Agent & Homes is the latest estate agency to reject traditional practices and embrace a hub-based, self-employed model.
But why is the company – and its millionaire private backers – so confident that the market and industry is ready for change?
Co-founder Rollo Miles, 46, says there are three key reasons. Vendors are no longer loyal to estate agency brands; technology and the portals are making differentiation between agencies more and more difficult and consumer are in general getting ‘pissed off’ with the big corporate experience.
Miles said he noted the changes taking place in the industry and tried to persuade his most recent employer, John D Wood, to embrace ‘the change’.
“I saw the portals arrive; I saw fewer people walking into branches; I saw how brand loyalty was dying,” he says.
“This traditional high street model we use, where anyone can become an estate agent without training or regulation – I thought, or rather I knew, that there was a better way.
“People are, frankly, pissed off with the corporate experience. You can see it all the way down to coffee shops – they’re increasingly moving away from the likes of Starbucks in favour of small, independent businesses.
“This is increasingly true in real estate, an evolution only accelerated by the mass homogeneity of big UK agencies like Chestertons, Dexters, Winkworth and so on – the concept of differentiation is disappearing.”
Miles says that before portals, agents had to differentiate themselves to win business. But now it is all about having the right stock to attract buyers.
“The same is true for valuations – there is no difference from agent to agent because they’re all using the same pound-per-square-foot algorithms.
“Today, the only differentiation is fee, and even that’s falling into a generic formula.”
Miles therefore believes that individual agents are the key to differentiation because, even though the high street model isn’t working very well at the moment, on every single high street there are a number of great individual agents. And that is why he and co-founder Bob Crowley launched Agent & Homes two years ago.