Hybrid models fall somewhere between the two camps, providing a hub and spoke operation which reduces costs but crucially provides a personal and local service.
Regardless of the model you have adopted, winning new instructions is your life blood - without the constant churn of new properties, it's all over. It is really hard to differentiate your service and easy to think that your shiny new displays, branded cars and eloquent, welcoming staff are enough.
Sellers are looking for what you do that separates you from the others so don’t spend too long explaining ‘common’ factors. Having done a lot of mystery shopping ourselves, the first impression is absolutely paramount - many score 0/10 at the very first hurdle.
Answer phones promptly, open doors (assuming you have one), smile, look like you are delighted someone came in off the street! OK, assuming that you have a client in the office or have been invited on a market appraisal, what are you saying? What makes you special? Why should they instruct you?
We recommend getting sellers legally prepared and ahead of the curve, like our friends at Exquisite Home, because transactions that drag on run an ever-increasing chance of falling through.
Since we all work for nothing until the job is done, why run the risk? There's a sweet spot - just after instruction when the board is about to go up in the garden - when a seller is full of doubt. Did I choose the right agent/price - what do I do now?
Tell them to complete their Legal Protocol forms, find their boiler service plan and order their Searches. They will be sitting pretty when you tie up the offer and will be smug in the knowledge that they chose the right agent! They will recommend you, complete a glowing online review and you can rest assured that you are the number one agent in town and can go about your business carving your own unique niche.
What about conveyancers?
There is a lot to do when you first encounter a new client, but how easy do you make it for them to engage with you right at the start of their home moving journey?
While mystery shopping, mostly asking for quotes, we discovered that these are often poorly handled. Some firms never sent the promised quote, some quotes were a complete mess - Excel in Word document, mixed fonts, no call to action etc. Some were very confusing and hard to work out what the actual figure was.
Clients want a quick answer to a (perceived) simple question - ‘How much will you charge to act for me?’ Give them what they want with as little fuss as possible. You need to provide transparent pricing that clearly shows what they pay and how they go ahead. Better still, employ someone to phone them and ask for their business and prepare them for the journey they are about to embark upon.
Are you offering 'skinny' Search packs to win business or gold-plated packs covering all possible risks? It should be easy to win new business, but potential clients are rarely quoting like-for-like, so you need to make clear what is essentially tax and what ‘you’ get paid.
We recommend that conveyancers consider working much closer with their local estate agents so that the essential paperwork is all done and dusted by the time you are instructed to act for them. It sounds obvious, but it rarely happens as each party tends to work in a silo and resents the other.
What about brokers?
Truthfully, it makes no sense to start viewing property without really knowing your budget, so the broker should be at the top of the food chain! Right? No. Realistically, they will probably be consulted way too late, but we still like to empower them with our ‘Get Legally Prepared’ fairy dust in case they haven't already completed AML/ID checks with the agent or ordered their Searches.
Whether you are buying or selling, an estate agent, conveyancer or broker, we have some unique and helpful tools available for you and are hopeful that the UK house buying process becomes slicker and easier for all to navigate.
The current government has little appetite to mandate change, so stop waiting and start doing today!
*Mike Stainsby is National Business Development Manager at Property Searches Direct