Given the shift change in the estate agent world at the moment, with online models becoming more prevalent (think easyProperty’s £60 million merger with The Guild of Property Professionals), we can be in no doubt that our industry isn’t the same as it was five years ago.
The difference in many ways is striking…
Yes, technology is responsible for a great deal of this change. People are now able to browse property sites in the early hours of the morning. The problem is that the people running the businesses can struggle to keep pace. You want to view a property tomorrow?! You want to speak to someone now?! But foolish is the business that arrogantly turns its back on such demands. Because there is always someone else who will fulfil these desires.
We can talk until we’re blue in the face about how ‘outsourcing is the future’ and ‘in a few years we’ll all be doing it’, but the truth is that the future of outsourcing is now.
No one really knows what things will look like in 10 years, but I strongly suspect that in only a few years from now, more estate agents than not will be using an outsourced service in one way or another.
It’s not solely technology driving this change, it’s the knock-on effect it has on our time. Ed Mead, founder and director of property viewing service, Viewber, has witnessed this change first-hand and it inspired him to take his own step into outsourced services to service the profession he knows so well.
“Having run an estate agency for decades, I know that organising viewings in the evenings and weekends, especially on a Sunday, is a big problem in the industry,” said Mead.
“But I also know that the agent who gets the business is the one willing to facilitate that viewing, especially when there will be ten properties distracting them in their inbox on Monday morning.”
He added: “It was painful knowing that there were viewings on a Saturday or Sunday going begging. Which is the reason that, when I moved on from agency, I set up Viewber.”
“Harnessing the power of a shared economy seemed the logical solution to the time problem. Now home buyers can view on a weekend or in the evening, our Viewbers – the people we hire to carry out the viewing – are able to work in a role that better suits their lifestyle, and estate agents don’t miss out on potential sales. It’s all about availability.”
For any estate agent resisting this change, they could well be in for a shock in the upcoming years. As Ed Mead also pointed out, as technology becomes more prevalent, it becomes standard for each generation.
“As each new generation matures and becomes the property buying public, their expectations of service are very different from even the current buying generation,” he said.
“At the moment they are fairly malleable, but may not be in the future and expect things in their time frame.”
Technology and telephone answering enables estate agents to say they are open 24/7, someone is always available whatever the time of day or requirement. But of course, there will always be a need for people to deliver customer service regardless of how much we outsource or rely on technology.
“People are so important for estate agents and home buyers,” said Mead. “Buying a house is an emotional process and there is a huge requirement for the human touch, a sensitivity and understanding that you simply don’t get with technology or an automated system.”
This fundamental shift in the industry to relying on outsourced partners is a view shared by Jamie Cooke, Managing Director for outsourced property auctioneers, IAM Sold.
“There is a big place for outsourcing in the property industry. At the moment, the estate agent business is going through its most rapid change in years with the emergence of online agents and hybrids.”
“With so many more agents there is less stock to go around, which is putting a downward pressure on agent’s fees. A result of this there are fewer people in the branch, so outsourcing plays a big part of how they now do business.”
Cooke continues: “We directly see the positive transformation working with an outsourced partner has on our own clients; as we supply the training and marketing, they are able to run an auctioneer arm of their firm which they couldn’t do without us.”
“For an outsourcing company to be at the top of its game, it’s got to excel at its communications with its clients. For IAM Sold, it’s the backbone of our business, and we’re constantly telling our clients what’s going on. It’s been one of the reasons behind our success.”
It would seem that, with the increase of technology adoption in the profession, we are reaching the moment where working with an outsourced service provider is now standard practice in the estate agency industry.
*Samantha Jones, is Commercial Manager for Property at telephone answering specialist Moneypenny.