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Ditch High Street branches and use serviced offices, urges agency chief

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.

  • Andrew Ireland

    Its going to happen quite quickly now, I think. Besides which as an applicant its virtually impossible to park outside an agents office these days.

  • Simon Shinerock

    There is a niche for this, the ultra capable all rounder could do it with HQ support but there’s a big but. Firstly there won’t be that many capable of bearing it and secondly the high st still wins.thats because the market leaders will remain where they are and as their weaker competitors migrate it will make them stronger still. High St offices are adverts and trophies, local community presence and prestige will trump any cost savings

  • David Clark

    The last part of your response is the main thing that’s stopped me getting off the High Street.

  • icon

    One of my branches occupies a large prominent corner position in the centre of town......if I closed it and merged it with another office 10 miles away I KNOW WITHOUT A DOUBT that our instructions WILL HALVE immediately.........as Simon says.......it still works.
    Contrary to what the article says we do still have a lot of people coming into them....not buyers so much but a lot of vendors that just find it so convenient.
    We operate in country towns rather than cities so it is easier to get into them and in the scheme of things I don't agree that having a high street presence is particularly expensive to run.
    I still think they're incredibly good value for the business they bring in. I wont be closing my offices......and by the way.....again contrary to the article....we're NOT cash strapped thankyou very much :)

  • icon

    We get most of our business because of the High Street location. Many viewers may use the internet to search for properties but the vendors like to see an office on the High Street. Vendors are the most important and without them we wouldn't have any houses to sell!

  • icon

    I have Parking right outside my office.
    Many people come through our office door.
    People deal with people not a voice on the other end of a phone many miles away.
    And guess what.
    It does matter a hoot if they sell, they have got the fee and will be paid at end of month regardless

  • icon

    Almost 20 years ago now I worked for my fathers agency in Derby, Long and Partners. Back then the trend was for town/city centre agents to have prestige offices in the city, we opened satellite branches in suburbs ringing Derby and took advantage of cheaper rents and maximum coverage, we were Derby's no 1 agent in a little over 2 years. People didn't want to travel to the city to see there agent and loved a suburb branch and they still do. Look at banks, the local branches have gone and now the likes of natwest are having to drive a mobile banking van back to those areas because despite online banking being pushed, the customers still want their local, face to face branch.

  • Chris Arnold

    The intent behind this seemingly innocuous suggestion is to further fragment the estate agency sector. Instead of the substantial investment that demonstrates credibility to vendors, a serviced office might be considered the meeting space for a group of hybrid nomads. Here today, gone sometime soon.

  • Paul Singleton

    1 customer through our doors that does business pays our rent for at least a month and on the basis we have 50+ people through the door per DAY suggests to me that high street offices are great value for money. You can keep your advice Ben Taylor.


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