When I began as an estate agent in the mid-1980s, life was simpler. On my desk were a traditional telephone, a small red plastic box with cardboard dividers and applicant cards all in price order, an A4 size day personal diary, a biro and some business cards.
These were my tools of influence, that and my brain, my smile, and the ability to pick the telephone more quickly than other salespeople or stand up more quickly when a buyer walked through the door so I could engage with them first.
Rightmove did not exist for another fifteen years, and mobiles were the size and weight of a house-brick and mostly hardwired into cars of the rich and famous. Over the years, technology slowly crept into my real estate world; hardware and software arrived, as they did in all other industries. But strangely it has taken a pandemic to make the property world realise that it is time to hit the reset button.
Lockdown 3.0, the present place estate agency now finds itself in, is a great time to re-imagine the most efficient, most profitable and most customer focused way of delivering EAaaS – Estate Agency as a Service.
All agents now will be locking their doors, some will let the public in by strict invitation, others will aim for a harder lockdown stance. Either way, my advice is that the best strategy for real estate owner’s is to imagine what tools and processes should be in their business.
As a hungry negotiator many years ago, my primary role was to list and do market appraisals and win stock to sell. Having convinced the vendor to use me, I then spent the next hour measuring up, taking details, and taking photographs.
Many agents today still do this – stop hit the reset button. Is it the role of the agent in 2021 to do all of the take-on? Surely the process can be outsourced, enabling that person more time to do other functions in the business.
What about accompanied viewings?
Accompanied viewings…is this the role of the agent for sales and lettings? Are virtual or augmented reality the better, more efficient path to sales glory and profit? With many childhood gamers now thirty or forty-something, AR is something they grew up with, not a novelty technology.
The pandemic is a real pain cloying up commerce and business. Why not use it to your advantage? Start to plan how to make your life and your team’s life easier and more efficient. Hit that reset button. Is work-from-home a model for your agency? Do you need a large goldfish bowl office on the high street?
I would argue you need brand presence but will Covid-19 stop tenants and landlords, buyers, and vendors from thinking they ever have to come to a physical office? Reset your mind. What do the click-click millennial class want? Fast service. And if you give it to them even while wearing pyjamas and on roller skates, they will not mind. What they do mind is indifferent or low levels of service. That certainly sparks their ire.
How do they go about buying stuff or services? These digital natives use their smart phone, so get smart and build your proposition around a clickety-click service route, instead of having team members spending hours measuring up brick-built oblongs and taking photographs; leave that to the professionals, along with all of those groundhog processes that AI and software can do 24/7.
Oh, if you could start out again….
Often people ask me if, I were 23 again and starting out in an agency, where would I start? What would my first office look like? What tools would I use?
I always answer the same way: Get a team of dysfunctional hardworking people, mould them into a team with esprit de corps and give them the best tools and systems that you can. Remove obstacles for the consumer and count the profits as they come in.
If you run your agency like it is 1986, be prepared to earn what agents earnt in the same year. Alternatively, use the valuable time you have now, forced upon you, and hit the reset button. Try to imagine what the consumer in three years time will be doing and build your offering around that.
Originally published on EAN, 6th January 2021
Andrew Stanton is the founder of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.