The High Street and the Estate Agent
At the turn of the millennium exploded into our lives that thing called the Internet - or what would soon become the go-to means to get quick answers to questions and problems of all shapes and sizes. Google back then entered into the dot com era at a time when people still reached for the Yellow Pages, would have called you bonkers for ever conceiving that a thing called Skype would host multi million-dollar business deals from polarizing parts of the world, and when if you needed to buy anything at all, the high street was the answer. In 1998, the year Google was launched, we called and didn’t email, SMS’d and didn’t WhatsApp, bought CDs and cassettes instead of streaming, and watched satellite or terrestrial television and weren’t at the mercy of the modern day ‘binge box set’. But even as CD sales fell, Skype accounts soared and big supermarket chains starting offering their fresh groceries at the click of a button, customers’ buying habits – driven predominantly by a coupling of technology immaturity and the want to maintain the human facet to their daily lives – remained largely unaltered. As with any disruptive technology, the initial reaction was to sit back and let the early adopters report back on its usefulness.
Sure enough, fast forward 10 years to the end of the noughties, and the world as we know it is an entirely different place. Travel agents find themselves as the ones needing a long vacation thanks to the eruption of the online package holiday; the Royal Mail suffers huge financial losses as email tightens its grip not only in the office but also in our personal lives; and HMV gets the break it needed when finally Bob Marley would again become cool on vinyl. The internet, then, has weaved its infectiously helpful web into the very fibers of our society – and there is no letting up.
Never more so is this true than in our much-loved town cornerstone that is the high street. In 2018 alone, Prezzos, Toys R Us, Claire’s (US) and Maplin are just a few of the names on the casualty list for liquidation. Meanwhile, Tesco strips jobs amidst a fierce rivalry with big hitting discounters Aldi and Lidl, and House of Fraser sets into motion the plans to close hundreds of its high street stores.
Are estate agents next on the hit list? Well, with more than 97% of all property searches originating on the Internet in 2018, clearly there is a case for it.
A property purchase is likely to be the single biggest purchase of your life, and one of the most important things you ever do. Therefore, one wants to be sure that they have as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. The shop window, then, isn’t quite up to the job it would seem.
Last year, online estate agents saw a 60% increase in market share, while their high street counterparts took a dip. In 2018, the situation isn’t much different. The online market share today is nearing 10% - an increase of more than double in 2016.
But while it seems like good news for the consumer (after all, who doesn’t want to save thousands on estate agent fees), things don’t always go according to plan. The typical online estate agent in 2018 charges an up-front fee – in contrast to the high street agent’s ‘pay when sold, percentage’ model. While this might sound appealing, many sellers later feel that once they have paid the online agent, the motivation to sell their home soon vanishes. Of course, the online agent will emphasise that their ‘reputation is at stake’ and so of course they are just as motivated to achieve a sale, but human nature tells us that when the reward needs to be worked for, we will bend over backwards to see that we get it.
The hybrid estate agent – the happy medium.
One way to ensure you get the best of both worlds – that is, the value for money akin to using an online agent, balanced against the experience you get when you instruct a high street agent – might be to consider using a ‘hybrid’ estate agent. Often offering everything you might expect of a high street agent (personal service, accompanied viewings and a pay only when sold structure), the hybrid agent doesn’t have a high street office, so is able to pass these cost savings down to you, the consumer. The biggest thing to note here is that they’ll likely still charge a percentage fee for the sale of your home, but only once it has sold. This keeps motivation levels high, and ensures your listing is never just ‘forgotten’ about. Sure, we may not be quite as cheap as the likes of Tepilo or Settled, but then again this is the sale of your biggest asset that we’re talking about – who said that cheapest is always best?
Homed:In deliver a premium, personalized service to the consumer, using expertly taken photography and round the clock viewing availability. But while we might act like a typical high street agent, there is no lengthy contract with us – you can opt whenever you like, and not be charged a thing. Furthermore, with an agency fee of just 0.5%, you could still save thousands and argue that the experience and value on offer when using us is simply second to none.
When all is said and done, we must embrace technology and accept that it has been and always will be an instrumental way of getting things done, at often much lower cost. But the personal element, level of trust and skillset that a well-qualified estate agent can bring – well that alone is surely worth paying for.