80% of Estate Agents are Dinosaurs Who Deserve To Be Made Extinct

Estate  Agents (and Letting Agents) up and down the Country are burying their head in the sand. Ignoring the fact 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

We are all guilty of putting our head in the sand. When your bank balance goes overdrawn, how many of you will consciously avoid looking at your ATM statement? How many of many of you don’t tackle an issue in your life because the trouble and strife it will cause .. meaning you let it be .. you don’t prod the hornets nest.. you ignore it ..you let sleeping dogs lie

Let me be frank with you .. I am guilty of putting my head in the sand as well …. I do it with my weight. I know I am overweight but I am ostrich like on that subject. It is obvious I am overweight, I am know I am over weight .. but I seem to put the issue aside. I come up with excuses..  I know should weigh myself everyday and write down what I eat and drink .. but I don’t… I know I don’t exercise enough and I know I eat and drink too much … and I also know its been proved time and time again, if you write down your exercise and intake of calories … exercise goes up and intake goes down.  I know.. I have done it before and it worked .. so why don’t I now as I just put my head in the sand over my weight issue? We all have issues in out lives that we just put our head in the sand over… just like an ostrich.

We are all Ostriches

You are no different, you might be over drawn and ignore the bank statement, you might be in a crap relationship but don’t do anything about it .. you might have a friend who IMG_2944treats you like dirt but you don’t do anything about it …. all of us have issues in our personal life that we choose to ignore … why, because we bury our heads in the sand because we feel guilty when confronted with reality. The ostrich issue – ignoring information that can help us – arises because of the need to avoid negative feelings.

The ostrich issue is the idea that there are times when people would rather not know how they are doing.

You see by sidestepping the important act of scrutinising and measuring ourselves, this allows us to escape from the negative feelings associated with an accurate assessment and evaluation of our own progress. I would call it … ‘motivated absentmindedness’. I know I have an issue, but choose to ignore it  – I blank it out .. and many people, just like you do just the same ..including estate and letting agency bosses.

Old and Lazy Bosses

I recent saw a cartoon of a unhappy and miserable looking board whose CEO/Chairman is saying to the board, “instead of risking anything new, let’s play it safe by continuing our slow decline into obsolescence”. (Photo – Copyright – Tom FishBurne / Marketoonist)

BwCBWstIQAEDoR3I see it it all the time, from one man band agents to big national and regional players .. their unsafe mindset, which if I am being honest is liable to develop with age, comfort and success… but many estate and letting agent bosses … independent and corporate (yes corporate) fall into this category .. they are being ostrich like and putting their heads in the sand.

Perceived wisdom suggests people in their 20’s and 30’s have the drive, oomph and motivation to take risks, innovate and grow an estate and letting agency business while maturity brings caution and the predisposition to slow down and look for security. Some would go further and say these ‘mature’ estate and letting agents are dinosaur like, waiting to be made extinct .. and the worst part .. some of them they deserve to be made extinct!

Is Estate and Lettings Agency a Youngman’s game?

So should all the oldie estate and letting agents just retire, and make the profession a young mans (and ladies) game?

cefewewewfNot so fast, I am 45 and have a fine head of salt and pepper hair (half normal/half grey hair) .. so I could be called a dinosaur by you younger agents. Those of us in our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s may be called dinosaurs as we struggle with the internet, social media and tablets and PC’s and refuse to accept new ideas. Or at least that’s the theory because in reality age isn’t chronological  …  it’s a mental state.

I would say 80% of estate and letting agents bosses have their head in the sand and they are run by 20 something’s all the way up to 70 something’s … age has no bearing on this .. it’s all to to with attitude. They have become successful in the past and now are riding a wave .. .. the wave of complacency.  They aren’t paddling to catch the next wave like a surfer .. no .. they think this wave will go on forever .. its just that even the biggest waves out at sea have to hit the shoreline sometime .. and we all know what happens to waves when they reach land.

