Wednesday, 9 April 2008

“Far less reliance on selling tools such as the Internet”

The above is a quote from the head of residential sales at Savills on the front page of the FT Weekend House and Home section this weekend (5/6 April) which ran an article titled ‘we’re back to having to work hard’.

Notwithstanding the incredulous expression this headline provoked, some of the comments contained within require further investigation. The article interviews two senior agents from two prominent firms, Savills and Chestertons.

Two comments from Paul Jarman of Savills require closer inspection, namely: “…the role of the agent has returned to that of best friend, confidant and business partner, with far less reliance on selling tools such as the Internet…” (my emphasis) and

“… there is already a lot less reliance on the Internet and more personal contact talking to vendors about pricing and buyers about paying … two years ago we were reliant on computer systems; now it is about contact and communication…”

Ignoring the sad omission that agents may have neglected their customers in the past, the above comments are troubling. To label the ‘Internet’ as a selling tool per se is to completely misunderstand the online market. Definitions and generalisations of ‘the Internet’ aside, I had thought that the majority of agents understood that embracing and utilising technology is at the heart of the future of residential property sales.

Indeed, many of our agents are well versed in SEO, understand the principles of online marketing and readily apply these to each and every property they sell. Of course, the agent should be best friends with the customer and anyone who has read my ramblings will realise that this is exactly where I see the industry heading, but by utilising the mass of technology available, not disregarding it out of hand. The market has changed dramatically over the recent years and continues to change at pace (think high street travel agent 10 years ago). See my post regarding the changes in mobile technology and real estate for example.

Much emphasis is rightly placed on communication between seller/buyer and agent, but communication is not just between the agent and the client, it is equally about communicating the property for sale through all available online channels.

Robert Bartlett of Chestertons comments that overheads will go up as “… vendors will expect advertising in glossy magazines …” Will they? Vendors are savvy enough to know that glossy ads are arguably no more than window dressing and I would hazard a guess that they would much rather see their property being pushed through other online media channels. Chesterton clients are savvy enough to know that coffee table magazines do not necessarily ‘sell’ their properties, they know advertising statistics, they know ROI and publication statistics.

The article begins by saying ‘…there is little sympathy for estate agents …’ and I wonder why when the response of these agents to a changing market is (a) put prices up and (b) abandon technology.

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