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How lockdown could change estate agency for the better, forever

Lockdown has shown us new ways of working which could actually be an improvement on traditional agency practices. Steve Wayne explains.

Steven Wayne, Managing Director, Benjamin Stevens Estate Agents

The beginning of 2020 looked like we were finally turning a corner. A landslide election victory and our long-awaited departure from the European Union signalled stability and growth for the housing market. January and February saw increased sales and more importantly, an increase in positivity.

Then we were hit by the devastation that has affected every single person on the planet, cost untold human life, and changed the way we operate as a society, both presently and for many months to come.

The last three months have been nothing short of horrendous, but you’ve got to look at the positives. Over the last 12 weeks the property industry has shown that it can adapt to the way we have been forced into working.

For decades estate agents have clung to the idea that we need to be working in an office, being viewed through a glass window of a shop front, in order to do business.

What lockdown has taught us is that we don’t need to be in our office twelve hours a day, six days a week. There is a better way for us to work, to achieve a more suitable work life balance, and still sell and let property and ultimately, earn money. The fact is the industry has evolved by two years in the last three months!

A recent poll by Rayner Personnel showed two-thirds of estate agents in the UK are considering a change of role following the Coronavirus pandemic with many considering new roles which let them work from home or offer self-employment.

Agents who believe in themselves and have enough self-motivation, don’t need a physical office to succeed and earn more money.”

At Benjamin Stevens, we have spent the last two years building a platform and a way of working using exactly this model. It allows agents flexibility and the freedom to focus on the local areas they know best. Our Partner Agents are either based in Hubs or work from home and come and go as their workload demands it. Traditional agencies paying large salaries want to see staff in their offices, but agents who believe in themselves and have enough self-motivation, don’t need a physical office to succeed and earn more money.

Since lockdown, a staggering 20 agents have joined our team and the CVs keep flying in.

For me, lockdown has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step back and look at my business and really plan where we’re going over the next six months. I’m understanding my business again and I’ve already learned eight or nine things we can do better now we’re up and running again.

While I am a firm believer in maintaining personal contact with your clients, there is no denying the power of social media as a marketing tool. Agents can now engage with, and be part of their local communities on Facebook and Instagram, using clever advertising and direct messages.

During the lockdown period our social media audiences have exploded while we carried out daily live interviews with industry experts, local business owners and charities. We produced live open house viewings and offered free virtual valuations and property advice consultations. Despite our doors being shut, people knew our business was still operating but within the guidelines set by the government.

Meetings that would have taken place face-to-face in an office, were carried out over Zoom, saving time and energy, with no need for travelling. Training was also carried out in much the same way.

Where communications need to improve is not between our colleagues, but with the clients.”

What we’ve seen is how the industry can change for the better. We can work from home and be productive. The technology is there to support us. We can save time every day by not spending hours travelling to and from the office, or chatting to other members of our team, or sitting in pointless meetings. To be at your most productive you need peace and quiet, so you can sit and hit the phones without being distracted.

Where communications need to improve is not between our colleagues, but with the clients. We need more personal contact not less – and that can still be just as effective by phone or video conferencing. There needs to be an increase in agents approaching clients, not waiting for them to pick up the phone or walk in off the street.

The estate agency industry is about people not property. Your job is to help people find their next home – their dream home. We should treat every client as if they were our parent or grandparent. Show them respect, be honest, and in return the business, the loyalty, and the recommendations will follow. Customer service should always be your priority. If you look after your clients, your clients will look after you.

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