At The Customer Closeness Company we believe that in today’s world you need to put customers at the centre of everything that you do in order to stay competitive. Most industries are littered with companies have lost sight of customers’ needs. Estate agency is a prime example of an industry where most high street retailers have lost sight of what consumers really want and value when buying or selling a house and my prediction is that apart from those estate agents who service high end sellers the high street estate agent is dead or has to seriously reinvent itself. Here are some consumer-led reasons why the market will move on-line.
1. Buyers search for houses in their moments of down time
Zoopla and Rightmove meet house buyers needs by allowing them to look for houses when they are watching TV, travelling to work or having a cup of coffee. These services bypass the high street moving browsing for houses to the moment when you want to do it.
2. Buyers want booking to be as easy as browsing
When a buyer sees a house they like, they want to make an appointment there and then. As this is unlikely to be in office hours being able to book online and see the vendor’s availability is much more simple than ringing an estate agent and having to negotiate a convenient time.
3. Buyers want key information not glossy brochures
Glossy brochures make the seller feel that they are being looked after well and that the company selling their house feels their house is desirable, but do buyers want glossy brochures? When looking for a house recently I quickly racked up a pile of brochures half a foot thick. A pile that I feel guilty about throwing away in this low waste era. Online browsing enables the buyer to look at location (yes that’s still key!) in a much better way by looking at the property on a map, looking at a street view, even an aerial view using Google Earth. The customer can also quickly look at travel times and school catchment areas. All of these things are often more crucial than pretty pictures of rooms taken with a wide angle lens.
4. As house prices increase the % model looks expensive
In the South the average house price is £350k. Even at 1% the fee is £3.5k. Online retailers offer a complete service for less than £1,000 and a basic package costs as little as £500. That’s £2.5k to spend on other moving costs. Canny and confident shoppers trained by their positive experiences with Lidl and Aldi want quality at value for money.
In conclusion, the average high street estate agent has not kept up with customers’ desires and expectations. They should have listened harder and moved faster.