It has just been announced that Connells, which may double in size if it absorbs Countrywide, has created a deeper tie with the Zoopla portal owned by ZPG, with a tie-up for the next five years.
In what looks to be a mutually beneficial collaboration, the agency group will get the benefit of the latest innovations and SaaS applications that the ZPG group are looking to roll out. In effect meaning that Connells will be a testbed for a modern digital agency approach.
In contrast, the Guild of Property Professionals has just announced that its CEO is happy to recommend Boomin to its 800-strong membership.
The point being here that the ZPG tie-up seems to be a symbiotic relationship, a tie-up with an agency that if the deal with Countrywide goes through will be a large animal with 8% of the property market. Whereas Boomin is not offering to further advance the Guild’s technological offering.
What is clear, and yes as a proptech/real estate influencer I put my hand up to be counted, is that the pandemic has changed the face of the industry for good. Locked doors of agencies has not prevented agency work from taking place, and the public is embracing a more Zoom-led digital experience in their search for property to buy sell, or rent.
With online business going up from 20% to 31% in the UK last year, and more and more retail high street businesses closing or being bought out of receivership by their younger online rivals, it is clear that the consumer is changing their habits.
Work from home is now a reality also, and many companies in the past year have divested themselves of large burdensome commercial premises. If this continues, the high street may within a few short years see the absence of estate agency offices.
The re-shaping of the old Countrywide network of branches will be a telling story. Obviously, branches that have never made profit will be under scrutiny, though in the balance will be the lease liability and the financial pain of mothballing them.
Not so long ago the Countrywide accounts had a £7.5M provision to keep such zombie branches open, though the recent boom market may have helped this position.
So what will a modern agency look like? And who is driving it? UX is the answer, the experience of the consumer. If they are truly nurtured in their journey then companies will see large profits. Get this wrong and businesses in the real estate sector will be struggling.
Perhaps the Connells approach is a good one; de-risk by aligning with tech-savvy organisations. It is either this or doing it in-house, a very expensive and potentially time-wasting exercise.
Now more than ever, with tech’s reach doubling every year, the real cost of this could do severe damage to the bottom line.
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.