Will Covid-19 convert High Street Agencies to Hybrid / Online Agencies?

Covid19 within Estate Agency

There are two reasons that the title of this article may be a possibility – One in that some agencies will have to scale back spending for the foreseeable future of which their premises could be one way in which to reduce costs. The second point is that having worked from home some may have realised that actually this more or less forced method of working isn’t that bad and for a smaller agency this could actually work.

I work in a few industry sectors all of whom are being effected by the Covid-19 outbreak and especially the lock down. Though negative in many ways to each business, some have looked to evolve their businesses for today and with a look to the future also such as bars and restaurants putting more efforts towards deliveries of foods

From tidying up our email databases to podcasts, the extra time on our hands plus the need by some to adapt their businesses as seen many of us tackling things in business that we have either put off or in fact had never thought have doing previously. Many have seen that the virtual world and especially via the internet is an area of expansion for and the likes of social media, Amazon TV Channels, podcasting, Zoom and ECommerce are new words to us and ones we are excited to be exploring. I am sure we can all agree that we have seen an increase and a countless number of live videos happening on social media seeing industries grouping together to support one another and keeping alive business messages whilst we are in #Lockdown.

So, what about converting from a high street agency to an online or hybrid concept following Covid-19?

I recently put out the question on Twitter to see what people thought, the best of the bunch was a detailed reply from Murray Lee FNAEA MARLA, managing director of DreamView Estates in London NW11:

Question is:As more and more estate agents globally are working from home due to Coronavirus, are you seeing the advantages over working from your high street location? Does the hybrid / online agency appeal to you more or less now?

Absolutely not!!

Hi !!

I have been an Estate Agent since April 1973 so 48 years in the business.

My reputation has grown BECAUSE of the High Street in my area.

I’m a well known face in NW London, one that galvanised the others into the movement AGAINST the portals in the last few weeks resulting in the 75% discount from Rightmove and the 5 months free option from Zoopla.

Agency is a Face to Face business, you build trust and relationships.You cannot do that by emails, texts or whatever social media you choose.

First and foremost, your office gives you an identity in your area and improves your brand otherwise why do Foxtons spend so much on them and take the most prominent positions?

My clients like to see me, chat, wave as they pass and, most importantly, see THEIR property in our windows and featured on our giant scrolling screen.

I accept a lot of applicants are mainly email based from the web, but its still common for them to come in.

We are open 7:30am (yes 7:30am) to 7pm and Sundays (Not Sats for religious/Jewish reasons in our area).

We get a reasonably constant trail of, mostly rental, walk ins. Sales is much more on line with PDFs for details and video tours, but there is nothing better than meeting people initially, and you can’t do it properly on line. Despite video calls and similar you build up much more of a rapport via face to face.

And, how many of these online have or are succeeding?

Many have been swallowed up or gone to the wall . Obviously PurpleBrick were still going strong, but even they are taking a hammering now. They are a great brand, annoyingly, and are the Foxtons of the web. BUT as with all these big brands the staff don’t stay.

In my office you deal with the same people over many year and, we all are aware of each others dealings so can step in when matters or they are away. That can’t happen on-line.

Maybe I’m old school (still even wear a tie to work) but if we are taking fees for what we do, the clients need to see the “whites of my eyes” so to speak.

We also manage a big local portfolio (I accept not all on-lines have this string to their bow) and hold lots of keys. We have to be available almost 24/7 and access the keys quickly in case of emergencies (even in this crisis).

How could I do that if I was tucked away in the leafy countryside miles away from these? (I Live half hours’ drive from office)

Proof is simply this, 48 years in the business, all in NW London, and nearly 8 years owning Dreamview Estates, and I’m now selling to the GRAND children of some of my 1st clients.

How many on line agents will EVER be able to say that?

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Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking and an internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Twitter and LinkedIn. Writes about UK property prices, housing and affordable homes.

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