The large print giveth…

… the small print taketh away.  This was one of several hackneyed phrases that sprung to mind (see, there’s another), when I was reading the Money section in last week’s Sunday Times Sunday 6 July 2014.  The headline, “New Websites open Door to Wealth of Property Data” revealed how Adrian Black-former head of technology at Goldman Sachs, (that well known estate agent..) has joined forces and intellect with Jeremy Priestly, previously with Knight Frank and Hamptons. Their combined acumen and wisdom has led to the launch of you-home-co.uk, which willassisted by enough data to choke a decent sized donkey-enable you to sell your home.  Well done lads.  Mr Black opines that, ” the current residential property model does not work.”[sic] Right. What level of business model are we talking about here; the macro that replicates the housing market as a whole, or the micro whereby what is happening in Knightsbridge has £$& all to do with the goings on in the metropolis of Varteg?  Let’s put aside the geography for one moment and think about what he was opining.  He continued; “Technology and public data is rapidly changing and many traditional methods of business simply no longer apply.” [sic]  That would include that old-fashioned and outdated method of two human beings actually talking to each other, I presume?  His sentiments apply totally to buying a book from Amazon, but I am slightly more dubious about their transference to the property market. As I have commented on before, there is no need for an agent to retain an office in a town centre and when the first big corporate player leaves Cwmbran or Newport town centre, the rest will follow like lemmings over a cliff.  But an agent must have somewhere for vendors (and purchasers) to come and discuss their needs and any problems, however exiguous.  Priestly added, “More than 90% of buyers make their first move by visiting websites”.  Thank you for the revelation but I return to my comment about agents and office premises; after the initial enquiry, humans need to take over – and not just at the end of a telephone line or Wifi connection.  Mr Priestly also queried the “exorbitant fees” charged in certain London postcodes that can range from 2%-3%.  Those would be the same fees that you charged at Hamptons then Mr P?  I cannot disagree that 2%-3% (think about that added on to the stamp duty), is on the steep side of vertical, but I was bemused to read that you-home.co.uk would only be charging 1%-1.25% to sell a propertyBasic rate.   No accompanied viewings, qualifying of applicants or dealing with the myriad queries that will arise. Dig through the small(ish) print and the added extras mean that that 1% is a distant aspiration, waving you goodbye as it prances off into the distance carrying the very glossy brochure of your house.  It does lead one to question an ‘exorbitant fee’ merely for hosting pictures.  Even as a self-certified technophobe, I cannot dismiss the wonders of technology, but consider the analogy of the supermarket checkout.  Which is easiest, more efficient and less stressful to use; the fully automated ones that invariably lead to a request to ‘”Call an assistant”, or the checkout with a human being who does that so last century thing of actually ringing the goods up on a till?