Lock-down will make agents ‘reassess home working and self-employment’

Government decision last night to lock-down Britain will change both how people are employed and their attitudes to branch working, it is claimed.

The Coronavirus lock-down will have far-reaching and unforeseen effects on many industries but according to one hybrid estate agency, for property it’s going to be the rise of home-working and self-employed staff.

Paul Clarke, who with his partner set up estate agency, ‘Mr and Mrs Clarke’, claims this will an inevitable outcome of 50,000 estate agency staff being forced to work from home until June and beyond.

The company, which was established four years ago, is now looking for partners to expand its brand, which was the brainchild of the Clarkes after they had a poor experience selling their London home and buying a new one outside the capital.

But after perfecting ‘the brand’ the couple realised selling homes is more difficult than it looks.

They then hired a former Knight Frank and Modern House sales director to help them refine their service and they are now looking for locally networked local agents to join them.

“Our market is agents like Savills, Fine & Country and Knight Frank but also good independents,” says Paul. (pictured, left)

“Our customers are people who love their homes and want to show them off when they put them on the market.”

Mr and Mrs Clarke is an unusual agency for several other reasons other than its name.  The company sounds upmarket, but it is also one of the most innovative users of social media within the industry.

Clarke says the company gains 50% of its buyer leads from Instagram while Rightmove and Zoopla supply the rest. In return the company offers its partners 75% of the fees earned form each sale.

“There are a couple of agencies like us in London but nothing like us outside the capital,” says Clarke. “The difference is we offer vendors an astounding marketing package including photography, property marketing materials, EPCs and floorplans.”



One Comment

  1. Estate Agency or Real Estate like many industries is undergoing seismic changes, the way we work, where we work, and who we work for and how technology is ‘helping’ in that process.

    One positive thing coming out of this terrible situation (Covid-19) is that many agents who are ‘transactional’ focusing as I used to for 30-years plus on the next deal, can now use their time to reflect and plan on a more ‘modern’ and efficient model of agency.

    They can take take their eye off the moving parts of their business, and start to think ‘If I started in real estate today how would the business look and operate, ensuring my clients and end users would want to do business with me?’

    That is a journey I began nearly four years ago, when I began consultancy for agents, I started with ‘management’ issues, how to deal with teams and how to change the mind sets of CEO’s and managers.

    Then I realised, that this was a tiny part of the problem to make real estate businesses relevant, times had changed and technology as much as people are the two drivers in estate agency. That is why I became an advocate for Property Technology or Proptech for short. The digital transformation of the industry, and not just residential estate agency or Lettings. In time becoming a Proptech Influencer for Unissu, helping both industries I believe in agency and proptech.

    Forget the buzzwords, it is all about making your processes, the moving parts of your business, quicker, leaner and more profitable, often automating the boring and repetitive bits, giving clients a better service.

    Lock down is now forcing agents to communicate in a modern way, Zoom, Skype, etc is the way sales teams now communicate, that for some agencies is a quantum leap. My advice let Lock down force you to explore – better more modern ways of doing business.

    I fully understand that many property professionals do not engage with proptech, I was that agent, too busy to listen to sales people looking to sell me solutions, now I realise that just as other industries have wrestled with change, and modernised, any business that does not engage with proptech (and modern agency as Mr & Mrs Smith) will as I was quoted in the Daily Telegraph become ‘financially wounded dinosaurs’.

    To help you get your mind into the topic I set out a short article I wrote some time ago, which defines the ‘mind set’ barrier that exists, and which with help and support the industry can overcome.

    There are many people looking to help, from great advocates like my close friend Valentina Shegoyan from REACH – my mentors James Dearsley, Eddie Holmes and Will Darbyshire from Unissu, all of whom want to make agency easier, better and more profitable.

    Prop Tech (Proptech) Science Fiction for Estate Agents – Andrew Stanton

    Back in the mid 1980’s, I became an estate agent (broker) and was at that time an avid reader of science fiction. My favourite book was ‘Machines that think’ a compendium of short sci-fi stories, about future worlds, with a forward by the famous author Isaac Asimov.

