Fighting in the Estate Agency Playground.

Fighting in the Estate Agency Playground.


Fighting in the Estate Agency Playground.

Online vs. High Street.

Half-truths, insults, complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. A few tantrums, here and there.

But by and large, vendors are none the wiser which estate agency model is better.

And the confusion only gets worse.

At first, it was one, or the other.  A battle that the traditional high-street agents seemed to be winning.  “It requires the face-to-face element” they claimed.

It did.

Vendors, by and large, seemed dubious about dealing with these upstart, faceless,  online agencies.

1% market share crept up to 2% and, most recently, a not too impressive 5% estimate.

The online agencies then decided that a hybrid model was a winning strategy. The reach of the internet but with the ‘local property expert’.

There, to clean up the inevitable mess.

PurpleBricks made a big deal of this hybrid model.  And a lot of noise. A bit like the Walls of Jericho.  All those incessant trumpets.  But the citadel that is high-street agency remained, for the most part, in tact.

Early adopter online agencies such as eMoov have now jumped on that particular bandwagon.  A few short-sighted and self-interested high street agents have also deserted to the middle ground.  A few even have a foot in both camps.  How’s that for hedging your bet?

Whilst the name-calling and ‘hair-pulling’ rages on, vendors might question whether they are better off.  Has the disruption been worthwhile?

Both online and high-street agencies will claim that it offers the vendor more choice.  Online, hybrid or traditional.  Every base covered.

Get Off The Fence

What vendors actually got was a lot of estate agents that couldn’t make up their mind.  Whether they were traditional, hybrid or online.

Everything to everybody.

Very little differentiation.

Competition, generally, is welcomed.  But not when the ‘game’ isn’t played at a higher level.  Half-truths and questionable data from one side.  Slick sales manipulation and apathy from the other. A different way of doing things,  but fundamentally, not better.

Instead of defending their respective positions, the whole industry seemed to coalesce.  Into a bland mediocrity.

Traditional agencies had, and still have, the opportunity of building a loyal fan base.  Dealing with emotions, connecting the local community on a deeper level. Developing assets that matter such as trust, permission and remarkability.  Giving their best shot at being more human.  As Tony Robbins says:

“Innovation doesn’t have to be just hi-tech.  It can be hi-touch”

Online agencies, the opportunity of harnessing the power of algorithms.  The reach of the net and the incredible world of technology. Inspiring instead of dumbing down.  Betting the farm on the future. Rather than the past.

Both exciting possibilities.

What did we get?

The Hybrid.  The love-child of two parents that can’t abide each other.

This business model, of course, originated in the U.S.A.

But was soon adopted by individual agents that couldn’t quite make it in the high-street. And who weren’t sure that online had a future.

Touted as the best of both worlds.  With the aim of ‘saving’ vendors a shed load of money.

Not better, mind.  Not providing added value, over and above what’s been before.

Just cheaper.

With a few things missing.

In effect, the Liberal Democrats of estate agency.  Uninspiring yellow and a strong desire to not cause offence.

What troubles me is this:

Whether traditional, online or hybrid, very few agencies have the courage to stand up and say, “This is who we are.”

Instead, vendors get infantile TV ads.

“Shouting at strangers” as Seth Godin describes it.

A sign of the times, possibly.

Sales people in a sales culture.  At a time when most hate that manipulation.

With all these estate agents fighting for your instruction, the choice might seem unclear.

As anyone that has read our previous posts will know, I’m firmly on the side of the high-street agencies.  For all their faults, there hasn’t yet been anything to better the model.

They have a lot of battles yet to fight.  And those hybrids that claim to be ‘neutral’ do neither side a favour.

Vendors don’t want more choice.  Most know little of what makes a great agency. They don’t, generally, want the cheapest.

They want the best.

But as they say, two’s company and three’s a crowd.  Hybrids don’t add anything to the equation.

The Best

Should online agencies ever do something that adds rather than subtracts from the service, we’ll be the first to sing their praises.

Not the promise of 24/7 service.  Not the claim to be more transparent.  Something that vendors could actually care about.

High street agencies need to up their game.  The competition from online has created the perfect opportunity for them to flourish.

In this estate agency scrap, we like to think we keep homeowners safe.

Secure, protected.

Ever vigilant and indurated to the lure of the next ‘shiny tech innovation, we side with excellence.

If you need some free advice, do get in touch.  We’re happy to help.