And now, as if the friction between property and PropTech wasn’t difficult enough, estate agents are turning on estate agents.
We are all collectively trying to find the best path forward for our industry, rather than blaming the competition. I wish the argument could be pulled back into a conversation.
This article is a follow-up, or perhaps a reaction to, this blog post, published on Monday by Hammersmith agent, John Horton, titled ‘Why estate agents don’t like estate agents’.
In the article he hits out at ‘shady, and frankly desperate’ agents who employ questionable methods to drive their businesses forward. It’s worth noting that the blog was posted on the Horton & Garton website as a piece of marketing copy essentially saying, this is what the others do, we don’t do this, so don’t choose them, choose us.
But, despite the fact that the context means we can perhaps take it with a pinch of salt, I do think he summarises some important aspects of our industry which are still damaging the reputation of the high street agent.
However, I would argue that these practices are not the result of greedy, shady agents, but rather the inevitable outcome of a highly competitive and complex industry where agents face the pressure of working to tough, unwaverable targets.
And so agents have learnt to do whatever they have to in order to reach those targets, sometimes at the expense of local reputation and client experience.
In his blog, Horton neatly sums up his views with a list of five things that he ‘hates’ about estate agents:
- Letters through the door
- Cold calling
- Fake news
While I would agree that these practices do occur and are problematic, I am less enthusiastic about the way in which Horton has gone about expressing his views.
He is painting with incredibly broad strokes, for one, but more importantly he offers nothing in the way of explaining why we are seeing this behavior from agents, nor does he offer any potential solutions.
Combine that with the feisty discourse he has chosen to use, and Horton’s blog becomes, in my opinion, quite unhelpful.
And where he bemoans agent reliance on ‘fake news’ it could be argued that he, too, is using it to market his firm to the local community.
I acknowledge that Horton’s points are valid, but where he hasn’t offered any ideas as how to address the problems, I thought I’d give it a go, very quickly, in the context of PropTech. So here goes…
Leafleting, flyering, cold-calling, door-knocking; whatever form it takes, it’s basically lead generation.
Today, such methods are not only damaging to a firm’s reputation, but they’re also expensive and totally unnecessary.
There are software solutions everywhere you look using Artificial Intelligence and data analysis to generate leads and drive potential clients your way. In the time it takes to knock on one door and maybe stumble onto a lead, you could have literally hundreds arrive in your inbox.
Not only that, but leads are now generated with a high level of intelligence and insight, meaning you can know how likely each lead is to turn into something real, what point of the selling/buying journey they are in, and how long they have been actively watching the market.
On this point I think John Horton is right; if you’re cold-calling people you’ve got to be struggling.
Fake news and unprofessionalism
I’m bundling these together because the latter informs the former.
Horton claims that agents use social media to post fake sales announcements and ‘flagrantly false claims about their success’. This, I’m sure, is true, so what’s the solution?
Well, do what Horton is doing. Shout and tell your potential clients that you do not do this. But, there’s a chance that telling them on its own isn’t enough. So instead, you can show them.
Tech solutions are on the PropTech market specifically to allow agents to demonstrate to the world that they are reliable, honest and accountable. The general public now demand to be given control and transparency at all points of the property timeline and they value any method that allows them to identify agents who share those beliefs.
Such platforms are often described as championing the client, the buyer, seller, searcher, whatever you wish to call them, but for agents, that is a really good thing. The public wants, expects, a new level of service, tech allows agents to give them exactly that.
This is one I do not agree with.
I don’t believe that there is a lot of indifference among agents. In some ways, I think the situation in worse than that.
I think there are agents who actively want to give great service and value to their clients, and then there are those who use the system’s current inefficiencies to better themselves to maximum, regardless of who gets upset or in the way.
But they are very, very much in the minority, and, if you ask me, their days are numbered.
In many ways, I applaud John Horton for standing up and speaking out. Not many people, especially on that side of the table, are willing to do so.
But angering other agents is no way of helping our industry progress; there are already too many conflicts going on, we don’t want to start any sort of infighting. Instead, I think it better to acknowledge that what Horton says is largely true, but also appreciate that the solution is not found in the bashing of our competition, but rather through the wider education of the fact that, today, there is a better way.
One example of this comes from a conversation I had yesterday morning with the Chief Marketing Officer of ActivePipe. During this conversation, any doubts I had regarding the recent news of their $5.9million fundraising effort were quashed.
Progression is what our industry needs and companies like ActivePipe, who allow for true personalisation and contextualisation of marketing communication, are badly needed. Such tasks may seem simple, but are ever so complex to deliver well. Agents should support these companies and should receive equal support in return. That’s progression.
Having said all of that, there is one thing I have to be honest about: I don’t mind door drops or cold calls if the company and person doing it has nailed down every last detail about me and their timing is perfect.
How refreshing, in fact, to not even have to think about it and still have an agent who knows what I want. Goodbye spam. Hello solutions.
P.S. Every single Sunday morning, I send out my Sunday Morning PropTech Review which in which I attempt to deliver a full week’s PropTech news from around the globe in one concise blast. If you want to sign up, it’s totally free and you just need to give me your email address, here. Cheers!
*James Dearsley is a partner in PropTech Consult, digital transformation specialists for the real estate sector.