Way back in the 1980s when Del Boy and Rodders were making us laugh, there was big hair and a yuppie was what we aspired to, estate agents had to work a lot harder for their fees.

Email wasn’t here yet so letters had to be written and sent by post to clients, solicitors and all the other people involved in the buying and selling of a property. There were no digital images so photographs had to be printed and sometimes even stuck into brochures by hand.

Marketing a property

Without the internet, there was no Rightmove or Zoopla so marketing a property was harder.  Agents relied on mailing lists, shop windows and newspaper advertising to attract buyers and  viewings were far more vital – an opportunity to encapsulate all of a property’s selling points in a short space of time. A good agent had the patter down to a tee every time while a poor one would fumble his lines.

It’s true that overheads like offices, cars, phones and newspaper advertising also had to be covered so charging 2% of the selling price was probably justifiable.

But that was then – and this is now…

Now, we have email so there’s no postage to pay; now we have cell phones so we can call or message anyone from just about anywhere so there’s no waiting until we get back to the office to keep the buying and selling process in motion.

Now we have digital photography, which means we can take and send a reasonable image in minutes; now, there are a number of software options available which make brochures so much less of a Pritt Stick challenge.

A potential buyer can do much of the research on any given property themselves; they can arrive at a viewing already knowing what’s nearby – even if they’ve travelled from the other end of the country. Even at the “point of sale” the agent’s job is simply not what it was.

So how come, if you engage a traditional high street agent, you’re still paying much the same as you would have 35 years ago? Even though modern technology has taken away so many aspects of the job, the fee just hasn’t dropped.

Of course, a traditional high street agent will point to the costs associated with their office and a fleet of branded cars and bluster about how they “know” the market so much better than these Jonny Come Lately online agents who are just internet cowboys with their eye on the main chance and a fast buck. They’ll suck their teeth and mutter darkly about poor customer service and spout uninformed conjecture about the risks, including paying up-front fees.

But, quietly behind the scenes in that same high street office, there’s more than likely rapid movement towards the online business model going on – in fact so much of it that, somewhat ironically, a new company has been formed recently just to help traditional agents make the conversion so they can offer something closer to their online rivals.

Of course, some buyers and sellers will always be uncomfortable with the concept of such a significant and sizable transaction being online. Just like many prefer proper books to e-readers and others prefer to browse the supermarket aisles rather than having the weekly shop delivered, there will be folk who prefer inspecting images of homes in shop windows and dealing with their estate agent face-to-face so they can see the whites of their eyes while they guide them through the house-buying process.

But for others, paying £5,000 for the privilege when you could receive much the same service for £500 doesn’t make sense any more. They know times have changed – whether the traditional agents like it or not – and they don’t like being told they’re some sort of heretic simply because they don’t see the sense in paying over the odds.

After all, this is 2017. It’s just a shame there are so many in our industry who would rather it wasn’t.


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