Selling or renting property is becoming an ever-more sophisticated process, as agents mine local data to find new prospects and create more compelling listings. Gone are the days when a firm could simply rely on local knowledge and good old-fashioned customer service. Consumers are savvy. Be they buyers or renters, they want the latest, most up to date information not just about the property but the surrounding area – schools, shops, restaurants, transport links, commute times, and more.
Agents have to raise their game to win and keep clients, or risk losing out to the newer rivals on the high street – and increasingly, web portals and there are a number of companies now offer packages to agents that allow them to include useful local data in property listings.
However, it goes much further: some would argue the process starts at the initial valuation, wowing a potential client with an impressive range of information on local pricing – and showing how your firm outshines the rest of the pack.
Most vendors will have more than one valuation, and the more information the agent can offer at this pivotal point in the process, the more likely they are to win the sale.
The Negotiator talked to five firms providing data services to see what they offer agents.
Michael Dent, founder of PropertyData, believes having key data on tap as part of an agent’s product offering will put them one step ahead of the competition.
If you can present a report that says the seller’s property is worth £25,000 less than they think it is, it may help them move forward and list it at a more realistic price. Michael Dent PropertyData
“Obviously most estate agents know their local area really well intuitively but it’s also useful to have a feed-in of the latest asking prices, prices per square foot, latest sold transactions, all that kind of stuff,” he says. “It’s pretty short order to pull off a report on a local area and they stick their logo on the top of it – it’s a nice extra to give their potential buyer or seller that makes it looks as if they are really up to date on the latest data; it makes them look intelligent and data savvy for pretty minimal effort.”
PropertyData also offers independent valuation reports that could be useful in persuading an unconvinced vendor that their property may not be quite so valuable as they have been led to believe by other agents.
“By having it as an independent report from us, if you have a slightly tricky potential seller who thinks their property is more than the agent thinks it is, if they can present a report from us that says it’s worth £25,000 less than you think, that might be a useful thing to help that person move forward and list their property at a more realistic price,” says Dent.
There is a sense among some observers that there is a lot of arcane technical wizardry behind the scenes, pulling in information from myriad unknown sources, but, says Dent, PropertyData is totally transparent.
“People can be a bit ‘dark arts’ about it – we are very much the opposite of that,” he says. “On our website there is a data sources page that lists all the 23 different data sources that we pull from, and throughout our system there is a data transparency promise.
“For us it’s absolutely not about secret data sources we have magically discovered, it’s all about using these sources and processing them in a transparent way, and trying to draw interesting and useful conclusions. We try to be as clear and transparent as possible about the trail of where this data has come from.”
PropertyData offers two plans for agents, priced at £20 and £40 per month, with the higher priced model offering unlimited reports.
The largest data company serving the property market is TwentyEA, which offers agents the chance to win new customers by identifying potential clients, both at the pre-listing stage and when a property is already on the market with a competitor.
Part of the TwentyCI group, the firm has access to “literally thousands” of data sources, says Chief Operating Officer Paul Halliwell. “What we are doing here is building audiences for estate agents to target, either consumers who are already on the market and have a high propensity to switch, or are off the market and are most likely to list their property in the next 12 months,” he says.
What we do is build a model saying who we think is going to be moving house in nine weeks’ time and present that audience to different advertising platforms. Paul Halliwell, TwentyEA .
“Some of our sources are public, some are contracted, some of those are proprietary and available only to us, and what we do is build models on top of that data to determine which are the right consumers that should be targeted.”
Some of that data is built in from intelligence from other clients, and often comes from surprising sources. For instance, according to data from retailers, roughly 80% of new mattresses are sold to people who are planning to move house.
“What we do is build a model saying who we think is going to be moving house in nine weeks’ time and present that audience to different advertising platforms,” he explains.
“We provide market intelligence to a whole range of estate agents. We have thousands of users on our platform that gives them information as varied as what their market share is, who is best performing in their particular market, how long particular estate agents take to sell properties, and how well particular estate agent brands do at selling properties at particular prices.”
Halliwell says one of the company’s most interest pieces of analysis recently looked at the differences between listing price, final sale price and a fair value for a property. This enables agents to identify competitors who habitually price high to win business – an ongoing issue in the industry.
TwentyEA offers three products for agents. Prospect is an automated web-based prospecting tool; Insight uses a combination of business intelligence and what it says is the UK’s most comprehensive home-mover dataset to keep agents informed about the local market; while Data offers access to a wide range of national, regional and local property data.
Dataloft focuses very much on presenting data as a marketing tool for agents, enabling them to win new customers by offering up to date information about their local area.
