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Phil Spencer - Now is the perfect time to reassess your agency

Christmas - time for a much-needed rest for our industry after getting through a workload which reached almost unprecedented levels in 2021. Every agent deserves to relax after the office is locked for a few days and before the New Year wave of transactions begins.

But if you do have a few moments to reflect on work over the festive period, why not think about the Big Picture - it’s so easy to be busy on a day to day basis and miss considering what you can do to improve and modernise an agency for the long term. 

You’re the experts at this but as I see many agents working in different ways and with different tools, I’m struck at the range of options available. Here are a few I have spotted. 

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New Business Models

Just a few years ago there seemed to be two agency models only - traditional and online. 

Now every agency relies so heavily on online activity for listing and marketing properties, automatically scheduling viewings, creating floorpans and fly-throughs, operating videos and live-streaming, that it seems artificial to make this very binary distinction.

Instead there now seems to be an infinite number of business models. What has struck me throughout 2021 is the willingness of not just small agencies but also the big corporates to try different ways of working. 

For example one large corporate has many of its agents now home-based; more ‘hubs’ have been created to cover patches previously requiring several small branch offices; and increasingly flexible hours are being worked by individual agents who have child care responsibilities or life/work balance aspirations.

Likewise an agency in central London that launched as an online-only service has just opened its first traditional High Street branch. It’s not a case of a U-turn or one model being right or wrong; it’s just recognising that we’re all in a rapidly-changing consumer, work and home landscape right now. 

So I’m not backing one model over another - each agency will have different issues to be addressed - but why not consider new ways of working in 2022? The only advice I would give (and you will already be thinking this anyway) is to make any change ‘customer first’.

Buyers and sellers have themselves become increasingly flexible during the course of the pandemic; so long as service quality is the primary objective of any change, go for it. 

Leave The Office to Make It Work Better

Of course a key tool for changing a business model and still keeping the customer happy is the focussed use of technology - not just for the sake of it, but again with improving your firm’s service quality as the foremost consideration.

Some agents are so dedicated to their work that they see a day away from the branch as a waste of time, but my view is that it could be a good investment.

For example, it’s been good to see agents attending all sorts of industry conferences and exhibitions in recent months and interacting with suppliers - they’re nearly all PropTech firms - to see what is ‘out there’. 

There are several coming up in early 2022 including The Guild, NAEA Propertymark and the ESTAS Forum, where many suppliers will be exhibiting: go along and see what could help your company work more effectively and efficiently.

A Few Startling Innovations

There are way too many smart innovations to list in full but I’ve been particularly impressed by some new PropTech which can simultaneously help agents free up time and ditch the routine chores, while also improving service to buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants.

For example, there’s a lot of competition between providers right now for prospecting tools - they identify vendors in an area whose properties have been on sale for an above-average time, and they compose bespoke messages which can be sent at just the right time to suggest a switch of agent.

Just in recent months there have been innovations at the back-end of each of the major portals (and I’m told many agents don’t know or take advantage of these) which provide daily reports on how agents perform in relation to rivals in the same postcodes - and that information can drive new efforts to get leads.

And talking of portals, there are now ways to pre-qualify leads coming via enquiries to Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket. As with the prospecting issue, there are tools to send personalised emails to enquirers, checking the bona fides of potential buyers before you arrange a booking and allowing you to prioritise those in pole position to go ahead.

Now Is The Time

I’m not the first to say it, but you have to keep running to stand still in agency these days, so it pays to optimise technology and ways of working. Come January you’ll be back in the fray with Zoopla forecasting 1.2m transactions next year, around 80 per cent of 2021. 

So until next month’s column I wish you, your families and colleagues, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - and good look with thinking about the future.

Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Coming soon: Move iQ Pro, Phil’s resource to support the property community. Stay tuned ready for launch! *

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