Countrywide’s Group Operations Director Paul Creffield - one of three figures now at the top of the organisation - says he is not ruling out the company re-entering into the world of online sales and lettings at some point in the future.
In an exclusive interview with Estate Agent Today, Creffield stresses that there is no possibility of an imminent return of the company to online sales or lettings, but says if it does happen in future it will be quite different from the failed experiment of the recent past.
During the three and a half years when Alison Platt was chief executive of Countrywide, a key pillar of her reform programme was to introduce a ‘multi-channel‘ approach whereby agents undertaking a market assessment offered two options to vendors - a low-cost fixed-fee online package, and a full-service commission based package.
This initiative ran hand-in-hand with a substantial branch closure programme, reducing the ability of the company to compete as a traditional High Street agency.
“I was against cutting the branch network to favour online. That was never really going to work. How could an agent visit a client to give them a market assessment and then give them two different options? There was a conflict of interest” says Creffield.
He says that Countrywide will be spending its immediate efforts and funds in rebuilding its branch network across sales and lettings, but that ultimately - once that ‘Back To Basics’ aim has been achieved - the company may have to look again at online.
“My philosophy is to do what Savills and LSL have both done - help develop an online agency on the side” says Creffield. Both of those agencies have invested heavily in Yopa. The scale of Savills‘ investment is unknown, while LSL is reported to have invested £20m.
Creffield says the idea of a partnership when entering into online activity (rather than creating a system in-house from scratch) was the thinking behind Dynamo, Countrywide’s online-only mortgage brokerage launched jointly with tech company Blenheim Chalcot.
Creffield, who has been active in the property industry for 35 years, has been with Countrywide since 2006; until becoming Group Operations Director in January this year he was responsible for the firm’s B2B division, including commercial arm Lambert Smith Hampton, the Land and New Homes dividion, Hamptons Residential Development Investment, Professional Services, Corporate Property Services and Corporate Business.
Prior to joining Countrywide he was Operational Managing Director at Rightmove responsible for driving growth and change.
* The full interview with Paul Creffield will be on Estate Agent Today later this week.