The Disruption of the Real Estate Agency

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Customers want an estate agent brand they can believe in and who’s service is comparable to the services they love and use daily – Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, TfL, Amazon etc. But who will take challenge to transform into the estate agent of the future now?

With the population in the UK increasing year on year, and house building not even getting close to keeping up, the shortage of properties is becoming acute. This shortage will push up prices and create a clear challenge for all estate agents. The competition for stock will intensify, and the best placed estate agents in this fiercely competitive landscape of the future will be those that can offer the best service across the entire customer journey for the best price – for the selling, buying and rental of property across all the key customer segments.

The property market has changed. Property Search portals have taken control of property search. The 4 main portals – Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation and On The Market – list around 1.1 mil properties with 16,000 estate agents currently using them, and have disintermediated estate agents from the top of the sales funnel.

Online estate agents are beginning to enter the market with new business models based around flat fees. Currently, online estate agents sit across a spectrum of Hybrids to Pure Plays. The Pure Plays offer a more basic online service (such as Tepilo) which is cheaper but more work for the seller. Hybrids like Purplebricks offer full packages which aim to compete with the traditional estate agents. None of the online estate agents have a high street presence currently, but this could change very quickly when and if they build up enough resources to do this. If their cost models allow it, they will do it.

The differences between Traditional and Online estate agents are clear – but may become more blurred as time goes on – with all estate agents becoming hrybrids. The Traditionals have the advantage currently – with their high street presence and local knowledge, their vast experience in getting sales over the line, and in their pricing structure which incentivises them to drive hard for the completion.

But there are large sways of the customer’s journey through the house selling and buying process where Traditionals have no real brand presence. These customer decision journey dead zones are ripe for brand ownership through the creation of brand interaction points to drive sellers and buyers towards down the funnel towards a particular estate agent. For example, who of all the Traditional estate agents will be the first to fix the hole in the bottom of the sales funnel by building advocacy programs that lock in current customer’s loyalty for their next sale or purchase? Will the Onlines with their more nimble business models crack this first? Or will the necessary investment to do this properly be a barrier to them allowing the Traditionals to get there first? Will the Traditionals use technology such a VR in their high street shops to deliver a better customer experience and leverage their high street presence as a competitive advantage much like holiday companies are doing?

What is clear is that the rethinking of the estate agent service and integrating digital as a service across the entire customer journey is an open goal opportunity for whoever wants to take a shot at it. Whoever takes the challenge to own and join up the customer’s experience using digital and physical service elements will be able to extend their service footprint further across the customer decision journey and win a place in the hearts of UK’s buyers and sellers through an always-on more outcome led personalised service offering that delivers not just an increase in sales, but an increase in brand loyalty.

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