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Walk-ins to High Street branches “more a liability than an advantage”

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.”

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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. 

Poll: What do you think off walk-ins?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW


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    It's always been about good people. Good teams come and go and with them the fortunes of the branch. This is particularly the case with corporate agencies where staff are constantly being churned

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    So all Fine & Country physical branches will be disappearing then?

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    • N W
    • 12 February 2021 09:41 AM

    Highly unlikely. We run multiple Fine & Country offices and continue to see real value in being located in a prominent High Street location as it gives most of our local clients the trust and confidence that we are here and on hand. However, there is a real benefit in the flexibility that our brand offers each member firm to offer online, self employed or traditional High Street offerings. Who knows where the market may be in 5/10 years time, evolution is a given in everything in life.

     
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    We tend to get more lettings walk-ins than sales. Of course, footfall is very low at the moment. I think diversifying into more of an online offering wouldn't be such a bad thing.

  • Samantha Sullivan

    Gone are the days for needing a high street office. Pass the savings onto your customers instead :-)

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    Yeah, give up your chance of being with the 95% of the market still driven by HSEAs. Good luck with that.

     
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    there was a wondeful image doing the rounds on FB earlier today of an office with six dinosaurs sitting at desks on the phone in front of computers. It reasonanated loudly. All a shop is now is a banner with you name on it. Best thing is to pay an empty shop owner to put a poster over it, kerrrching.

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