Complacency is UK estate and letting agency is the No.1 threat to the industry

The danger of complacency is ever present in the world of estate and letting agency .. I see it all the time. It can creep up on us…in fact, more so in in lettings (than estate agency) if I’m being honest. I have seen loads of letting agents with 200, 300, 400 managed properties on their books who are living off the past glories of the early 2000’s, when there were no letting agents around and any Tom, Dick or Harry could open a lettings agency and landlords would queue outside the offices, begging you to let their house. However, whilst the number of agents has tripled and even quadrupled in some towns, landlords don’t tend to swap agents just like people don’t swap banks .. these agents have become complacent. You are living off past glories … and I don’t blame you. In fact the old adage ‘if it’s not broke don’t try to fix it’, has meant the need to innovate and change.

.. and don’t think you estate agents are being let off the hook. Many (not all) of the top agents in a town (those that list the most) are only there because boards breed boards. Because the smaller agents are so awful at marketing, the perpetual hamster wheel just keeps turning, producing free val after free val. Not because you are awesome, have cutting edge innovate customer service that people swoon to your doors and rave about and tell their friends …. No its because your competitors are so rubbish at marketing themselves, and people like sheep .. they zombie like, sheep like come to your agency.

But the problem is, things have changed, now, instead we are in one of the most oversupplied and competitive service industries in the UK… the number of agents in 10 years has gone from 8,000 to 19,000 in 10 years .. but the number of properties sold each year has dropped from 1.8m to 1.2m  …  and lettings doesn’t fair any better … whilst the market has doubled in size in 20 years, the number of letting agents has quadrupled.

Real Life examples of Complacency

Many Letting and Estate Agents have become complacent and take landlords (especially landlords) and homeowners for granted. There are simply too many agents chasing the same landlord or homeowner to use our agency. … let me give you some real life examples ..

Kodak was once the world leader in film and cameras. In the mid 1970’s it sold nine out of Kxbvqhxvqhxvqhevery ten rolls of film for cameras. Although it pioneered most developments in digital photography in its research labs in the 1970s and further developed them in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, the company did not implement those innovations or exploit those patents because it did not want to harm its film based business. At its peak, Kodak was worth £40 billion .. it went into bankruptcy a couple of years ago, came out the other side, only worth £400 million. .. all because they were complacent

Nokia, was worth £110 billion in 2007 as rode the wave of its awesome phones in early to  mid 2000’s. However, that wave crashed to the shore last year as it sold to Microsoft was £4 billion. You see whilst everyone was riding the wave, the surfboard had cracks in it which were covered in tape. The tape covered over the cracks on its increasing dependence on old school handsets and its own operating system. Nokia had become complacent, lethargic and slow to react to market developments, ignoring Android and Apple …

Not all Estate and Letting Agents are Complacent

However, I do see the other 20% of estate and letting agents not be complacent. And again, its nothing to do with age. Its in the mind. I have seen many agents in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and yes, even 70’s who have evolved, innovated, embraced technology and kept the spirit of fun, excitement and energy that would describe a much younger estate and lettings business.

As an industry, we have to innovate, provide outstanding quality and service, and try every trick in the book just to attract and retain landlords and homeowners. So to survive we have to be more than competitive. We have to innovate, provide outstanding quality and service, and try every trick in the book just to keep landlords and homeowners coming through the door. We have to be though leaders, return back to the time when we were seen in the same light as Solicitors and Accountants.

Over the last 20 years we have sat back, but we can never sit back and relax or give in to caution. We must constantly innovate, strive to do better and keep fighting…. and creating an online model to beat the the online model is not the innovate .. it’s a retrograde step. (see Option 1 down the page for a reason why)

I have walked in your shoes as both an estate and letting agent. I started as a Neg back in 1993, then Valuer and rose through the ranks to running a huge City Centre Estate and Letting Agency operation. Then I was lucky enough to be the National Sales Manager for 300+ branch operation in my final years of employment and all the while, I always thought to myself .. there has to be a better way to do this estate and letting agency thing. There has to be a way to make the make the profession something we can be proud of, so we are looked up to in our own respective towns… not seen as scum of the earth glorified sales people

The embryo of an idea to save estate and letting agency

So I set out a few years ago with a mission to change the way estate agents and letting agents are seen as by the British public.  We are perceived in the same category as MP’s, car salesmen and Double Glazing salesmen… being an estate and letting agent isn’t a profession that is looked up to.

