The head of a hybrid agency has made a blistering attack on the corporate agent business model, accusing it of being obsessed with Key Performance Indicators.
Lee O’Brien, director of David Lee estate agent - which promotes self employed agents working under the same brand - says: “Any agent that has worked at any level in corporate estate agency knows all too well how KPIs rule the roost. A relentless, blind passion for numbers on a spreadsheet that seem to occupy every waking hour that branch managers, regional directors and managing directors have available.
“More time is spent ‘measuring’ their employees’ work than actually doing the work. Surely a career should be more enjoyable than adding figures into a computer until stupid o’clock?”
As the self-employed model expands, he believes regimental targets and ‘performance traps’ should become a remnant of an industry that is being left behind. Instead, in a supported self-employed role his agents are left to have the freedom to decide what they do, how and when.
O’Brien accepts that performance measurement is important but says many of them in practice are simply not fit for purpose.
Listing targets and bonuses for listers, not sales - He says: “This backwards metric simply encourages over-valuation, not a successful completion for the client. Sellers are not interested in mere listings – rather a happy move in the timescale that they desire. Corporates that focus on the listing ‘at any cost’ know that they are often misleading the client in order to achieve such at the volume that the business insists.”
In-house Conveyancing targets, often as high as 100% of all listings ands sales - ”I worry that the thirst for commission has been prioritised over quality – again a deal at any cost. We’ve all heard, especially recently, of the consequences of relying too heavily on the conveyancer for income. When it goes wrong it has far reaching consequences on reputation.”
Mortgage income: appointments, sign-ups and completions targeted heavily - “The financial dependence of corporates on mortgage brokers and lenders is still significant. But unhealthy. Remember those cases where agency giants were brought to task for insisting that a buyer uses their mortgage service, unlawfully? Promoting uncompetitive mortgage and insurance products is rife and buyers get hoodwinked all the time. Some corporates even insist that buyers see the in-house mortgage broker ‘whether they want to or not’. Not exactly ‘customer friendly’ is it?”
Market Share pie charts - “Come on, really? Who does it matter to apart from the boss’s ego that for five minutes you had more listings than competitor A, B and C on Rightmove? Do agencies truly believe that absolute listing volume is more important than fee or should be achieved at the expense of it? Or that over-valued stock is ok if you have lots of it versus your peers?”
Sales meetings that start at 8.30am - “Mentioning no names, but there’s a rumour that one corporate has CCTV cameras in managers’ offices to check that they have started their morning meetings on time. I’ll leave that right here with no further comment necessary.”
Time on the phone - “Yes, it’s a thing. I know of more than one online agent that targets phone call duration. Frankly, when this industry starts to commoditise and control the length of a neg’s phone conversation, we have meandered into a very dark place”.