The rise and rise of portal listings and changing consumer habits during the pandemic may mean the death of the High Street estate agency branch.
That’s the view of Jonathan Handford of Fine & Country, who says that while many agents were already making the move away from the High Street, the Covid outbreak has accelerated the change.
He says walk-ins to physical offices are now “marginal at best” and may be more of a liability than an advantage because the office needs to be staffed with two people for safety. “If I am paying between £50,000 and £100,000 a year for the use of an office, I would rather pay that to my people because they are the ones who will generate more sales, listings and enquiries.”
He says the past year has shown agents how they can work remotely, prompting a consequent surge in self-employed models.
Only this week Harding Green, a London-focussed agency, announced a share scheme for agents who joined its self-employed model, and it revealed expansion into Hampshire - again on a remote working basis. And Keller Williams’ husband-and-wife couple Justin and Victoria Bhoday have spoken with Estate Agent Today about their decisions to quit Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward and Dexters to go self-employed.
Now Jonathan Handford says about Fine & Country: “While we have seen the self-employed, remote-working model gain more traction over the past year, this is something we as a business have been using for some time.
“In around 2006/2007 we started to introduce a self-employed model into our business which provided our Associates with more freedom and the opportunity to earn a higher commission. We were really trying to emulate a bit more of the US and Australasian models to do things a little differently to what we had seen in the UK.”
He continues saying that, historically, successful branch offices used to surround a successful geographical patch where a prime High Street presence was significant.
“That dynamic has changed somewhat, and, in our experience, it is now centred around individuals and good people. We think that the future of the estate agency business will not be about where you are geographically placed but rather about how many good people you have that are a part of the team” according to Handford.