Whether new to the property ladder, or a seasoned landlord, it’s not surprising to hear that buyers spend hours looking into every element of their new home. However, it’s less likely they will spend the same amount of time and effort finding their ideal estate agent. This is arguably just as important, and something that estate agents must consider when positioning themselves in the market.
There is a common misconception among estate agents that all they need to do is run a website alongside their physical offering, and this will offer an improved experience, and a competitive edge. However, it’s vital to connect the online and physical aspects together into one, offering the convenience, responsiveness and functionality of online with the expertise and guidance of a physical estate agent. This ensures buyers have access to the best of both worlds.
For example, agents could look to adopt virtual reality technologies both online and in-branch, enabling buyers to take a 360 degree tour of properties, meaning that both the buyer and the agent don’t have to physically attend the property, ultimately saving time.
Earlier this year Dezrez undertook research exploring UK home buyers’ attitudes, perceptions and expectations towards physical estate agents. It revealed that, despite the rise of online portals such as Rightmove and OnTheMarket, 58 percent of respondents wanted to build a life-long relationship with their estate agent. It’s not just a simple, transactional experience.
This begs the question; how do buyers want to buy and sell property in the modern, connected era, and what do estate agents need to do to support this?
While many buyers prefer to search for properties online, they still demand a personalised experience from their estate agent. In fact, 82 percent of UK home buyers revealed that they would prefer to have a personal estate agent who deals with the management of the entire home buying process, and maintain a relationship with this agent. This in turn helps agents quickly react to the ever changing needs and demands of their buyers.
One of these demands is the improved adoption and use of technology, as almost 50 percent of buyers believe that physical estate agents must embrace technology in order to survive in the market. Buyers are becoming increasingly frustrated with estate agents who are slow to adopt new digital technologies, and two-thirds of respondents believe estate agents are not fully using technology to their advantage.
The implementation of technology has historically been met with resistance from traditional estate agents however, as they believe it is disruptive rather than innovative, and offers much more benefit to the buyer than the agent. Agents have recently started to buck this trend however, and are learning to embrace new methods and technologies. Countrywide for example has trialled a hybrid technology model that allows agents to upgrade from online to full service. This hybrid approach offers buyers a tremendous amount of flexibility, allowing them to interact seamlessly with their agent online due to a busy work schedule, or walk into their local branch for a more personal meeting.
A further example of technology improving the experience for the agent and the buyer is software that automatically detects Twitter messages and responds on the agent’s behalf. For example, this software could register a tweet from someone house hunting in Reading. Without lifting a finger, the software responds automatically with ‘How can we help?’ resulting in a potential lead with minimal effort. This benefits the estate agent in terms of saving time, as well as the buyers who are receiving instant communication. In fact, adopting the right technologies will allow estate agents to offer personalised alerts, react much quicker to buyer queries, and be much smarter with social media.
The adoption of new technologies will also become increasingly important as Brexit impacts buyers and agents. The role and experience of the estate agent will arguably become more critical as negotiations are predicted to become even trickier, sales progression more complex, and buyers start to rely much more heavily on their estate agents for experience and advice.
In a survey of 132 estate agents, 42 percent revealed that they felt Brexit has already had a negative impact on their business, but only 16 percent have a strategy in place to combat this. As such, it is imperative that agents have the tools to respond to core business impacts quickly and decisively, allowing them to secure a competitive advantage during this uncertain time.
It is clear there is a strong appetite for change from buyers, especially when it comes to the use of technology, and agents must adapt in order to survive. Advancements in technology, from mobile devices to cloud-based software, offer some valuable opportunities for the future, and there is a breadth of technology that can help transform the property industry, enabling agents to deliver a more personal service across human and digital touchpoints. In order to survive and thrive, estate agents must embrace the tools available to remain competitive, keep buyers satisfied, and ultimately ensure they are an estate agent of the future.