The changing face of estate agencies
September . 2012
Having worked in residential estate agency for some 24 years and in rural agency before that, I have seen a few ups and downs in the property market. The current recession is however the deepest and longest that I have experienced and the widely held view is that it will be some time before we see another property boom. The likelihood is that when the market does recover, and no one can be sure when this will be, it will be a long, slow process.
Here in South Wiltshire and North Dorset we are perhaps fortunate in that the right property, sensibly priced and promoted, still continues to attract good buyers.
With the property market in the doldrums one would have expected a few estate agencies to have gone out of business but this has not been the case. This goes to show that the vast majority of buyers and sellers still prefer to use an agent for their valuation, marketing, negotiation and sales processing expertise as well as having someone to act as an intermediary.
A good agent, as well as finding buyers for their vendor clients’ homes, can have an instrumental role to play once a sale has been agreed. It is after all not just about striking a deal but seeing it through to a conclusion; something that at times can be a fraught business that needs to be handled with tact, diplomacy and patience.
So is my job the same as it was back in 1988? There has been new Legislation to contend with such as the Property Misdescriptions Act, the implementation and then cancelation of the Home Information Pack, the introduction of the Energy Performance Certificate and various Regulations but it is still basically the same role, i.e. the marketing and selling of property. What has certainly changed is the way this is done.
As a young land agent, I was surprised that the estate agents in the office that I worked in at the time, would regularly spend two hours in the pub at lunchtime, coming back worse for wear, wreaking of beer and smoke but in those days that was how a good deal of business was carried out. Fortunately the working environment now is very much more sober, slicker and professional.
The quality of agents’ marketing material over the years has improved vastly. When I started out sales particulars consisted of very basic, poorly photocopied information sheets which if you were lucky had a stuck-on mini photograph on the front. Sales details are now much smarter, more relevant and image rather than word led with the better quality agents using floor plans, site plans, maps and plenty of professionally taken photographs.
Perhaps the most radical change during my career has been the irresistible advancement of the computer. With faster technology and ever improving software programmes, managing the marketing and sales process has become very much more efficient, speedier and effective whilst the extraordinary reach of the internet has revolutionised how buyers search for their next home leading to the requirement for an estate agent to have a traditional high street office becoming a thing of the past.
A good illustration of this is that Rural View recently took over the marketing of a house in the Nadder Valley from a well-known national agent that has a city centre office whereas we do not. In the five months that the original agency marketed the property they arranged six viewings, in the three weeks Rural View have been promoting it we have so far had fourteen