Not too long ago, the property industry was taking its first few steps onto the internet in the shape of property portals.
As with any new technological change or major industry shift, portals like RightMove (founded 2000) and Zoopla (founded 2008) will have had their sceptics and people who didn’t want to see change. Today, around 95% of home movers search for a property online using such sites. Despite initial scepticism, online and hybrid agents appear to be going the same way.
The online model of offering to place a property on the market for a low, fixed-fee and allow the owner to conduct the sale is showing signs of promise. But even though this has given another option to homeowners, and picks up on the massive success of the retail industry’s use of the internet, the property industry is a very different beast. After all, buying a home is one of the biggest events in a person’s life. It isn’t just a quick look on a website and it certainly can’t be returned after a 28 day period. So consulting a team of experts remains the best and most reassuring method available.
This could perhaps be why, even though many online agents are reporting booming business, the online market only occupies 3% of the national property market.
But times are changing, and consumers are always looking for quicker and easier ways to make transactions (think Sky Scanner, Tesco Direct, and even contactless payment). By tapping into the online catalogue and using straightforward communication technology, hybrid agents have done away with the high street shop to progress the online model by offering locally placed agents’ expertise with a fixed fee. With EstatesDirect.com’s expansion through the modern crowd funding approach and talk of other online agents looking to list on the Stock Market, the online model is certainly growing.
However, the industry must still challenge the market and push the boundaries. One sticking point lies in a dated selling system. Even with property portals, mounds of paperwork, middle men and red tape still hold up the process, frustrating sellers. And considering the instantaneous nature of consumer-to-consumer selling on eBay, Gumtree and Amazon, it is understandable property owners should be bemused that it takes an average five days to place a property on the market.
With that in mind, EstatesDirect.com set out to create an app, named EstatePad, designed to cut time for customers and be compatible with multiple operating systems across all current tablets. While it’s only available to EstatesDirect.com agents, it cuts out the middle men allowing a homeowner’s property to be listed online within 24 hours.
The media has broadly poked fun at the property industry’s traditional practices and ‘old school’ views on how to sell property, but since the turn of the millennium, the industry has moved rapidly towards digitalisation. Property portals have taken us online, changing how property is sold, and giving us a very public insight into how the Jones’ property next door looked, how big their garden was, and how much it sold for. Next, we challenged traditional pricing structures and practices by leading the way with fairer, fixed-fees, rather than escalating commission rates.
Now, the challenge for the industry must be to deliver value and expertise for the customer at greater speed. To be successful in the 21st century, we must become the next generation of estate agents, not just ‘online’.
It’s all great news for the industry, but we must continue to search for ways to improve, keeping a look-out for other sectors surrounding us, whom I’m sure, we can learn a great deal from.
Ben Grove is managing director of online estate agency, EstatesDirect.com