“The bottom line if you want to track customers, to build your brand, you need to be relevant to your audience,” says director Rory Black. “The vast majority of agents follow the typical path of door drops, talking about how many houses they have sold. But what our clients have realised is that what makes them stand out is to be really relevant and interesting to their clients.
We help agents to demonstrate their local expertise. It’s important that you don’t just give people lots of stats, you need to feed them something visual and interesting. Rory Black, Dataloft.
“The most relevant thing to anyone who is thinking of selling or buying or letting or becoming a landlord is what’s going on with the property market, what’s happing with prices, and what kind of people are living in the area.”
Dataloft – which has won The Negotiator Gold Award for Supplier of the Year: Services and Products (Marketing) for the second year running – offers two services, dataloftconsult, a bespoke service for larger clients, and dataloftinform.
The dataloftinform platform offers a wide range of content about the local market, including market reports, letters, flyers, charts and commentary.
“They can plug that content through their marketing channels so they are putting out social media posts that are informed and interesting,” says Black. “It’s all about keeping the conversation going with clients.”
Content includes everything from pricing – new-build, secondhand, or pounds per sq foot; population profile; the type of housing stock in an area; what kind of jobs people do; transport facilities; and the percentage of homes that have an primary school rated as ‘Outstanding’ nearby.
Black believes that offering smart, easily assimilated reports is critical to being seen as the local market leader.
“We are very focused on design,” says Black. “It’s important you don’t just give people lots of stats, you need to feed them something visual and interesting.
“We will create an infographic whenever we can, and market reports are nicely designed and not too text heavy, so you can have a quick glance and get a feel for the market.
“We help agents to look informed and demonstrate their local expertise. It’s impossible for them to do that on their own. It’s all about the concept of being the local expert and saying to clients, ‘Work with people who know the local market better than anyone else’.”
The company also offers Dataloft Rental Market Analytics (DRMA), which it says is the UK’s largest and most comprehensive single source of achieved rents. It includes more than 2 million references, with roughly 30,000 new tenancies and 50,000 new tenants added each month.
Another data company in this space is Swiftcomplete, a product that helps agents put together informative property listings that make them stand out from the crowd.
Just punch in a postcode and the software will pull together information from more than 50 different datasets, generating a breakdown of local amenities that agents can use as a starting point in a property description.
Details include information such as the proximity of a property to local supermarkets, railway stations, doctor’s surgeries and cinemas.
“We found people would be using stock templates for a whole area and not going into the benefits of an individual property’s location,” says company founder Chris Winfield.
If we work with student lets we focus on local shops and amenities and distance to campus – if its London agents covering prime residential we would obviously talk about different issues. Chris Winfield, Swiftcomplete.
“So we put in things like popular commute times, local facilities like shops, restaurants, a good bit about the area, and it just goes into a bit more detail than some agents tend to do.
“If you’re starting with a blank screen it can be a bit daunting, whereas if you provide something from our data it gives a good starting point where people can go, ‘Oh actually I know about that, I can elaborate a bit more’.”
Agents have to raise their game to win and keep clients, or risk losing out to new rivals and web portals. Several companies now offer packages to agents that allow them to include good local data in property listings.
Swiftcomplete can also change the tone of voice and content of the information depending on the target market, and listings come out differently every time so they doesn’t look robotic.
“If we are working with student lettings we would focus on local shops and amenities and distance to campus, whereas if we were working with higher value agents from London covering prime residential we would obviously talk about different issues,” explains Winfield.
“We were aiming for something which was as quick as copying and pasting a template but with a level of detail which was specific to each individual property.”
Property marketplace Zoopla has just launched a new valuation tool aimed at driving leads to agents.
The online widget can be easily and seamlessly integrated directly into an agent’s website using its own logo and branding.
Potential sellers and landlords are offered the chance to get a free estimate of the potential market price or letting value of a property in exchange for their contact information.
The Zoopla valuation tool (ZVT) provides valuation estimates based on the same data used by many of the UK’s biggest mortgage lenders.
Andy Marshall, Zoopla’s Chief Commercial Officer, claims the product will help agents champion their local market expertise while generating all-important leads.
“Critically, the ZVT generates a house-price range, which encourages consumers to engage with an agent, leaving room for them to incorporate their in-depth and local market expertise to calculate a more specific house price valuation across both sales and lettings,” he says.
ZVT generates a house-price range, which encourages consumers to engage with an agent, leaving room for them to incorporate their in-depth and local market expertise. Andy Marshall, Zoopla.