Bob Monkhouse once said, “People used to laugh at me when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well they’re not laughing now.” Just as those who scoffed at the idea that the British public would ever vote to leave Europe never for one moment thought that well actually, the British public might just say thank you, we’re off. As I type, the House of Commons has endorsed the legislation by 498 votes to 114 that allows Britain to trigger Article 50. I bet that when a certain D Cameron threw in the referendum promise in a last ditch attempt to stop traditional Tory voters decamping to UKip (and thus handing victory to Labour) that he never ever thought that it would a. work and b. that the Labour party would be losing MP’s faster than one can say Tony who?
When we opened the doors of Cheshire & Co 6 years ago, I told everyone that it was my belief that traditional high street estate agency was finished as we knew it, due to the power of the internet and the accessibility of data to everyone. At the time, many of my fellow estate agents who I had worked with on many high streets across the principality laughed at me and questioned my sanity. Interestingly, many of these individuals now work for Purplebricks, the online estate agency founded in 2014 by brothers Micheal and Kenny Bruce. Not a criticism boys; merely an observing of the facts. Similarly, we were derided by many when we first posted online a video of a property together with floor plans; now find me an agent who does not offer these as part of their service, (admittedly at an exorbitant, additional cost. You know who you are).
It is not just a move away from the office based on the high street of Cwmbran or any other town or city. The tactics and outlook of estate agents have also changed. Current literature is awash with agents advertising how “big” or “successful” they are. This has in some instances been ‘evidenced’ by falsifying or misappropriating the information inputted on rightmove. Again, you know who you are. A classic example of ‘my…….(fill in as deemed appropriate) is bigger than yours’.
I doff my cap to the Purplebricks marketing team who have earned their monthly bonus several times over in recent days. Press releases with the theme of share prices have dominated the property headlines, with the absolute cracker of reporting how the board of Purplebricks has issued a statement to the City saying it has no idea what lies behind the soaring share price the hybrid agency has enjoyed in recent weeks. Well played boys, well played. And what has been the result? The share price has risen around 40 per cent since the start of 2017 and – despite the statement from the board – it ended Friday’s trading at 189.01, almost twice the price of shares when it was originally floated at 100.00 just before Christmas 2015. It is clear to me that the Bruce brothers are after one thing and one thing only-a stock market listing. When they get this they will cash in their chips-who wouldn’t?
It is not the local independent who needs to fear the likes of the online agents, but the corporate entities that the NP postcode-like most-is awash with. The corporates-and I know, because I was one of their managers-cannot cut their fees to try and match either their online or independent counterparts, because head office will not let them.
I am still surprised that many of my fellow local agents forget the word ‘service’. A current advert in that bastion of the fourth estate, The Argus, cites how one estate agency has sold more properties than a number of other agents (who they choose to list). What cannot speak cannot lie and I am not intimating that figures have been massaged (see my earlier point re you know who you are), but what the advert does not show is how good they are for the individual customer in the service that they provide. Manchester United are the biggest football club in the world, yet are well off the top of the Premiership. So clearly, they are not the best. Citing how, as an agent, you sell more houses than any one else may be an incontrovertible truth, but does it tell the whole story? Does it list how many offices that agent may have? Does it show the conversion rate of listings to successful sales? For those residents of the NP postcode, nobody would dispute that the local supermarket sells more meat than Doug Willis, but if they want something special, where do they go?
As independents, we cannot even begin to compete with being the biggest, but we can aim to be the best at what we do. The service that we provide to our customers is our income generator. Referrals and repeat business will drive any independent agent, regardless of the postcode. Being the biggest isn’t all that it is cracked up to be; just ask the gentleman who recently made the headlines for officially having the world’s biggest penis. It has ruined his life…. apparently. I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing whether I would agree with him…