    Though it was published in 1984, many of the stories had been written in the 1940’s and 1950’s and described future Utopian or Dystopian worlds full of new technology and the role of artificial intelligence, robots and data.

    Fast forward to nearly 2020, and I am still in the estate agency or property industry, and many of the advances that the sci-fi writers had predicted 70-plus years ago are now part of this world. And within the property sector there is now Proptech – or as I call it science fiction for agents.

    Let me explain, Proptech is a vast sprawling vista of different new technologies operating within the sphere of property, it is not just digitization, it is re-imagining and interconnecting all the strands within the sector.

    It covers property, its design, planning, build, sales, renting, asset management, and the way in which humans interact with property. Where the customer or end user’s experience can be analysed, distilled and digitized into a solution which enhances service levels and the experience of the consumer, hopefully driving a profitable outcome for the owner of the technology.

    It could be a property with sensors – a talking house or providing seamless systems to replace archaic systems within estate agency, in fact a big problem in Proptech is seeing the wood for the trees and knowing which technology will succeed and which will not.

    Proptech is many things including; – Deep Learning, Artificial intelligence, Big Data, Intelligence Augmentation, The Internet of things, Machine Learning and Blockchain. The driver is to use data to streamline processes and deliver maximum revenues. (Note that many of these terms would not look out of place in one of Isaac Asimov’s books, I Robot.)

    Online agents are Proptech, so too is Fixflo in the rental sector, or Offr a new way to buy and sell property quickly and transparently in the residential property sector, Yourkeys getting property exchanged in 7-days, OpenBrix, Coadjute, Moovshack, Vaboo, PropertyHeads, Stitch-ai,Leadoo the arena is vast but it is not too important to try to define Proptech, better to see the financial advantages that it is bringing.

    a salesperson using [1990s Proptech] was worth two ‘pen and paper’ salespeople

    Just as Fin Tech exploded onto the scene in the past 15-years, where massive amounts of money were invested into Financial technology, Proptech is now starting to have the same levels of investment, in both the UK and the rest of the world.

    The big problem is that many UK estate agents see Proptech or the sub-division of Proptech that applies to them as Sci-fi.

    Agents are very conservative, and slow moving to make changes to their businesses, they fear change. (I always did) – Why change things if your business makes money?

    They feel bamboozled by the terminology and the complexities of Proptech, with many agents say it all sounds a bit costly, and it is not too certain which bit of Proptech works and produces a profit.

    Which is a shame because many property agents, residential and lettings, would benefit from automating the dull boring administrative type parts of their businesses, their property management systems.

    In the mid-1990’s, I was an advocate of early Proptech using ‘Estate-Craft’, a bespoke software package which was the forerunner of many operating systems now.

    I realised that a salesperson using the system was worth two ‘pen and paper’ salespeople, because a lot of the repetitive work was taken out, and databases allowed quick matching of buyers to properties, and speed in commerce is always vital.

    Proptech…is not just digitisation, it is re-imagining and interconnecting all the strands within the sector.

    For me, the Proptech revolution which spans much more than the annual £6.5 billion residential sales market in the UK, is on the move. Offering its hand in partnership to ‘forward thinking’ estate agency companies.

    Creating a way of trading akin to Amazon where the customer experience is put front and centre. Some companies have fully grasped that outstretched hand, others sit and wait.

    And I wonder why? As now estate agency can be based on captured data and analytics which provide a clear narrative of what the customer likes and wants.

    So, a personalised service, with connection across digital platforms and smart phones, plus the important face to face engagement with salespeople can be provided.

    Another good reason to investigate and adopt ‘Proptech – science fiction for estate agents’, is the rise of the Millennials (born in the late 1980’s and 1990’s) and the rise of Gen-Z the generation born just after the Millennials.

    These will soon be the volume property industry clients, and they form the digital technology generation, which Wikipedia ominously states are ‘comfortable with Internet and Social media.’

    That I feel is an understatement, and whilst Gen-Z may seem a great name for a sci-fi novel, it might be prudent to start connecting with industry giants like James Dearsley, or Eddie Holmes to get ahead of the Proptech game. And of course if you want some advice from an agent’s perspective but with a Proptech mind set I am always easy to contact.

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