The internet has changed the way that most businesses operate. In many cases, the opportunities opened up by the emergence of the internet have been exploited best by new entrants into a market.
In the property market there are portal services like Rightmove and Zoopla, and online-only agents, of whom there are too many to list.
But what does this mean for the existing, traditional estate agent?
Despite the massive investment in technology from these new entrants, changes to the process have been entirely on the front-end – the process of discovering a property and agreeing the sale.
From that point on we are still using the same traditional means of conducting the transaction, with all the lack of transparency and associated frustration that brings.
The ‘waiting aspect’ is often the most stressful part, and in many cases people would be prepared to pay more for a better service.
So whether you are an online agent or an established traditional business, you are likely to be dealing with the same frustrated customers.
Transparency, transparency, transparency! Many home buyers and sellers complain about the lack of it when moving. Surely what we need, then, is an online chain view!
The Land Registry, tried and failed. The Law Society (via Veyo) keep promising one but have yet to deliver. Why is it so difficult to create, or is it?
As we all know, the sad truth is that there is no ‘magic switch’ to make the process quicker – we are always moving at the speed of the slowest party in the chain.
However, being able to identify where the delays are would relieve some of the anxiety associated with moving home.
This week I came across a service which has the potential to resolve these transparency problems.
Chainmaster is a free service that allows the buyer/seller to build up their own chain view, online. It guides them through the essential questions that need answering for each party in the chain, and directs them to their estate agent for some of the answers if they get stuck.
Now, at first glance this might look like a stick to beat the estate agent with ('why hasn’t my buyer sorted out his mortgage yet?'), however it seems to me that the world is moving in the direction of greater transparency and faster communication.
With that in mind, embracing this, rather than ignoring it, is surely the way to go. A service like this rewards those agents who go the extra mile to keep on top of their sales progression, and gives them a very effective way to keep their customers informed of what is going on and show them what a great service they provide.
In a world where estate agency is often seen as a commodity (to be boiled down to the lowest possible price), to be able to differentiate based on high-quality communication and increased service may well be the smartest option.
After all, there’s no need to join the race to the bottom if you can demonstrate that you are better than your competition.
I have had a little play with the Chainmaster system and from that limited experience, can see that it might have legs. If you are interested, please contact Iain Rowe for more information.
*Rob Hailstone is the founder of the Bold Legal Group