If agents ran their databases more efficiently, the property portals might find themselves redundant.
Controversial opening statement aside, the reality is that estate agents were around long before the big portals and their challengers.
Agents used to match people they already knew with property they'd already instructed in a way that was far more intimate than the photos and Rightmove-driven world we live (and sell) in today.
Filofaxes and rolodexes were the first wave of PropTech and the then-innovative agents used them perfectly.
An agent would know their buyers so well, they’d be a call away from a deal from the moment they instructed the right property. Better yet, they went looking for that stock, rather than waiting for it to land in their laps.
Here’s the really interesting thing about today's market, those kind of deals are making a comeback.
In the last three months I’ve had conversations with three agents, all in separate markets across the country, who are moving circa 20% of their new instructions within two weeks using a pre-market campaign.
Deals are done between the right parties (with the right agent at the heart) long before they ever hit the broader market. Why look for more buyers when the best one is in your back pocket?
If you’re looking after your database, then running these campaigns successfully isn’t hard and can provide the base for a deeper relationship with your clients on both sides of the transaction.
Getting started usually involves a little grunt work with current (as well as past and unsuccessful) buyers and getting disciplined with the way you contact these people and cultivate and maintain your relationship with them.
If you’re not doing this or want to improve your strategy — here’s why you might want to give it a shot...
Do something different
All agents are the same, right? You and I both know that’s not true, but your clients still think the opposite when they’re gearing up to engage you.
Prove to them that you do indeed ‘have the biggest database of buyers’ and do in fact ‘work harder than Alan down the road’*.
In an instruction appointment (there's no such thing as a PR val!), every agent says they’re different. Yet most agents also say they'll take professional photos, write a great description (usually starting with something like ‘ABC Estates are delighted to present this stunning...’) and market the home on all three portals. What's so different about that?
Let your potential clients know you do the hard work with your buyers early, so you know you can deliver a unique opportunity and provide something truly different in your service to them.
We all know that the earlier a property sells, (usually) the higher the sale price.
Pre-market campaigns create a sense of exclusivity, competition and urgency. ‘Buy it before it hits the market’ is a big reason to view and make competitive offers.
Do more for your buyers
You need to get to know your buyers better and build strong relationships with all of your clients over the longer term. People buy from people they trust. Trust gets sped up in a market where a buyer thinks they'll miss out.
A service that tells people about new (and suitable) opportunities before they hit the market will do that. We’ll give you three guesses as to who’ll get the first call in to sell their home when the time comes too?
So, how do you run a pre-market campaign?
Capture the data
Database or die. The key tenant of world-class estate agency. Get good data into your CRM.
Even though this is everything to a successful (and sustainable) business, it’s often not done properly. Enquiries, walk-ins, viewings, referrals, friends and family, social media groups - constantly call and qualify your buyers.
Ask really (really!) good questions
Ask what these people are looking for — no, actually ask. Then write it down. Then put it into your CRM. Then ask more questions, and follow up questions to those questions.
They say they need four bedrooms? Ask why. They say it has to be within an hour of London? Ask why. The more you know, the better you can serve.
Pick up the phone
We’ve become so used to listing properties on portals and getting enquiries that many in the industry have forgotten how to build long-term relationships with people that aren’t necessarily in the market right now, but will move when you have something that’s right.
Act like an estate agent. Bridge the gap for your clients. Building relationships is especially important for higher end buyers or investors.
So you know your buyers like the back of your hand, now what?
Secret property campaigns
Ask your buyers if they want onto your ‘Secret Property list’ (maybe think of a cooler name!) All good CRMs will have a function to automatically send buyers new instructions that match their profile.
The better the questions you ask, the better their profile, the better your matches and the better your results. Make sure you don’t match outside certain requirements. That’s spam - spam sucks.
Explain to them this list is for properties that you have literally just got the paperwork signed for, and it’s a maximum of five buyers per home. You’ll get the details of the home to them right away but without imagery or an address.
Now here's the key to really making it work. Bulk book the inspections for when you’re taking the photos. The property will look at its best, the sellers won’t be home and you can have more than one party there at once. Having the photos taken adds to the sense of urgency as the buyers know it'll hit the open market if they don't make an offer.
Pre-market social media campaigns
This is hugely effective. Some especially forward-thinking agencies are using Facebook to market preview instructions before they hit the portals.
Create a Facebook video of you sitting in a cafe or walking down the road, talking about the property ‘around the corner’ (find a local haunt nearby if you can).
Describe the home, highlight the seller's motivation and let your followers know it’s only for the people watching the video, but they have to view at a certain time within the next week. Spend £20 and boost this ad to your local area.
For active buyers, this creates a sense of opportunity and exclusivity — they are shown properties they literally will not see anywhere else.
And for everyone else, who do you think they’re going to see as the local market expert and the go-to agent in their town? (Hint: It’s you).
Bringing it all together
Pre-market selling - give it a go before you throw your next instruction straight on the portals.
With a bit of planning, some old and new strategies and a bit of hard work, you can create some seriously amazing outcomes for your buyers and sellers that will have your phone ringing and your market talking.
I used to do this myself on any listing that I faced heavy competition on. The sellers loved the difference, the buyers loved the personal service I gave them, and I loved the control I had of the process from all sides.
And sometimes I even sold it! It's a win, win, win.
*Apologies to all hard-working Alans down the road
**Sam Hunter is Director at Homesearch, the home of property data