5 Tips to Make Your Estate Agency Stand Out
After the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the general election last year, the housing market showed signs of bouncing back at the start of 2020. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICs), the number of people looking to buy rose in January, as did the number of properties for sale. However, the rapid spread of coronavirus in recent weeks has thrown the property sector into turmoil once again.
Although there is likely to be another dip in property sales, people will still need to buy and sell their homes, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, estate agencies need to ramp up their efforts to stand out from the competition and attract a no doubt smaller pool of customers.
- Offer Video Tours
Traditional viewings, whereby the potential buyer books an appointment to view a property, are typically seen as an essential part of the house selling process. Few people will be ready to offer on a property they have not had the opportunity to explore room-by-room. Open house viewings that involve multiple prospective buyers are another popular choice that can increase buyer competition and raise the final sale price.
However, with the government advising everybody to engage in sensible social distancing, the number of viewings has dropped by an estimated fifty per cent. Mark Hayward — Chief Executive of the UK’s leading professional body for estate agents, NAEA Propertymark — said of the current situation that estate agents need to operate differently, and buyers and sellers must adopt a “pragmatic and planned approach”.
Video tours or “virtual viewings” are a relatively low-cost and easy to arrange alternative to traditional in-person viewings. Even without the threat of COVID-19, many estate agencies could attract more clients by embracing video and streaming technology. A potential buyer who is located 300-miles away may be much more likely to make the long trip for a traditional viewing (and subsequently make an offer) if they have first had the opportunity to explore the property in a video tour.
- Provide Financial Support
As an estate agent, you are very aware that no two customers who step through the door are the same. Each customer has a unique set of expectations and requirements. Added to that, a customer’s circumstances may change throughout their property search, sale or purchase.
By partnering with a professional finance company, estate agencies can provide added value to their customers. For example, a part-exchange scheme may help an agency to close a deal with a buyer who is struggling to sell their property to buy their dream new-build home. By part-exchanging the customer’s existing home for the new property, the barrier of selling the current home is removed. Similarly, offering a chain repair service can help agents to maintain a sale and ensure a smooth housing transition, even if a customer experiences property chain problems.
- Go the Extra Mile
There are thousands of estate agencies in operation in the UK. One of the best ways to market a business and make it stand out from the competition is to generate an excellent word-of-mouth reputation. What will make a customer recommend an estate agency to someone else?
It’s important to cover the basics, but the extra touches that show thought and consideration for the customer are what make someone want to shout about your services.
Take the time to learn about your customers and what they want. Selling or buying property is a huge financial and emotional commitment to people. Making a customer feel rushed as you dash between appointments will not engender a positive customer experience. Allow yourself plenty of time for every appointment and remember peoples’ names. Consider leaving a small gift or welcome note for the new homeowners. Perhaps schedule a post-sale/purchase appointment to check in on how the client is doing. Once the sale is completed, many agents dash off to seek out the next opportunity for commission. Post-sale care is essential for building a positive reputation that will bring in new business.
- Continually Monitor and Improve Your Website
Most people start their property search online. If they’re selling, they’ll trawl the internet for an estate agent that suits them. It’s not enough to have a website. It has to be an excellent website and one that continually evolves with changes in the housing market and consumer behaviours.
Monitor your site regularly and make sure that the information it contains is accurate and current. Would you want to trust the sale of your home to a business that can’t be bothered to update its opening hours?
In the world of marketing, content is king. Adding a blog with content that is useful to your target audience will drive more people to your site and help bump the company website up the search results page. If someone searched for an “estate agent near me”, you want your website to appear as near to the top of the results page as possible. A blog is a great way to let visitors know that the business has its finger on the pulse and to draw attention to new services, such as content on coronavirus and your innovative new video viewings.
- Set Competitive Office Hours
Many people who need to sell or buy a house are working full-time. An estate agent that mirrors their clients’ exact working hours, 9 am to 5 pm, for example, is not ideal for the average worker.
Offer evening and weekend appointments to drive customers away from competitors who make themselves less available. If it is not practical or possible to open the office outside of standard office hours, consider adding a chat function to the company website or diverting calls to individual employees. This does not mean expecting staff to work 24-7. Extending availability by a few hours can be helpful to many people, and staff can take it in turns to be “on-call”.
Even in the most challenging times, estate agents can attract new business. Think outside-of-the-box and consider how existing work practices can be adapted to suit the changing needs of the market and your customers. Competition in the property sector is fierce and if the number of potential clients shrinks, agencies must go above and beyond to make their business stand out.