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Online agents will have to employ sales progression teams

The operation of ‘online estate agencies’ has changed substantially in the relatively short few years of their existence: I have spotted three significant changes in the past, with another likely on the horizon in the near future.

The original set up was when the first online operators sprung up, effectively as pure listings services. Those days were long before the dominance of Rightmove and Zoopla, so the agencies simply provided platforms for individual vendors to upload their own details and photographs. 

The agencies, if that’s what they really were, therefore advertised their stock on their own websites, populated by sellers’ own words and images. Some of these agencies had marketing budgets as large as £1 million - substantial in those days - but still they fell by the wayside.

Then came a change. As portals became dominant and it was clear that buyers’ searches started on Rightmove in particular, onliners changed their marketing to emphasise portal access.

Some platforms like Tepilo made a point of saying they were moving to become proper agencies with advice centres, online and by telephone, to help sellers.

The next change was much more recent, and triggered by Purplebricks. By emphasising its hybrid nature - an online operation with some boots on the ground, no matter how few or how ill-informed those boots may have been - Purplebricks forced other online operators to follow suit. 

Before the emails hit my inbox, I know some rival operators like EweMove say they created the hybrid concept first - but let no one doubt that it was Purplebricks’ championing of it that led their online rivals to start calling themselves “leading hybrid agents” and the like.

So far, so well known - and now we’re having another change.

The past few months has thrown a light on the performance of Purplebricks and other online/hybrid operators; publicity about the now-legendary Jefferies analysis concentrated on Purplebricks’ 51.6 per cent sales figure over a 10-month period, but many other online firms performed even less well. 

This weakness in the online business model has been taken further by the Rix & Kay report publicising what traditional agents have been saying for some time now - the absence of any sales progression by most online firms makes their clients the weak links in chains.

Online agencies deny this, of course, but just as they have changed their models in the past - to include portal listings in their service, and to call themselves hybrid by using people-on-the-ground - so I suspect another change is likely in the near future.

Therefore, onliners will use sales progression teams to deliver something more like the sales rates achieved by traditional agencies.

To not do so would be to risk more periodic publicity like the BBC probes into Purplebricks’ sales figures - and publicity like that will ultimately cost business.

The trick for the online agents will not be their change of heart - they will simply throw money at marketing. The bigger trick will be how they can afford to introduce sales progression and still keep their charges well below those of traditional estate agencies.

That’s their problem, of course; but I bet you that sales progression is coming to an onliner near us in the near future. Watch this space.

*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn

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    >Therefore, onliners will use sales progression teams to deliver something more like the sales rates achieved by traditional agencies.

    Maybe they will but it's funny everybody forgets the point about PurpleBricks made in the Jefferies report which stated "Our research sample found that it had sold 51.6% of the homes listed in November 2016 within 10 months, a similar success rate to the overall market"

    So in the case of PurpleBricks (which represents 80% of the online market) the sales rate in the 10 month period was similar.

    Having studied my own data on sales rates for PurpleBricks it is clear that after the 10 month period properties do go on to complete and that some of them had completed in the 10 month period but were simply not registered within 10 months.

    This seems to be supported by what Sohail Rashid says in response to the Rix & May report. "the presence of online agents in a chain does not increase the fall through rate. However, our data shows that those chains take, on average, two weeks longer"

    If improvements are made by PurpleBricks, then providing Jefferies' report is reliable, it would suggest that PurpleBricks' sales conversion rate would be better than the success rate of the overall market. In fact it might already be better but delays in registration are a factor.

  • Russell Quirk

    Emoov have operated a full and proper sales progression team since I founded the business in 2010. Vetting buyers, negotiating offers and progressing the sale are what estate agents are supposed to do. Online or not, those agents that ignore these important aspects are not estate agents but merely listing agents. However Graham, to categorise 'all online agents' as the same, is incorrect and inaccurate

    See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/true-hybrid-russell-quirk

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    I have been an estate agent for some time and I have found that sales progressors are the most useless addition to this industry. They are either not available, never get back to you or spend their time harassing solicitors with the same questions every other day to justify their existence.

  • Peter Ambrose

    Without wishing to be all "on-the-fence", it does rather depend on the quality of the progress of and their knowledge.
    We work with about 500 agents and have seen some try out progression and fail, and have seen others do very well.
    Certainly, outsourcing it is definitely a very high risk strategy and undermines the process. As a salesperson, you want your deal through, and giving it to someone who doesn't even work with you is always going to be difficult.
    Progression is typically undervalued and is the secret of success - bad progressors are frankly a night mare and business owners need to understand that. Decent progressors (I think we've met three in the last 7 years!) Are worth their weight in gold!

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    The market average appears to be that 50% of properties listed are sold and taken to completion by the agent. Purple Bricks are about average. No better no worse. It's an industry wide issue of poor quality control. If I take my car to a dealer to part-exchange it for a new vehicle, I don't expect the transaction to fail in 50% of cases.

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