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PropTech Today: New technology can make agents more valuable than ever

A story from America caught my eye this week. It’s about a company called Curbio partnering with another called The Keyes Company.

The partnership isn’t what really interests me here, it’s Curbio’s offering that I want to talk about.

The Maryland-based company offers renovation services for those looking to sell their home; uniquely, payment for these renovations can be deferred until the sale of the property is complete.

The idea is that renovations will allow for a higher asking price and increase the likelihood of a successful sale. The offer of deferred payment suggests it has great confidence in its model.

I like this idea a lot. In fact, only yesterday I was talking to a family friend who is currently trying to sell their house and facing the exact dilemma that Curbio hopes to address.

“I can’t be bothered to do anything, James,” she said to me, knowing that there are certain things one should do to increase value and sale potential, but, like so many others, reluctant to do so.

For most, this reluctance is born either from lack of confidence and practical knowledge, or an unwillingness to dedicate the required effort and added expense.

My response to her was, “spend a few pennies to add some pounds to the value”. In polite a way as possible, I explained that she was, like so many others, being short-sighted at the potential for easy wins.

But then I thought again - is it really her responsibility to know about these things and implement them? Isn’t that what she’s hired an agent for?

It’s the agent who should know about Curbio and be recommending its services to vendors. So, I went back and read the original article again, because that’s exactly what The Keyes Company - a brokerage firm - is doing with this partnership. More should now follow suit.

An agent with added value

When valuing a property, you have to gain the trust of the potential vendor - they have to know you are on their side. This is what makes them want to work with you. Help them, service them, go that extra mile that others won’t.

Yes, we should give them an initial valuation as we always do, but then we should be explaining to them how they can add extra value.

It’s about making them more money - they will love you for it and trust that you are working in their interests. You, of course, get a bigger payday from it, too. Everyone wins.

It’s all playing into the psychology of the sale. Automated Valuation Models (AVMs) are a wonderful thing - I have discussed them a lot previously. They are a great lead generator, and they help agents get through the front door. But, it’s not until after this moment that the true importance of the agent’s role kicks in.

Yes, you can flatter a home owner and give a bullish valuation in order to secure the listing, or you can choose to genuinely help them and be on their side. Part of the latter is knowing about solutions like Curbio.

According to the Curbio website, its solutions deliver an average ROI of 209% on renovation costs by increasing home value by an average of $50,000. It also claims that its clients’ homes spend 58 fewer days on the market compared to the average.

What’s not to love? It’s hassle-free for you and your vendor. Perhaps most critically, it gives you a reason to follow up with potential clients, thus helping form a stronger relationship with them. This is what agency is all about!

Forget thinking only about end-game commercial outcomes because that often leads to the majority of the process being neglected. It’s this which really aggravates vendors and ruins trust.

When you’re an active presence throughout the whole process, not only do you capture the loyalty of the client, you also capture the potential virality of service provision.

Consider the discussions your clients will have with friends and family, all of whom are potential future clients of yours. It might go something like this:

“I had three valuations, all pretty similar, but one of them was far more helpful with suggestions on how I could increase the value of my home. One such suggestion was a complete renovation of the downstairs, work which I wouldn’t have to pay for until the house sold.”

“In one day, not only did I receive a quote for the work, but I also instructed the work to begin and the agent to start marketing. It was easy. My house quickly sold for forty thousand more than originally quoted, just a small cut of which I then paid out for the renovations.”

I know, I know - people don’t really talk like this, but you get the idea. I’m not talking about reinventing the wheel, here.

I just think innovative yet simple ideas like Curbio’s are incredibly valuable to agents. They remind us of the agent’s true role - to add value to the client experience and the transaction in equal measure.

When this happens, everyone comes out happy. It’s because so many have given up on this side of the job that online agents are able to become a threat and sites like MumsNet and AllAgents are rife with consumer disdain.

Simple and effective - that’s good agency. Sometimes, it takes a new tech innovation to remind us of this.

*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator, and is co-founder of PropTech platform Unissu. You can follow James on Twitter here.

  • Michael Riley

    Interesting article James, thank you.

    I reckon there are many occasions in the UK when a property that needs a refurb. goes for more than its value should be. In some extreme cases even close to what it would sell for fixed up. Thats because unlike the US where in many areas they have an oversupply, we have acute shortages of homes. In fact, this is also an issue in the US and been highlighted by Zillow. So, to some extent Curbio is based upon a slightly flawed assumption.

    Curbio also suits the US better than the UK because a quarter of our housing stock is Victorian which makes accurate pricing of work more difficult due to unknown quantities.

    Lastly, I cant see one agency in a town starting to offer it, then their competitve position not being matched by the other agencies.

    But in summary, there are systemic flaws in our industry that lead to the comments in this article from Mumsnet. Minor evolutions like this are not going to result in the root and branch change that is needed.

    If your being asked to invest in a busines model like this.... keep your pounds in your pocket, the future does not look like this.

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    JKM Property solutions anyone? Remind me how did that go?

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    Quite interesting to see our company discussed in the UK, along with the idea of renovating before selling. Since we have no plans to enter the UK market, please take my comment in the spirit of the discussion and not as some sales pitch - which it certainly is not. The existing home inventory in the US is also at very low-levels, leading to strong competition for homes. In the US, 71% of home buyers are looking for "move-in ready" homes and I suspect that trend is similar for younger buyers in the UK. While intellectually and anecdotally one would "reckon there are many occasions in the UK when a property that needs a refurb. goes for more than its value should be", the actual data on this is very clear - renovated homes sell for more money. This is why there is such an active market in the US and the UK for "home flipping". While the volume ebbs and flow, in general about GBP 4 billion in homes are bought, renovated and sold for a profit in the UK. All Curbio is doing is helping homeowners flip their own home and keep the profit for themselves. I believe you might say be quids in!

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