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Online agents' poor sales progression can improve through technology - claim

One of the country’s leading PropTech entrepreneurs has responded to recent criticism of online estate agencies and their allegedly-poor record of sales progression.

Earlier this week we reported on an investigation by Rix & Kay, a law firm with bases in Sussex and Kent, which interviewed 16 agents who between them operated 127 offices across the south east.  

The findings were overwhelmingly negative about online agencies’ sales progression, with High Street agents stridently critical of online firms for indirectly leading to fall-through and slow transactions.

But now Sohail Rashid, founder of ViewMyChain - a PropTech innovation which allows agents and home movers to monitor milestones in the transaction process - says technology has to be used to overcome the problem, because online estate agencies are here to stay, whether they are popular or not.

He says that the ultimate professionalism of the industry may currently be found very significantly amongst traditional agents; while investigations such as Rix & Kay’s may ensure online shortcomings “reach the consumer market”, Rashid insists they can be overcome with modified business models.

Rashid has written a full response to the Rix & Kay probe - here it is:

“I am writing in response to the recent articles on the difficulties of sales progression vis-à-vis online agents and their reportedly poor service beyond a sale being agreed. 

“The Rix & Kay survey, though insightful in places, simply outlined what many of us that work across the industry know and work with each day. While mass self-confirmation has value through unifying sentiment in a digestible format, telling us about the problems that we already aware of doesn’t make them go away.

“One thing that isn’t going away is online agents – one in ten chains include an online agent and View My Chain’s forecasts show that this will rise to one in six within the next two years. Rightly or wrongly, this is down to consumer demand and the transitioning expectation of the involvement of technology in the homebuying process. 

“Therefore, more must be done in order for traditional agents to be able to hold online agents to account, and unsurprisingly, this will be done through utilising new technologies designed to track sales progression.

“Zoe Woodward, consultant at John Hoole estate agents, states: ‘we want a successful completion at the end of the day.’ This is the very reason that View My Chain’s data show that the presence of online agents in a chain does not increase the fall through rate. 

“However, our data shows that those chains take, on average, two weeks longer to complete, which is testament to the hard work that good traditional estate agents have to put in to get the sale across the line.

“But it doesn’t have to be that difficult and it doesn’t need to take longer. View My Chain’s technology uses data to offer agents, solicitors and consumers up-to-date visibility of property chains meaning that time doesn’t have to be wasted on the phone or waiting for emails. 

“There are solutions out there, but estate agents need to be open-minded to implementing new methods of working.

“It would be naïve to think that online agents aren’t also aware of the problems they cause and we must therefore assume that they are looking for solutions. Due to reports such as that of Rix & Kay’s, awareness of their failings will reach the consumer market, but as with any new segment of an industry, it will improve and adapt in a lot nimbler way than existing companies.

“Overall, business models will have to adapt in response to the market – that is the very nature of all business. Please bear in mind that the digitisation within the property sector is an evolution, not revolution. 

“Technology must be used to maintain the offering of value and professionalism that you only (currently) get through traditional estate agencies.”

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    The use of data and so called 'prop tech' to allow clients to view and track information relating to the progress of their chain is all well and good, but it still doesn't remove the issue. Sales progression teams are worth their weight in gold as they communicate directly with the parties involved to break down and explain any issues and offer professional experienced advice on how to overcome them. Unless these prop tech solution include incredibly good AI, they are not going to add any value.

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