“We also sell houses…”

 

Obviously. One would like to think that the clue is in the title, ‘Estate Agents’. Ah, but one should not be so easily fooled. What in the name of all things holy is Cwmbran’s answer to George Clooney on about you may well be thinking? No, I haven’t finally succumbed to the after effects of too much Bacardi or the beseeching phonecalls of Svetlana and Tatiana. As we speed through 2016 faster than a certain D Cameron has ditched his pledge to continuing serving the good residents of Witney, it is becoming ever clearer that estate agency involves selling many products and a house is only one of them.

Here at Cheshire & Co we have long had a dislike for shiny suits, pointy toed shoes, that annoying woman on breakfast tv, dodgy marking on Strictly Come Prancing and packaged services as part of the conveyancing jamboree. By this, I mean mortgage or legal services that are tied up in a cute little bow when using a particular agent to buy or sell a property. This allows an even cuter little kickback to go to the said agent. Here in the NP44 postcode, I can ring Rumpole and Deed Solicitors for a quote and it will be £250 cheaper than if one of my brethren offer the same solicitor. Why? Because they all love The Chesh? Nope (though, obviously they do love me), because my fellow agent will be receiving the additional £250 for the ‘recommendation’.

Cash back is yesterday’s man though (rather like you Gideon, no longer known at the address of No 11 Downing Street). Data capture now surpasses package kick backs, sporting the cutest bow that would make Minnie Mouse green with envy. Why? Data can be sold again and again and again to an ever increasing number of sources. To highlight this, Zoopla Property Group (ZPG) is seeking to integrate uSwitch, its price comparison service (no meercats involved), with MoveIT, its agents’ platform for ancillary revenue generation. The clue is indeed in the title; ‘ancillary’, meaning f2*k all to do with selling houses. A further example was given when ZPG was quoted as saying that its acquisition of the Property Software Group would allow them to create, “more integrated offers to agent members and site consumers”. I’m telling you Minnie, you need to sort out the headgear.

The PR team at Zoopla have been working overtime and issued this corker of a statement telling the general public why this meeting of minds will be a panacea to all the ills of the property world. “The collaboration between the two provides agents with a unique referral service offering price comparison to home-movers…helping consumers save money at the right time, whilst boosting agents’ bottom line”. I think that you may find that the last phrase is the key to it all, boosting the bottom line.

We are all looking to boost our bottom line, it is the driving factor of the market place, be it selling houses, cars, shiny suits or pointy toes shoes. But such flagrant flogging of peoples’ details does not sit well with me I’m afraid. Perhaps TPO should make it mandatory to disclose at the point of signing the contract with the agent, how their data will be used. A lifetime of cold callers trying to flog double glazing is akin to signing your life away.

History has shown-be it an agent in Cwmbran or Mayfair-that business is generated through referral, recommendation and repetition. An agent is unlikely to be recommended or used again if they have tucked someone up on solicitors’ fees and subjected them to a lifetime of cold calls as a result of data capture.