The property market has always been a fluid thing; difficult to predict, ultra-competitive and capable of both influencing and being influenced by the nation’s economy.
But, of late, the advent of the internet age has meant it’s faced a bit of a watershed; just as new kids on the block like Amazon have reshaped retail, the advent of online estate agencies such as ourselves have forced the industry to consider doing things differently – and, it has to be said, often with a great deal of reluctance.
But, these days, there are two distinct camps – online or high street.
Each side has dabbled in the other’s business model of course; so-called “hybrids” have emerged claiming to offer the best of both worlds.
Testing the water
But, amid all the bickering between the big boys from both sides, what seems to have been lost somewhere is that, regardless of whether you’re an online estate agent or an agent with an office in the town centre, you won’t be either for long if it stops being all about the customer.
Indeed, you could argue that the recent demise of online agent Hatched is a case in point.
Owned by one of the established high street names, it was meant to test the water to see if the internet model really could work. It benefited from considerable resources, plenty of marketing and, indeed, to begin with, the results weren’t bad at all.
But, perhaps because hearts weren’t really in it or perhaps because Hatched tried to grow too big too soon, the complaints started to come in and the downward spiral began.
“Told you so …”
The management had a choice; they could have addressed its problems rather than just shutting up shop. Instead, they chose to draw a line under the business because it wasn’t making enough money – which probably says all you need to know.
None of us are charities of course; an estate agency has to make a profit to stay in the game. But if it’s only about making money and the customer experience gets lost along the way, it’s almost inevitable that the bottom line will suffer in the end, particularly when there so much choice out there.
With the comfort of a more traditional high street chain to fall back on, rather than fight their corner, Hatched’s management decided to sit back, arms folded, and simply say: “See … told you that wouldn’t work.”
We’d beg to differ.
We’re not a big player (yet); we’d accept we’re probably best-known as Yorkshire’s own online estate agent – a region known for its no-nonsense, honest approach which is the inspiration for the way we like to do business.
As a result, we’ve been growing one small step at a time and, if you have a look at our reviews, there’s evidence to suggest we’re doing it right at least most of the time.
So, in our opinion, the online model can work – but it relies on providing the customer with what they want. Take too many decisions based on profit and the cost could be yours to bear.