarkable – for an estate agent, that’s gold dust. Traditionally you would have no idea – it’s finger in the air and guesswork.
“This model learns, and by the nature of AI it learns over time. We’ve had it over three or four years and it’s on its ninth iteration, and it’s getting more and more accurate, which is quite scary, actually.”
TwentyEA works with 15 out of the top 20 agency brands. “They wouldn’t use us if our data is rubbish,” he points out. “We pride ourselves on the quality of our data. We think we’ve got the best and most accurate data, and we process it quicker than anyone else.”
The firm also has a product called Spotlight, aimed at converting more valuations into instructions.
“So if an agent has booked a valuation they can produce a Spotlight valuation report that is automatically branded to the agent. It calls in data such as how many new instructions or sales they have had, what their sales-agreed ratio is, what price they have achieved on properties on average, and how quickly they sell. It produces that in a nice report to showcase their strengths, so if they are one of the best agents in town they can prove that and talk it through in the valuation.”
One single-branch client that has been using Spotlight for six months has seen its valuation-to-instruction conversion ratio increase from 40% to 56% during that time.
Homes data on- and off-market
Meanwhile, Homesearch claims to have the most comprehensive data about homes, both on market and off market, anywhere in mainland GB. Chief Marketing Officer Sam Hunter believes there has never been a more important time to start hunting for new leads.
I genuinely believe prospecting is easier in a challenging market simply because there is more opportunity to talk to people who are struggling to sell their homes. Sam Hunter CMO, Homesearch.
“I genuinely believe prospecting is easier in a challenging market simply because there is more opportunity to talk to people who are struggling to sell their homes,” he says.
He points to a Rightmove survey from 2018 which showed the majority of properties (60%) would sell with the second agent that listed them, not the first. That figure plummeted to 12% during the Covid property boom, but is already nudging back up towards 30%.
“I believe it is simpler when the market has challenges because if you are a good agent it is very, very easy to show you are different and you understand who is actually motivated to move because their properties are already on the market, but maybe they are not getting the guidance or advice or professionalism they require from their existing agent.”
Hunter says agents can call up a potential vendor and say, ‘You’ve been on the market eight weeks, can you tell me why?’ The person might say, ‘We really want to sell but we haven’t found anywhere we want to live’. The agent can then say, “Can we come and talk to you, because I have a database of every single home in Britain and I can show you all the properties that will fit your needs and I am sure I can find a local agent and I would be happy to talk to them on your behalf.”
He adds: “When you offer someone that kind of service it becomes very tangible, because they can see it on your screen while you are in their home. It’s a compelling reason to switch agents outside of, ‘We’ll do it cheaper’ or ‘Drop your price and we’ll get a buyer quickly’.
“Our data allows you to build tech like that, and that’s what really hasn’t been replicated anywhere else. Anyone can make pins appear on a map but to have the real accurate substance behind it, that is our secret source and it’s something we are very proud of.”
Homesearch has access to what it calls a ‘secret source’ of data that has enabled it to attract a raft of high-profile clients.
“We were able to raise £5m of VC development based on the quality of our data,” explains Hunter, “whether it’s on-market information – how many properties can we accurately match to a full address to allow agents to prospect those homes, or whether it’s out of-market data – being able to tell our clients which homes are owner-occupied, which ones have not sold in x number of years, which ones have short leaseholds, etc.”
Every quarter there are three updates to the Homesearch full-address match rate – how many properties it can actually match to the full address currently on the market, allowing agents to potentially capitalise on popular properties that are oversubscribed.
Prospecting sales and lettings
Spectre is another well-received prospecting and marketing tool for agents and claims to offer the only such service for letting agencies. The software provides estate and letting agencies with both on- and off-market property data and enables them to reach out to prospective vendors or landlords at key moments in time when they are most likely to list their property or switch agencies.
“We have put some hard graft and investment into the product and invested heavily in AI and machine learning to help build things like propensity-to-sell models into our prospecting tools,” says Joe Gaudoin, the firm’s head of training and development.
Its system is based on millions of datapoints. It looks at the average time someone has lived in a home, if people might be looking at upsizing, based on the average number of people living in home, and how long that might take. The propensity-to-sell model predicts homeowners who are most likely to consider putting their house on the market, so the agent can reach out at those opportune moments.
We have put some hard graft and investment into the product and invested heavily in AI and machine learning to build things like propensity-to-sell models into our tools. Joe Gaudoin, Head of Training, Spectre.
Spectre’s AI model will highlight property in the area that is most likely to come to market. “As an agency, you can filter that down to the particular type of property you want – some prefer different price banding and may only take on properties of £500k-plus, others might filter it by the number of bedrooms,” explains Gaudoin. Agents can store all their marketing material on the system and launch campaigns at moments of their own choosing, such as when they are carrying out a ‘Sold in your road’ campaign.
As a former letting agent, Gaudoin is particularly proud of Spectre’s lettings product, which it claims to be unique. The program allows agencies to target not just any prospective landlords, but portfolio landlords. Using data from various sources, it will match properties owned by the same person at the same address. Once it is obvious there is a portfolio landlord involved, the agent can use the Land Registry’s correspondence address to target the landlord and send information about potential new rental property.
“Moving over to Spectre opens your eyes to how many new opportunities there are out there that an agent might be completely oblivious to because they don’t have the tools,” adds Gaudoin. He gives an example where an agent takes a viewing inquiry, registers it on their CRM and books them in for a viewing. “If someone is registered for a viewing and you’ve got their name and address, our system would flag up that the property is already on the market elsewhere and has been for 32 weeks. “That takes that standard conversation into an instruction conversation, and without the data they are blind to it. Without knowing that they are going to be missing so many opportunities, but with the data they can identity it straight away and capitalise on it. “Agents need to start looking at how ways they can generate more business and entice new vendors and landlords to come to market. There is no better way to do that than having access to really useful data.”
