Increasingly cash-strapped traditional estate agencies should consider abandoning their High Street offices and work from serviced offices or similar lower-profile and more affordable alternatives.
That’s the advice of Ben Taylor, managing director of Keller Williams UK.
He says that as consumer behaviour changes and increasing amounts of property transactions are conducted online - and frequently outside of office hours - so the need for a 9-to-5 High Street branch is dropping.
"People no longer need to visit a high street office when buying, selling, letting or renting … Consumer processes are changing and the property industry needs to keep pace. Agents sitting in an office waiting for people to come in are wasting valuable time and could instead be actively pursuing new opportunities or visiting prospects" says Williams.
Keller Williams UK itself runs from serviced offices which it calls Market Centres (two in London and one in each of Leeds and Glasgow) which serve as bases for co-working office space, training and mentoring.
"Of course it's still important for agents to have an office space to work from and somewhere professional for clients to visit," Taylor continues.
"However, we believe that serviced offices are the way forward as they provide agents with the space they need but are significantly cheaper than paying for an expensive presence on the high street.”
Taylor says savings on traditional High Street space could be channelled into training (“by training agents to be better at identifying opportunities and nurturing existing partnerships, a business can create a culture of lifetime clients”) as well as new technology (“a cutting-edge CRM is invaluable and providing staff with access to the best PropTech solutions on the market is fast-becoming a necessity).
He says: "Investing in these areas could be the difference between thriving or faltering in a challenging market which is only going to become more pressurised due to low-cost competition and government regulations such as the ban on letting agent fees.”
Several agencies have recently abandoned traditional High Street branch structures, whilst still offering traditional services and not going down the online route.
Humberts has opened the first of many so-called hubs serving wide areas and providing a range of property-related services; these hubs will ultimately lead to the closure of its market town branch network.
Meanwhile the central London agency Harding Green employs freelance agents operating from a central serviced office; Tedworth Property, another London agency, also operates without a traditional High Street shopfront.