The possibility of agents having to keep offices open until 7pm from next summer to accommodate late key releases has put operating hours in the spotlight.
Especially topical is whether agents should stay open more over Christmas. There are numerous schools of thought but most boil down to two options.
The first is that buyers give up house hunting around a week before Christmas and that sellers feel the same way – they don’t want viewings in a property adorn with decorations, teenagers back from college and sleeping until noon, and granny staying for the holidays.
The second school of thought is that in a 24:7 society there will be at least some people – possibly more than we think – who feel Christmas is at best too long an enforced break, or at worst is irrelevant to their lifestyle. If they are already looking for a home, why not continue the search when they may be off work anyway, and have time to do so?
While there are plenty of people undoubtedly in the former camp, especially if they have children or elderly dependents, I suspect there are growing numbers in the latter category too. Certainly there are several people in the industry who believe that is the case.
At a pre-Christmas drinks party with Strutt & Parker, one senior agent there told me that for the first time he was going to launch a property to the market on Christmas Eve: this was, in his words, “to catch the Rightmove market on Christmas Day.”
Last year there were over one million visits to Rightmove and around 15m page visits on Christmas Day alone (and that was before the portal became as dominant as today).
A high level of interest exists over other parts of the festive period, too: between midnight and 1am on January 1 2013 (so almost three years ago) Rightmove had 18,000 visits – by the end of New Year’s Day there were a million more visits. Imagine what it’s going to be like this coming New Year, with devices more common and Rightmove even better known.
Andrews, a prominent south of England agency, is already sold on the idea of Christmas marketing. Its Christmas Cracker promotion allows prospective sellers to market their homes to a pre-registered database of potential buyers on Christmas Day.
The reason for this is that in recent years, as tablet and mobile telephone use has boomed, so the agency has monitored significant traffic to its website around 3pm on Christmas Day – no doubt following the new devices being tested and the possibility of moving house being discussed over turkey and trimmings.
“This may sound gimmicky but over the last few years, we’ve proved it works. On average, each property marketed as part of this campaign receives three times more viewings than [others] over the following two weeks,” explains managing director Chris Chapman.
“Last year, our overall instructions in the month of December were 80 per cent higher than two years previously and booked viewings increased by 60 per cent. And over the Christmas period, at least 20 per cent of our website traffic can be directly linked to the Christmas Cracker campaign,” he says.
Add to this a mixture of demographics and culture – Britain is now a highly-diverse society not uniform in its observance of Christmas – and the evidence looks increasingly like it’s swinging towards agents being able to have some sort of business over Christmas.
That is, if agents want it, and perhaps if they prepare Andrews-style to make the most of it.
What are your thoughts? Do let us know...at least before we shut up shop for Christmas.
*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn