Are some Corporate Estate Agent bosses letting their staff down?

I used to work for a large Corporate Agent for over 15 years. I loved it, but every once in a while I thought, do the big bosses up on high (not the Area Managers as I have always found that level of management as the stalwarts of agency), but the Head office bods, the MD, the Head of This and That, the Bean Counters and Marketing Dept people (don’t get me started on the Marketing Dept) have no ****ing idea what it’s like on the front line of estate agency and especially lettings?

The one size fits all mentality for estate agency used to work in corporate life and to a point, still kind of does, but it is lettings that scare me, because it doesn’t fit there. The only way it seems for Corporates to grow their lettings businesses are by acquisitions. Yes, there are a few diamonds in Corporate-land out there to prove me wrong, who I do talk to, but in essence, the Corporate techniques to gain new business in lettings is very 20th Century.(landlords wanted leaflets, door knocking, touting, cheap fees, letters through the door of rental properties, land reg certificates etc etc) .. you know this stuff doesn’t really work!

When the last time the MD or marketing department chief came to your office or Area Meeting and ask you your opinion? Consider what would happen if all the colleagues in these corporates used their power to push senior management to take risks, embrace change and most of all, do what’s right for landlords (and house sellers) in a competitive age? What if the Negs and Valuers demanded the freedom to actually connect with those that they are serving, and to do it without onerous scripts? … and they would be rewarded for building long term relationships instead of short term ‘move in’ commissions?

The market is changing. The online vs hybrid vs High Street argument is an argument that is NOT important. Where agents trade from irrelevant. THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IN AGENCY IS THIS …..

It’s how do we, as agents, interact with our clients, but more importantly, POTENTIAL FUTURE CLIENTS, so they always use our agency to sell or let their house in the FUTURE ? (because the agent who gets more free valuations will always be the winner).

What we should always be asking is How do we get more free valuations? …. more free vals for next week, next month, next year, next few years? I am sorry, but agents just focus on today .. they are too short term’ist. The agents that nail the ‘getting even more free vals forever’ that will be the winners, be they online or with a High Street presence.

How would I do it? A heavily ‘British version’ of the American model of estate agency. The nearest I can see to that model is Purplebrick’s ‘hybrid’ model. Don’t dismiss it out of hand. I like the PB model and the people behind them (although there are still a quite a few things I would change there). It won’t happen overnight, it won’t all happen over the next year, but over the coming decade, there’s going to be a steady and gradual, (yet still massive) cultural and economic shift going on in the property industry.

Negs, valuers and Branch Managers will start to realise that their connection to the local property market and the internet gives them more of the means of doing business than ever before. ..bosses either embrace that and listen to your front guys or they will walk out your door and set up their own agency.

Without a doubt, there’s a huge challenge in ensuring that the Neg’s, Valuer and Branch Managers who do the work for the Corporate’s are listened to, treated with appropriate respect, dignity and compensation. From what I hear though, whilst there are some exceptions, it’s not happening nearly enough.

The problem with Corporate life in Estate Agency is that it rewards the race up the Corporate ladder, that the view from the top of ladder of the real world, the coalface is often opaque (and don’t even get me started on the awful marketing rubbish that the Corporate’s chuck out … with the exception of some of Haart’s marketing stuff – especially their featured agent adverts on RM .. I like what they do).

Anyway, back to the story. You Neg’s , you Listers and Valuers, You Branch Managers’ have a vested interest to reject the industrial sameness of what your marketing dept chucks out that seems so efficient to those on high but ultimately leads nowhere.

..and it isnt just Corporate’s, this could also apply to a lot of independent agents. Just a thought?

Kind regards


Christopher Watkin

I teach, guide, support, mentor, consult, counsel, partner many hundreds of UK Estate and Letting Agents in their quest to grow their estate and lettings agencies business. Old school techniques of touting, landlords wanted leaflets, ring us for a free valuation, we have sold this in your street leaflets don't work anymore. There are too many competitor agents .. meaning cheap fees are epidemic, overvaluing is almost a norm to get the stock and don’t even mention about the online/hybrid threat. So a few years ago, I set about looking around the UK and spotted that certain agents (not many mind you) in certain towns were still seen as the ‘go to person on property’, the person the newspaper editor rang up every week for a comment and I looked at what they did and they were doing some thing quite remarkable…. Only one thing but they were doing it so well .. and reaping the reward in terms of decent listings and decent fees, happy staff, decent sales pipeline and exchange income, managed lettings portfolios in the many hundreds .. but more importantly, they really enjoyed the job… they enjoyed getting up in the morning and people looked up to them Over 400 agents around the UK are on a mission to change the way our Estate and Lettings agency profession is perceived and looked upon, doing it town by town, city by city. I guide these 400 agents, teach them, mentor them and support them to be seen in a different light, to be seen as the ‘go to person for property’, actually be the ‘local property expert’ and prove it. Christopher Watkin 07950 147 572

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