The culture of impatience and instant gratification has a lot to answer for. It has forced the hand of the property industry, which has had to bow down and strive to offer extended operational hours and a seven-day-a-week service in a bid to keep up with the perceived online threat and keep consumers happy.
They want it now, not next week
We’re dealing with home movers and renters in the age of Amazon Prime – search it, order it with next day delivery. In addition, our emails have migrated from the PC to our phones, spawning an always available culture, and the rise of chat bots – those pop-up windows where you can have a typed conversation with someone on a round-the-clock basis – have lulled consumers into thinking brands are open 24/7.
The byproduct is a set of demanding home movers who are used to getting what they want, when they want it - a way of thinking that has spilled over into property from other areas of their lives.
Agents feel this demand across their businesses, but especially when it comes to viewings. The ‘open all hours’ mantra adopted by online, hybrid and now high street agents means viewing requests are sent electronically 365 days a year day and night – you only have to view Rightmove’s Christmas Day browsing stats.
Your inbox never closes
It’s highly likely you’ll close the office at 6pm and return the next morning to an inbox full of viewing requests thanks to ‘book a viewing’ buttons that appear all over internet listings but while this is a move instigated by agents themselves, many don’t think about how they’re resourced to cope with the demand.
Add in that viewers increasingly want appointments at the weekend or after traditional close of business and you have a potential staffing nightmare. Especially if you’re trying to retain your best negs who also increasingly don’t want to work Saturdays, let alone Sundays.
Making sure every viewing is accompanied
Accompanied viewings are a pivotal part of agency but not every agent has the resources or staff to spare for multiple viewings per day – especially if the requests are for evenings and weekends - but in a buyers’ market, every viewing is crucial when you have stock to shift and vendors to please. Most buyers can be qualified and questioned about referral potential before a viewing is booked.
Many of the best agents employ weekend staff so wouldn’t it help to have an on demand freelance equivalent to use whenever it suits?
Property visits are time away from the office – time when agents could be signing up a new vendor or finalising completion paperwork that moves your team closer to a fee. The benefits of having staff focused in branch have never been clearer.
How to reply with a positive ‘yes’
Saying no to viewings causes instant disappointment for the potential buyer or tenant and can give an agent a bad reputation - dangerous in an age of online reviews and social media, where your word-of-mouth reputation really counts.
Saying yes to every viewing is possible but it doesn’t mean agents have to compromise or lose control. Agents can cherry pick the most critical viewings to accompany and delegate others out to a service like Viewber, with the ability to scale up or scale down.
Offering accompanied viewings wherever the business is
The changing nature of agency also means that serving a set ‘patch’ has become limiting, with online agents offering nationwide coverage and increasing their market share by roaming all over the country.
The structure of online agency means they aren’t defined by how far their agents can travel - high street agents can benefit from the same mindset.
Branching out into a new town or county used to mean opening an office at great expense but with property searches primarily conducted online, a day-to-day physical presence in a new area isn’t needed to sell or rent homes.
Viewings, however, can be a fly in the ointment but outsourcing is a way of offering a professional yet personal service in a new area without draining in-house resources.
Consumer expectation is changing in property, but there are ways of offering unique service commitments, like telling your customer base that any of your properties can be viewed at any time, that will make you more money, and also keep your staff happy. Win/Win/Win/Win, surely?
*Ed Mead is a former estate agent and the founder of Viewber