Expert service still likely to dominate the industry going forward
In 2015, a major launch by a new online estate agency predicted the death of the traditional high street agent to the point where they had a mock funeral march through central London.
At this time some industry commentators predicted that by 2018 online agents would have taken up to half of the UK market. Despite these bullish predictions, the truth is a little different - as of 2018 online estate agents accounted for just 7% of the market.
Not quite a digital revolution
So, the idea that estate agency as a profession will move purely online hasn’t so far proved accurate, and many industry pundits now don’t think it will - certainly not in the next five years.
Another variation is the ‘hybrid’ estate agency; a combination of digital and physical estate agents. These have sprung up in recent years usually with a large digital agency recruiting individual estate agents ‘on-the-ground’ to provide the personal touch to those who require it.
It’s not quite offering the best of both worlds; in many cases a traditional estate agent will have a local office covering a specific locality such as these . An individual working online may have to cover a wide geographical area so can’t be expected to offer the degree of localised knowledge and expertise the local office can.
Traditional agents going digital
Traditional estate agents are embracing some digital and technological techniques and are likely to purse these.
For a start, some estate agency groups are becoming hybrid in investing in digital agencies whether buying up existing companies or starting their own, so the property seller or buyer is likely to be faced with a selection of more agents offering the full range as opposed to an ‘either or’ choice between digital and physical.
Traditional estate agents are embracing tech with facilities such as using virtual reality technology to provide remote property viewings; as the tech improves and data speeds get faster this is likely to become more widespread.
Drone technology could figure more in property marketing; and is especially helpful to show prospective buyers properties with extensive gardens and grounds, for example and the ‘lie of the land’ local to the property.
While it may be cliché, old fashioned service is likely to not only survive the next five years and beyond but will in all probability be enhanced.
In many cases, buyers and sellers still covet top class, personal service and expertise; for properties less easy to value - the ‘one-off’ types especially - this will always be required.
There’s no substitute for the experienced local property professional who can use local market knowledge to accurately value a property and help people find their way round what may be an unfamiliar area.
At present, estate agency isn’t a regulated profession and, while training exists, it’s not mandatory for estate agents to be officially trained and qualified. Some predict this is likely to change so the accent is even more on enhancing quality of service.
Some pundits predict a reduction in the number of estate agents as the market contracts over the following years; an ageing population is tending to move less frequently and punitive stamp duty rates - at least for now - have made property transactions at the higher end of the market tougher.
As a result, agencies who can meet the challenges through combining top levels of service and tech utilisation will be the successful ones.