‘Comprehensive’ data source
Established in 2016, Sprift claims to offer the most comprehensive source of data on UK properties. The Sprift platform stores up to 260 data points per property from official and trusted resources, including Ordnance Survey, the Environment Agency, the Land Registry and Royal Mail. CEO Matt Gilpin is swift to point out, however, that the key value of proptech is how the technology is used.
We always say that agents know their business best, so our job is to provide them with the tools they need to use in the way that best suits them. Matt Gilpin CEO, Sprift.
“The agents that we work with realise this and from what we see are adapting the way that they use their proptech stack in line with the changing market,” he says. “For example, during the pandemic-driven property boom, lack of stock was probably one of the biggest challenges for agents. That meant prospecting tools were hugely popular, and we certainly saw an increase in agents who were using our platform via OnTheMarket to generate new off-market transactions.
“Talking to our agents across the country, the changing economic backdrop has now created a different set of issues; insulating pipelines against fall-throughs and mitigating against mortgage down valuations, together with price-management conversations, are now more prevalent.”
Sprift’s data can be used in a number of ways, whether it be to generate market comparisons, create intelligent links to track the hottest prospects, or as a prospecting tool. “We always say that agents know their business best, so our job is to provide them with the tools they need to use in the way that best suits them,” adds Gilpin.
Over at Dataloft, director Rory Black uses data to provide agents with up-to-the-minute reports on all aspects of the UK housing market, both at national and local level.
The aim is not just to provide negotiators with critical market intelligence, but enable them to reproduce that data in their marketing in a way that will demonstrate their breadth of knowledge to buyers and sellers.
If the market is a little bit slower and there are slightly fewer instructions, then we find that agents who are continually talking to their database will continue to do really well. Rory Black Director, Dataloft.
“It’s much better to have an informed opinion of the market and have some research and analysis behind what you are saying to people,” explains Black. “We help people cut through the noise in the market and create stories that agents can tell their customers.
“If the market is a little bit slower and there are slightly fewer instructions, then we find that agents who are continually talking to their database will continue to do really well. It’s about getting on the radar and then staying on it.”
Dataloft Inform produces powerful, in-depth reports for agents, backed up by graphics, that agents can white-label and use with their own branding. “What we help people do is keep that conversation going,” he adds. “They might take a market report or an infographic or a letter, or put some of our content on their website, so they are filling their marketing channels with insights about the market – things that are interesting and relevant.
“So when someone comes round to do a valuation they have a couple of agents in mind already, and that’s because they have kept in touch with something that is really relevant. It’s all about marginal gains; what can you do to make people think, ‘They are really knowledgeable agent with substance, I would like to talk to them’.”
Black points out that one huge potential untapped market for buyers are tenants, and suggests that in a challenging market, agents should target tenants with house price information from time to time. “At some point most people who are renting are going to buy, so sharing something with a tenant information about the sales market is opening a conversation with them so when they come round to buying themselves, that can be done really easily.”
These may be challenging times, but the worst thing agents can do is bury their heads in the sand and hope for the best. Focused, intelligent use of market data can put you one step ahead of your competitors, enabling you to take a slice of their business.
Mine your own data
We’ve dealt so far with companies which provide relevant data to help agents win instructions, but there is huge value in data you’re already sitting on. It’s just a matter of what you present to the contacts in your database and when.
BriefYourMarket is an award-winning business that provides an all-in-one, digital marketing suite, giving your agency the ability to pitch to the right people at the right time – contacts who you already ‘know’. “Clear, relevant, timely and high-quality communications help agents to stand out from the crowd,” says Chief Commercial Officer Richard Combellack. “BriefYourMarket has the option to target historic data to generate new leads from older, possibly untouched data, enabling agencies to see real value.
“Communications that track the customer’s journey, and provide help and guidance to select the right services, make their transaction as stress-free and successful as possible.” BriefYourMarket can achieve this with digital newsletters, emails and physical mail-outs, all from an easy-to-use platform, which houses your database.
Meanwhile print provider Ravensworth has seen a resurgence in demand for printed marketing materials to convey the message produced from data mining. “In recent months we have seen more demand for printed marketing such as door drops and direct-mail campaigns,” says head of sales Toby Howd.
In a world flooded with digital marketing, from emails to social media … people are feeling ‘digital fatigue’. There is something to be said about a physical piece of marketing. Toby Howd, Head of Sales, Ravensworth.
“In a world flooded with digital marketing, from emails to social media, there is a sense that people are feeling ‘digital fatigue’. There is something to be said about a physical piece of marketing that is tangible, something that directly puts a business into the hands of a potential customer.”
Ravensworth’s Door Drop service is proving popular with agents looking to run a print marketing alongside digital marketing. With access to 30 million home addresses, agents can target specific postcode areas to be really selective in their marketing efforts.
The firm also offers a web-to-print platform called Marketing Toolkit that allows agents to manage and print their own marketing campaigns, access comprehensive pay-as-you-go address data, target specific postcode areas, and identify specific types of properties and council tax bands. Pay-as-you-go data will also allow agents to canvass properties currently on the market with a competitor.
So whether you’re sitting on the answer in your own historical customer records, or buying in specialist data-crunching software solutions to sift out the prospects for you, data-driven methods of pulling in business from outside your usual reach are there to be exploited.