Countrywide has given Estate Agent Today some early details of how its mix of online and traditional agency services will roll-out over the second half of 2016.
At last week’s half-year report to the City, Britain’s largest estate agency group stated that by the end of this year some 25 per cent of its branches across the country would offer what it calls a “multi-channel proposition.”
This takes the form of every vendor having an in-person appraisal given by a Countrywide estate agent in the usual way; from that point onwards, the vendor has the choice of either paying a flat fee of £795 including VAT for an online-only service, or paying the usual percentage commission for a traditional sales service on a no sale-no fee basis.
At any time the ‘online only’ vendor can choose to scale-up to the traditional service if he so wishes.
Countrywide’s chief executive Alison Platt has now told Estate Agent Today about the two criteria for deciding where the roll-out will take place.
Firstly the roll-out will be brand-based “so you don’t have an agency brand where some some branches with an online offer and some without” said Platt.
Secondly the roll-out will be in geographical areas where there are already established online or hybrid agencies operating. “We chose three pilot agency brands in the spring to test this and they were in areas where hybrids already existed - so we didn’t have to explain a new concept and instead could compete with existing providers” said Platt.
The three Countrywide brands selected early this year for the pilot - the results from which have encouraged Platt to extend the offer - were the 11-office Spencers in the Leicestershire and Rutland area, the 24-office Austin & Wyatt in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire, and the 19-office Frank Innes agency operating across the East Midlands.
Although Platt says the pilot project online/traditional offering is “still in its early days” the results have been positive enough to justify the roll-out.
She did not mention any rival online hybrid by name but did allude to recent controversies amongst market analysts about the conversion rate of Purplebricks’ listings into actual sales.
“We’ve still got a full cycle of transactions to go through so we’re not making any premature promises about volumes” says Platt.
However, she says the pilot has passed all three of the Countrywide management group’s top-level tests.
“Did it lead to more market appraisals? Yes. Did it produce a better rate of conversion [into instructions]? Yes. Did it lead to additional income when the fixed price and full-service commission based fees were combined? Yes” she told Estate Agent Today.