But all good things must come to an end, with recent data published by Propertymark suggesting the housing market is cooling. There are fewer buyers, and the average number of viewings per property fell from 6.2 in April to 4.4 in June. Beyond that, more branches (27%) are reporting that most sales were completed below the asking price compared to a low of just 15% in March.
All of this essentially means that estate agents need to oﬀer a service that meets the demands of modern-day customers. But what do today’s buyers and sellers look like?
The new customer
Consumer habits are changing. Fuelled by the on-demand economy, people have become accustomed to buying products whenever they want and having them delivered within 24 hours. Bank funds can be transferred in seconds at any time from anywhere in the world. And bingeing our favourite show on a streaming service while ordering food to the doorstep is now the norm regardless of the time of day.
These changes have allowed people to operate on their own time and when it's convenient for them. They've taken a similar approach for ﬁnding a property – Rightmove notes its most popular minute of the week is Wednesday at 8:48 pm, while its busiest day of the year is Boxing Day. Here at Oﬀr, almost half of property oﬀers submitted through our platform occur outside of traditional working hours.
This is all to say that consumers no longer stick to rigid ways of shopping, whether they're buying batteries from Amazon or looking for their next home. And so many industries have evolved their service to meet these demands, but the property market has some catching up to do.
The problem with property
Property is the biggest asset class in the world. Yet, the process is still a slow and cumbersome experience with many paper-based processes that often lead to more confusion than they do gratiﬁcation. Plus, it's rooted in oﬃce working hours, even though many operate outside the traditional nine-to-ﬁve.
Take making an oﬀer. Buyers typically need to submit an oﬀer (during working hours) by email or phone, which the agent then relays to the vendor, who gets back to the agent so they can communicate an answer to the buyer.
It's time-consuming for all parties involved. Once the oﬀer is ﬁnally accepted, the average time to completion is around 11 weeks (almost three months). Buying a home shouldn't take this long, and making an oﬀer needn't have so many layers.
A tech-led solution
The way people buy and sell homes will fundamentally change because the consumer demands it. By 2025, most property sales in the UK and Ireland will be negotiated digitally on the estate agent's website.
What is happening now in the property world is simply a continuation of the momentum seen in other sectors, and utilising technology helps eradicate many of the pain points.
Important aspects of buying a home need digitisation, such as the oﬀer process. Instead of a three-way conversion over an oﬀer, wouldn't it just be easier if the buyer could make an oﬀer directly from the listing on the agent's website whenever it suits them?
The estate agent still holds complete control, but oﬀers are submitted through a platform. Not only does this make the process more transparent for the buyer and seller, but it gives agents their time back to focus on more pressing tasks, like progressing the sale or even sourcing new instructions.
Even after the oﬀer process, the terms of the sale will be managed and negotiated by the estate agent through their website rather than the current disjointed method of using phone, email and text messages.
The consumer will demand that the sale happens in a far more eﬃcient and seamless way, digitally. Digitising processes provide buyers and sellers with a ﬂuid experience where they can manage their oﬀers and speed up the buying process.
Back to the future
Banking took years to progress into a fully digital process, while the way we consume content was a slow drip, with tech needing to evolve to meet growing needs. The property market is no diﬀerent, and there's now a realisation that technology is key for driving it forward and keeping up with buyer and seller behaviour.
It's the beginning of the end for paper-based processes. Don't be surprised to ﬁnd most estate agents facilitating oﬀers, scheduling viewings and progressing the property sale all on their website within the next few years.
The ones that embrace the change will not only stay ahead of the curve, but they'll also be well-placed to adapt to consumer needs and meet them head-on.
*Philip Farrell is Co-founder & Chief Commercial Officer at Offr