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Start touting! Agents told to knock on doors and steal their rivals' vendors

A controversial estate agent and former head of an online agency is urging agents to knock on the doors of vendors using rival companies and try to poach instructions.

Russell Quirk, now a joint holder of a Keller Williams franchise and best known as the controversial former chief executive and founder of online service Emoov, says it’s key to remember that 50 to 60 per cent of homes sell through the second agent for which they are instructed.

“Knock on this doors and you’ve got a six in 10 chance of that property coming to you and you potentially selling it” he tells industry commentator and consultant Christopher Watkin in a video interview.


When challenged by Watkin, saying that agents don’t knock on doors, Quirk says: “Why the hell not? … People are scored of doing it, but do you know what? I do it now.”

Quirk’s Keller Williams operation in Essex - which he runs with relative Anthony Quirk, who founded online firm HomeSeller, and Mark Readings, who founded pioneering online company House Network - has itself been touting in his very local area, he admits.

“So I’ve been sending stuff out to people I know through emails, and I’m using software…to identify all the properties that are on the market. Then you can contact them, you can door knock them, and you stand a decent chance of getting them home on the market at no acquisition cost” continues Quirk.

He says other agents don’t do that because there’s a culture against it - “that’s not what we do” - but his analysis is that agents are too scared of rejection to deploy such a tactic. 

Quirk also says that, with some exceptions, the agency industry has become lazy because of increased reliance on PropTech.

“Having seen all sides of agency and having been in other industries … what strikes me is that - particularly true of online agents - is that the entire acquisition strategy or marketing is all about spending loads of money on things like Facebook and Google Adwords … Literally the agent then sits there in their branch or call centre and wait for those leads to drop in their laps.”   

There’s plenty more in the eight minute video interview beyond these points. As ever, Quirk is forthright and provocative, and Christopher Watkin - who has kindly made the interview available to Estate Agent Today readers on an exclusive basis - teases out the key points. You can see the interview below.

Poll: Is it ever right for an estate agent to tout?


  • Chris Arnold

    A perfect match - Russell Quirk has found his cultural home in Keller Williams.

    They're not so much estate agents as boiler-room sales people. Oblivious to how annoying they appear and unconcerned that they interrupt the lives of 99 homeowners just so they can entice one.

    It's public begging however it's dressed-up and a minimum wage activity that further damages the public perception of estate agency.

    Keller Williams Bold 'training' programme epitomises everything that is wrong with estate agency.

  • icon

    Agents have door knocked for years.... this is hardly a revelation... not sure what all the fuss is about.

  • Rob Brady

    The general public perception on us isn’t a great one and this cements it even more by using this outdated method. Keep in the era of pinstripe suits, escorts, cold calling at 9pm and leaflets with ‘free valuations on’. Agents deserve not to be fighting over scraps like hyenas on mouldy carcass. Focus on a proper strategy of winning your future clients minds on their journey of discovery before they put their house on the market. This is done by really understanding your business DNA, why you’re different and knowing your ideal customers, combining it together with some amazing marketing to them in real-time.

  • icon

    Has anyone got an egg to suck, I would never have thought of this?

  • Ian Roberts

    What's right and what's wrong on this topic? Outdated?? If it works it works!

    Knocking on doors at 9pm is intrusive so don't do it at 9.

    Door knocking is scary, yes it is fear of rejection, otherwise excellent estate agents go green at the thought of "sinking that low" BUT if it works it works and sometimes it does. Sending out a neg to do a shoddy job of a door knock is unprofessional and probably happens because the manager doesn't believe in it but the senior management want it to happen.
    As a company owner covering a set patch and knowing your area personally there is no harm in making a gentle direct approach especially when the potential client has been on with someone else for ages. Its a different thing when there is a budget there for other less direct approaches but even so it can be a great way to get a new client fast.

    I do the equivalent every time I go into my patch as a recruiter in NW London looking for new clients.

    You have to find a differentiator (is that a word) and being face to face with the client is a positive thing.

  • Rob Whiteley

    I emigrated to South Africa from the UK in 1988 and became a Real Estate Agent immediately. There were no cellphones, laptops or online Deeds Registry office to give us detailed reports of each home in my designated area.
    I had to buy the local municipal rates records to find out the name of the homeowner. This was a 4 inch thick dot matrix (remember those little puppies?) printout which I diligently read through and made notes in my Filofax (remember THOSE little puppies?) - still got mine. I then parked up at the end of a street and knocked on each door, introducing myself with a business card and some well-oiled elevator pitch motivating the seller to give me a mandate to sell.
    Guess what? It worked - and we still do that here - to the extent we can nowadays - with high electrified walls, intercom systems at the gate and the friendly Rottweiler to accompany us down the garden path.
    Not sure what all the fuss is about - when I do training with my agents - I tell them to go back to basics (door-to-door) whenever their inventory list dries up. And if you're thinking "they must be crazy" - there is the small motivating factor that we can charge up to 7.5% commission (of which the agent usually gets 50% or more in some agencies).
    I also moved into live property auctions about 12 yrs ago. The buyer pays us 10% commission upon sale. Now that's worth knocking at a whole street of doors.

  • Richard Copus

    Race to the bottom! Now more than ever agents should be thinking about how to go upmarket and secure the lucrative fees at the top end.

  • icon

    This has certainly been done in the past but it will cause all sorts of problems for the seller if they are under contact to the first agent and their contract simply says you will pay us £x when the property is sold. I have walked out of estate agents when they have tried that on me. I have always agreed to a short period of exclusivity and never an open ended agreement.

  • Phil Priest

    Having once sold door to door in Birmingham UK and Sydney Oz i have fond memories, and not any horror stories.
    I agree it shouldnt be done late in the evening, 7:30pm/8pm latest.
    I agree that if the pitch is structured well and the training and practice is done to perfection then it can be hugely effective. These skills of sales door to door never ever leave you.

    If we digress into a nation of door knockers where we are aggressively selling and being pushy then this will be a negative. Nothing wrong with a door knock, a friendly chat and some local information. Never know, the seller may have not found the house they are looking for so you could sell them house too..


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