Big Ideas

However, I used to work for independent Chartered Surveyors in 2001, and there were a couple of Partners in their the 90’s  .. yes, in their 90’s. I was having a chat one day with them and they talked about the heyday of estate agency, they rolled the clock back 40  or 50 years, and said we (estate agents) were up there, in the same league as Architects, GP’s, Solicitors and Accountants … stopped in the street, people used to shake their hand, people wanted to talk to them… and I thought .. why has the profession slumped?

So 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.

UK Estate and Letting Agency’s Three Options for the Future

eeeeewweeWhat is that one thing? Well I keep preaching about it all the time – you should know by now what it is …. but before I give you the answer .. as an industry, I believe we are at a crossroads and every agent has a options.

Option 1 … We can join the ‘purplemenaces’ and commoditise our beautiful profession, we can try and beat them by playing their own game and offering our own alternative online offering, turning ourselves into listing agents, not estate agents, turning ourselves from professional property managers to glorified rent collectors. Many of you, think you should fight fire with fire, and set up your own online-proposition, like Countrywide are doing.… but here is the problem, what if it works, what if your own online offering takes off and really works .. because by your online model becoming successful, you will end up killing the very thing ( ie your High St operation) you set up your own online proposition to protect..

 Option 2 … Be a dinosaur, and ostrich like, put our heads in the sand and hope the Yopas, EasyProps and Purplebricks will run out of money, go bust and we can get back to our own little worlds … (but that wont happen – PB have enough money for nearly 3 years before they go bust by which time they will be making money and taking market share) .. the only outcome is extinction for you .. a slow death by a thousand cuts

Option 3 … Or, be brave, recognise the world has changed, recognise people will pay top dollar for an out of this world service and be attracted to companies that are the best. Let’s make the profession something to be proud of again. How many of you don’t say you are an estate agent at a dinner party or pub, because it it isn’t worth the insults and digs?


How do you do that? Some people will always want the cheapest thing, regardless of what it actually ends up costing them.

But in market after market, around the world, around the UK, the list goes on of firms that disprove the fact people want the cheapest.

You got the Audi when Skoda make the same car in the same factory – everyone knows it’s the same car .. but still would you have the Audi A6 or Skoda Superb, You shop at Waitrose and Marks and Spencer when you could shop at Asda and Morrisons … again, people know they can getit cheaper – but they dont, You bought your furniture from John Lewis when you could have gone to Argos – but you didnt, you bought that new £600 iphone when the £50 Android does the same thing – but you still bought the iphone.

These firms proudly charge a few pounds more. Not merely a few pounds more because they want to. A few more pounds .. because people believe they are worth it... are you worth it?

So what is the answer?

You might not like what I say. Sorry, what I say is what I believe. If you don’t believe what I believe .. that’s your choice, you might be right (but you could also be wrong) – it’s a free country.

But if you believe what I believe, and want to join me and many hundreds of agents around the UK on the mission to change the way our profession is perceived and looked upon, town by town, city by city .. then join us and together, you and I (and the 400 other estate and letting agents) can help you, guide you, mentor you, support you to be seen in a different light, to be seen as the ‘goto person for property’, actually be the ‘local property expert’ and prove it.

Yes, I did say 400 other agents .. because we are part of an estate and letting agents cooperative. A cooperative that meats up every six months to swap ideas, share ideas, share successes and learnings. We guide each other, we support each other and mentor each other to be successful

The technique will make your job more enjoyable, it will bring you in more landlords and vendors to let and sell their house. It is hardwork mind you and takes persistence and patience (hence why the corporate’s will never do it because they cant see past next months targets)

What is the First Step? Watch some videos of other agents (and myself) talking about changing the way the profession is seen and perceived and what it has dome to their lives and business .. https://goo.gl/Zzw4LN

What is the second step? Read up on what I believe  .. Over 250 articles and posts on what I believe estate and letting agents should do to get more clients and enjoy their job more.   https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/0_0rJj6gSvqclL15sfJaQvq1

.. then, if you want a chat .. pick up the phone .. again its your choice.


Christopher Watkin – (Look me up on Linkedin –  dare you!)

07950 147572

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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 christopher@christopherwatkin.co.uk

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