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"Traditional agents have got fat and lazy" says high-profile buying agent

Prominent buying agent, TV housing market commentator and hard-core tweeter Henry Pryor has accused traditional estate agents of becoming “fat and lazy.”

His comment, made on Twitter, follows two earlier tweets made by Antony Payne, managing director of respected London property data company LonRes.

Payne tweeted: “Recently tried to view some houses in West Sussex on a Saturday. Told by one agent they were too busy and the other still hasn’t called back.”

In a follow up tweet Payne wrote: ”I am a defender of traditional estate agency but they will have a limited lifespan against online if this is the service they offer.”

The tweets were followed up quickly by Russell Quirk, chief executive of eMoov, who tweeted back to Payne: “And they worry about the ‘new enemy’ of online disruption when the low hanging fruit of success is staring them in the face.”

Henry Pryor, who has 21,300 followers on Twitter, joined the party by retweeting one of Payne’s comments with the additional remark of his own, echoing comments made some weeks ago about British businesses by Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

“Traditional agents have become fat and lazy. Many will go under as the market hardens - and they deserve to! This is a classic example” wrote Pryor.

Although such Twitter-spats are dismissed by some in the industry, they are nonetheless routinely spotted by journalists and opinion formers - that conversation on Twitter was spotted by the property correspondent of the Financial Times, Judith Evans, who herself tweeted ‘Ouch!’ after spotting Pryor’s description of traditional agents.

The ball was then picked up by long-standing financial journalist Annie Shaw who recounted her own experience of agents allegedly telling her, as a prospective buyers, of properties new to the market but which had actually been posted on portals two weeks earlier. 

  • Sophia Mose

    Here in France a similar thing has happened. Provence and the Cote d'Azur very much depend on second home buyers. That market can go quiet very easily and when that happened in 2009 and 2010 (later reaction here) the traditional agencies with their high overhead had to let staff go. No more secretary to answer calls and less sales agents. Now that demand is up again, the agencies are understaffed. Agents run around showing properties and taking new ones on the books, with little time left for anything else. Email in-boxes are swamped with spam messages and recently an agent in the Luberon admitted that he could not find the real enquires among the spam messages. As a buyer's agent, I find that agents only respond if you text them and they already know your name. This situation has allowed the more digitally literate national networks of online agents to hugely increase their market share.

  • James Robinson

    Wow! I wonder what happens when Mr Prior tries this with his dentist or doctor. Estate agents spend their weeks booking up their Saturday with appointments to ensure they dont waste Saturdays twiddling their thumbs waiting for diva pig farmers to walk in. Fat and lazy? Really?

  • James Robinson

    Or could it be that Henry Prior forgot to book these viewings for his retaining client and has taken to Twitter to save face for letting them down.
    One thing is for sure it is all grist to Priors ‘PR’ mill.

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    James if you call potential customers diva pig farmers and not opportunities you'll be going down with the sinking ship.
    A comment like that just epitomises everything that is wrong with the industry.
    Interesting how you didn't address the issue of the other agent not calling him back.
    If you take instances or publicised opinions like this to inspire you to audit your own business processes there would be a greater chance you'd succeed.

    James Robinson

    Chris, I was not calling him names, he is a pig farmer by profession and in my opinion is behaving like a diva. After almost 30 years I have grown worn down by the constant sniping at estate agents who, on the whole, do a fantastic job.
    Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear from the countless thousands of grateful customers rather than from the naysayers and market commentators with axes to grind?
    Of course it is not acceptable for a customer to not hear from the agent for days but we do not know the details and one estate agents mistake does not warrant calling an entire industry fat and lazy.
    I agree that one should take instances or publicised opinions like for inspiration to audit one’s own business processes for a greater chance to succeed however if I took heed of these opinions I would be writing a business plan for a 24 hour estate agency with staffing levels able to cope with all eventualities. I do not think it would be a viable plan.

     
  • icon

    After 43 years in this business I think i should be allowed to get a bit fat and lazy (soon) - but do I need an online agent to tell me how it should be done? Are they really the future? They have been trying long enough and still don't make profits. In my experience locally (N.London) they just aren't performing - how one 'local property expert' can show as many people on a Saturday as a traditional agent with eager young negs standing by I don't know. Of course it is not always possible to show everyone over when they want - but if the owner will show (which presumably online agents rely one) it is never a problem.
    E.g. the vendor of a property on the market for sometime with a leading online agent asked us to help - they had plenty of interest including a buyer at an acceptable price but couldn't get a sale to go through. We were instructed, took over the negotiations with all interested parties including the acceptable offer buyer. We received a cash offer of £100,000 more (immediate exchange) but as the original purchaser was in direct touch with the vendor he managed to hold the vendor to the original price agreed, and promptly exchanged. We still got paid. If the journalists are reading here i'm sure we all have such examples - anyone?

  • Jason Roberts

    I love the term 'traditional estate agents'. I suspect the agents that call themselves such are the same ones that won't accept that this industry is changing. The online market share is currently the same as Countrywide's market share (for example) and will be 4 times larger in 2020.
    However, it's not about 'traditional' agency versus online agency. It's about service, communication and transparency versus the lack therof.

  • icon

    The only sensible stance to take in the argument involving high street (or "traditional") estate agents versus the on-line alternative is that neither extreme can claim superiority. It seems obvious that a mix of the two is the way forward - maximising the experience and accountability of the former with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the latter.
    All the polemic the on-line agents spout just makes them sound like petulant children - noise created strategically as a diversion from their own "teething troubles" and short-fallings. In comparison, high street agents on the whole seem to keep a dignified silence, safe in the knowledge that they are secure in their area and that there will always be clients who prefer to deal with a human being on a more conventional basis.
    On-line agency fees continue to be advertised in a selective fashion - quoting average savings based on examples gleaned from one of London's biggest agencies - but then applying this data to the entire UK market. Some have been reprimanded but the lies are already out there, so what do they care? Ultimately, the truth will come out and people will make their own informed decisions.
    My clients buy into me and they happily pay their bills because they can see the work involved and they appreciate the treatment they received throughout the process. They may have been able to achieve their sale via an on-line alternative but if they couldn't do their own viewings they would have ended up paying a very similar fee. You get what you pay for and I offer far more than any of the on-line agencies operating around here - especially when it comes down to crucial sales progression - any numpty can bang a sign outside a property, process an offer and send out a generic letter, but what about the REAL work of making sure it's a tenable deal and actually guiding it over the line to completion?
    This is not a "one size fits all" situation. People are different and what suits one may not suit another. If these on-line agencies best attempt at establishing themselves is based on slagging off traditional agents I don't fancy their chances of survival. How about selling yourself on quality? That's what we do and we've been here for a long time. Sweeping generalisations based on one agent not returning a call do not represent the entire high-street based industry. That's just stupid.

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