There has been a real wind of change in estate agency and over the last 18 months we have seen the emergence and establishment of a different way of working: the self-employed agent.
This ties in with the general revolution on our high street but also with changes in our socio-economic environment.
I call it: ‘localism joins the gig economy’. It is clear that across all kinds of industries and sectors more and more people are choosing to step out of the 9 to 5 grind and create a better lifestyle for themselves.
Work is important to pay the bills but so is the quality of life! There is no point slaving all hours to then not be able to enjoy one's success for lack of time. Or worse, to miss out on your children growing up or helping your ageing parents because work takes up all your time - and of course when not working you are recovering from the strain...
There has also been a big shift in the consumer's attitudes. For various reasons they prefer to work with someone they know and trust rather than a big corporation.
We have seen this in coffee shop culture. If one has the choice between Starbucks or a small independent, you go to the small independent.
Years of tax avoidance (offshoring?) and generic surroundings without a personal feel have just made high streets the same everywhere with nothing which is really ‘local’.
Online shopping has also transformed the way we consume. In my opinion, the high street will probably move away from being a place to mass shop to being more a place to network and enjoy yourself - work out, eat out, and find those objects and particular services you cannot get online. Quality, originality and great service are the future.
This philosophy applies across all sectors. For example, you can look at the drinks industry. Ten years ago, the only gin one could get was London gin or Bombay Sapphire. Now there is real choice offered by small independent distillers in line with what I am saying above. For people love the idea of a small craftsmen making something special and limited in volume and above all with a story behind it.
Anyway, this brings me back to our industry - estate agency. Yes, we have all watched the collapse of high street model, and over the last ten years we have also seen the discount onliners grabbing a share of the market, but it has not really worked.
For although the latter were able to create brand visibility via mass marketing and branding roll-out, they could not offer quality of service because of the low prices they charge.
We can see from the share prices of the likes of Purplebricks and Countrywide that both models - the traditional and the recent challenger - are failing.
So, a third model, one based on very personal ‘bespoke’ service, is really starting to get a foothold.
Buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants can now choose to rely on an individual who works for himself/herself under a banner such as Agent & Homes, Keller Williams, the London Broker, Harding and Green and many others who are all trying to occupy this new space in their own way.
The difference with the individual self-employed agent is of course localism and true independence, which gives these new agents the ability to work when they want, how they want, where they want.
They set their fees and work across disciplines, and they aren't tied to a desk in a corporate structure. They are able to understand the situation better, to really look after their clients and give proper advice - the service craved above all by the new consumer. And because this model offers high rewards, they can also earn a good living while having a great life.
Probably the three models will co-exist for a while, and time will tell which of them comes to dominate, but the key will surely be who can offer the best service for a fair commission...
*Rollo Miles is co-founder of Agent & Homes