The future estate agency model is going to be neither the traditional High Street office nor the online-only alternative - instead it is “all about hybrid” according to Countrywide’s chief digital officer Alex Bailes.
He told the 'Future: Prop Tech' conference in London that Countrywide “has just commissioned one of the biggest pieces of research, surveying 3,000 consumers” and that it was clear they did not want purely online agency services, especially as its share of the wider sales and lettings market was so low.
“It’s all about the hybrid space” Bailes told the conference, saying it was clear from the research that consumers wanted local expertise and a competitive sale price for their property most of all.
Critically, the fee paid to the agent came only fifth on the list of most important decision making factors for would-be vendors he said.
The conference also heard from emoov chief executive Russell Quirk, Purplebricks founder Michael Bruce and Chris Wood of Cornish estate agency PDQ Property, who has analysed the relative performance of traditional-versus-online agency activity in his area.
PDQ’s Wood told the conference that his concern was greatest about online operators offering a non-local non-geographic offering to sellers and buyers, and that online agents giving crude valuations using Land Registry data that was “three months out of date at least” was doing a disservice to consumers and the industry alike.
Purplebricks’ Michael Bruce told delegates that consumers now had the largest choice of agent-type they had ever enjoyed, ranging from old-school offerings to online-only, with his own service operating somewhere in between - ”akin to a high street agency model as we have local property experts.”
In a debate involving questions from the floor, Russell Quirk from eMoov insisted that commission-based agency had had its day. “It's not fair and it’s broken” he said, describing it as “a con”.
He cited Foxtons’ average fee as £14,000 and claimed this was not higher than agents outside of London because the firm put in more effort, but merely because the capital’s homes were more expensive. “How on earth can that be right?” he asked.
(Reporting from the conference by Conor Shilling of Angels Media)