Online estate agents have been accused to “the callous exploitation of naive sellers” by the software executive behind the idea to form a group representing independent estate agents.
In an interview with Estate Agent Today Charlie Wright, founder of agency CRM software firm Easymatch and the man behind The Charter of Independent Estate and Letting Agents - which is holding its founding meeting today in London - says many sellers are “effectively vulnerable” to the approaches of online agents, and may have little experience to draw on when judging their fees.
“In reality with online agents where you pay up-front fees, you may not sell at all and you may not get the kind of service you anticipate, nor associate with traditional agents” he says.
CIELA’s meeting today, consisting of a dozen individually-invited owner-managers of independent agencies - is likely to decide whether the association moves ahead of launch formally on March 1.
The organisation’s first official statement to date, on its website, says it is “specifically and exclusively for the benefit and promotion of all independent estate agents.”
But while Wright says that national online agencies charging up-front fees are likely to be ineligible for membership because they are effectively corporates, there may be scope for those few locally-focussed online agencies that offer both up-front fees and a traditional structure of higher fees to become members.
“I’m not after excluding agencies, especially before we even formally start as an organisation, so that will be for members to decide as and when it’s required. But we’re going to be about offering real value to consumers, and the big national online agents don’t meet that standard” he insists.
Yesterday we reported that CIELA founder Wright revealed the new association could go on to offer members back-room services ranging from energy to email management; you can read about that here.
Also yesterday, Wright published a lengthy open letter to independent agents urging them to unite around his new group in a bid to protect their interests against what he considers to be corporate and online threats. You can see the entire letter here.