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Countrywide launches 'hybrid' online and traditional sales across three brands

Countrywide is to offer vendors and buyers a choice of using an online service, a traditional high street branch or a mix of the two in a pilot project involving three brands. 

Spencers in the Leicestershire and Rutland area, Austin & Wyatt in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire, and Frank Innes across the East Midlands are the chosen brands.

"Customers ... will be able to select the level of advice and support that best meets their individual needs, in what will be a leap forward for the industry" says a statement from Countrywide, released this morning.


It says most customers are expected to continue to draw heavily on the expertise provided by traditional local teams but "the new online service will allow others to take greater control over their own sale for a fixed price." 

The trial will involve experiments with upfront pricing - no details have yet been released.

Countrywide says that even those customers who choose online will be able to "switch to a full level of support, without losing a single penny" suggesting that the online fee can be set against the higher cost traditional service if that is used later in the same transaction.

The statement also claims this extension of Countrywide's services has been facilitated by "the most comprehensive training programme the company has ever created."

The group says even online customers will receive an in-person valuation, setting its service apart from many online-only offers. “Thereafter the online service is available for customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing sellers to manage viewings and availability, see how well their property is performing online, and receive, negotiate, accept or reject offers. It will also give buyers the opportunity to book viewings, leave property feedback, make and negotiate offers."

The initiative "recognises that people’s needs and expectations when selling and buying a home are changing" according to Alison Platt, group chief executive.

Platt says the move builds on the roll-out of tablet technology called Launchpad, which enables agents to capture client details, monitor compliance and allows the creation of key documents from contracts to brochures and floor plans as well as portal uploads.

Since taking command of Countrywide in September 2014 Platt has started a transformation of the group, which remains Britain's largest estate and letting agency. It sold £19 billion worth of property in 2015 alone. She has engineered a restructuring of the group around four main business units - Retail, London, B2B and Financial Services.

  • Glenn Ackroyd

    3 brands, 3 service offerings...

    That could be confusing to consumers.

    Now Savills, Connells and Countrywide have thrown their hats into the Hybrid space it will be interesting to see who wins the VHS -v- Betamax battle.

    But the problem for their model is that they are having to do it by cannibalising their existing customer base and reducing revenues. Especially if Countrywide are using the same brands.

  • Simon Shinerock

    The clever bit is allowing the customer to start with low cost digital and swap at no cost to full service later on, on paper this approach is an instruction getter. The technology will soon become ubiquitous but I guess they are hoping for a first mover advantage, at least this very large business is having a go at getting ahead of change, for that their chief deserves respect

    Joshua Offer

    These are exactly my thoughts. We are finding that lots of people would love to pay much less but need the support that they just don't get on the backend with the online agents (currently). For me this looks like a great way to get a property on and actually charge for the amount of work required, accountant style.

  • James Scollard

    The DIY (online) service is still losing money for hybrid models. It can work but the fees need to be higher. It's a shame for clients, having seen agents make clients thousands, tens of thousands from an experienced negotiator.

  • Terence Dicks

    I will be interested to see the end of year figures for Countrywide.

  • icon

    Not rocket science. Most of us thought of this 4 years ago ! Problem is how you differentiate the fees based on the services you provide. Well done to the new CEO of Countrywide...... next stop is close half of your 500 offices ! The fact is the traditional business model has been torn to shreds and the long and short of it is significantly less fees across the board. Sunday Times Property Section yesterday "The maximum you should pay an Estate Agent to sell your property is 1%" The only online agent with any legs in it is Purple Bricks, but they'll soon run out of cash to promote the brand and as for the investors..... you aren't going to see any return, anytime soon.

  • James Scollard

    Ian Kenworthy, you are 100% correct. I cant make the figures work (probably why purple bricks are losing a million pound per month). I understand the model is pay whether you sell or not and therefore, do not need any sales staff, its all about trying to persuade people to list their property, at any price. It doesn't matter if they don't sell. The industry is highly competitive but the DIY (online) route is still a very small market in each town.


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