How can high street estate and letting agents compete with the emergence of online?
That’s a great question but I think first of all you have to establish what you’re actually competing with. Mostly, high street agents have a fantastic brand, they have great service standards and they’re well known in their locality. That’s something that online agents can’t offer.
Online agents do have an eye watering budget when it comes to promoting themselves, whilst they often offer reduced fees. So can high street agents compete with that, no I don’t think so, no one’s got 34 million pounds in their back pocket to do national advertising campaigns. The high street agent can take advantage of that and actually use all of that money that’s being spent to promote themselves and that’s something we at VTUK are working with our clients to do.
Will high street agent’s survive?
Yes, I’m absolutely convinced they will survive, whether or not they survive in the high street is an interesting question. The high street itself is dying and there are many other venues that people choose to frequent at the weekend or even during the week, where perhaps agents should be more prevalent. Retail parks, shopping stalls, huge outlets that people visit and have thousands and thousands of footfall every weekend. Perhaps that’s where estate and letting agents should be positioning themselves rather than in high streets, which is all encompassingly quite difficult to get to. That’s been shown by the fact that only 30% of vendors now choose to visit a branch before they actually put their house on the market.
So, will they survive, yes they will, will they survive in the high street, I don’t think so and the reason why they’ll survive is because they’re not a HMV and they’re not a Netflix. This is something that’s a serious transactional commitment from somebody. I think we’ll be better to compare the online emergence with the medical profession or even perhaps the legal one, where many people will now Google ”what’s wrong with me?” , have a check online and maybe even use some of the recommendations that are offered there. When it comes to it, if they’re still ill and they’re getting more ill, then they’ll turn to a doctor and they’ll go and visit them in a practice.
What’s next for high street agents?
Well it seems to me, with the amount of marketing spend the online agents have, it’s very much putting them in the position of being listers. People are approaching the online agents and they have first footfall when it comes to actually marketing the property so I could possibly see that a US model might develop. Where you have professional listers and you have professional sellers, then you have professional sales progression individuals. So, perhaps a differentiation in the marketplace with different separate skill sets rather than with online or traditional. As a traditional agent can be online but an online agent can’t actually offer a traditional service because they don’t have that kind of experience or infrastructure. So that’s where I would see the market going.
What’s VTUK doing to help with this?
To help with this we’re empowering all of our clients with the ability first of all to offer all of the service that online agents offer. Then secondly we’re giving them more and more tools so that they become a far more relevant and focused place for all landlords and vendors to go and visit. Just recently we released the online brand, Openview Online, but also the auction product which facilitates that as a first line of sale, a new style of auction.
We have an MLS system which we’ve got up and running which allows all of our agents to collaborate with one another. Now we’re working on land and new homes as well, so that our clients will really be the agency equivalent of an apache attack helicopter, very light, very mobile but hugely armoured and able to operate in almost any theatre, that’s better than an online.