The Changing World of Estate & Letting Agents

shutterstock_364914206Recently, there has much debate on the future of traditional estate and letting agents in the wake of the online property market revolution.   The emergence of online portals has caused many to predict the demise of the high street estate and letting agent.  Property pundits predict that by 2020 50% of all property transitions will be done online.  Already technological innovations, and changes in home movers’ expectations, have become a disruptive force for the traditional business model of estate and letting agents.  However, recently published research gives an insight into how the business practices of property agents in England have evolved to embrace these changes and, paints a positive future for the sector.

New Demands on Estate and Letting Agents

A report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors illustrate, how the web and customer behaviour have prompted a significant change in the role of and, manner in which, estate and letting agents conduct their business.  Universal accessibility to information has forced agents to change from industry experts to trusted advisers.  No longer the purveyors of industry data they are now focused on providing reassurance and guidance through property negotiations.

Online portals and websites have also required agents to change their service model in response to these new circumstances.  Agencies have had to embrace strategic and digital marketing in order to survive in this new open all hours’ market.  With 70% of property business now taking place outside of ‘office hours’, expectations on availability of agents and response time has increased.  Providing good service to the now ‘expert’ customer is a constant challenge for most but particularly for smaller agencies.

However, the research demonstrates a demand for a variety of service models ranging from low to high.  With one of the largest property markets in the world, the UK requires a spectrum of estate and letting agents, including traditional, online, and hybrid.  The report highlights how good customer service is still the bedrock of successful estate and letting agencies.  Traditional business practices such as repeat customers and referrals are also still one of the main drivers of new business generation.  The research concludes that despite emergence of online competitors, high street estate and lettings agents have remained resilient, and have not declined in the face of this threat.

Online Opportunities for Estate and Lettings Agents.

However, many industry experts predict the current resilience of estate and letting agents can only last for so long.  They argue that agents need to become more adaptive to new technologies and changing customer expectations.  Dr Patrick Dixon, business consultant and ‘futurist’ predicts the next wave of digital innovation could be the undoing of many estate and letting agents.  To successfully ride this wave he makes some recommendations to future proof business practices.

  1. More searches are now on mobile than desktop.  All digital communication should be geared to mobile devices
  2. A picture is worth 1000 words but a floorplan is worth 10,000.  A floor plan illustrates  not only size but layout also
  3. A simple video shows what a property is REALLY like
  4. Diversify but always provide the best customer service.

According to property journalist Graham Norwood the world of the estate and letting agent is becoming more complex and competitive.  Norwood believes that the future will be in providing a hybrid model that offers the convenience of an online service coupled with the customer service of a high street model.  With forecasters claiming, half the homes in the UK will be rented by 2031, the opportunities for expansion for letting agents are immense.  Successfully capitalising on these opportunities, however, will depend on meeting the expectations and needs of a diverse cohort of customers including a new generation of ‘technoholics’.

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