Who needs online estate agents? In the future, probably everyone

Andrew Stanton looks at how and why the current online estate agency model is likely to fail, and what is needed to take its place.

Do I think online agents are doomed? No.

Do I think the current online agency model is doomed? Of course.

Why? Because we’ve fallen into a trap. Someone looked at the analogue system of the agency, a paper-based and traditional system, and subtracted as many people as they can get away with.

In their place, they’ve added just a dash of technology, thinking that it’s up to the task of replicating the human element and providing enough efficiency and value to keep them coming back.

The desired outcome was simple – an agency that sells a certain type of property at a certain price point in certain geographic areas, designed with a cost-conscious client in mind. However, it’s been far from simple.

Purplebricks has burnt through hundreds of millions to keep the dream alive. Just imagine if that had been spent on proptech experts, coding and proper digital transformation to create real proptech solutions for antiquated processes.

We’d be seeing something very different, that’s for sure.

“With many sectors and categories having seen a significant shift online during the pandemic the Estate Agency sector has not followed suit with a relatively low & slow rate of growth persisting.”

TwentyCi Homemover Report

On day one I would have gone to the general public with a question. In the next five years, how will you be doing property? Buying it, selling it, renting it… letting it out? Also, what technology will you be using to transact in your daily life?

Where it has all gone wrong is that agile new businesses are outfoxing huge corporate businesses, the type accustomed to peeking at their competitors and then tweaking their business models to make marginal gains.

True digital businesses do not play by these rules. They innovate in miles, not millimetres.

One needs a strategy to get to the top quickly and stay there, adding enormous value to customers, offering new value propositions, driving significant efficiencies and profiting across your company as a result.

Digital transformation has changed the accepted rules of business. But some businesses don’t accept digital transformation in the truest sense.

By digital, of course, I mean the super-fast and frictionless way insurgent companies burst onto the scene. They operate more efficiently, connecting people and products, services, devices and supply chains together. They’re the ones who achieve success through novel business strategies.

If you want to be an online success then it is time onliners became digital, for real.

Purplebricks, let’s not forget, has 60,000 plus vendors out there in the UK. It shows that a huge chunk of the public wants to do things differently. It shows that they’re frustrated, too. They see other areas of their life – entertainment, shopping, travel – made a great deal more efficient by technology, not just a little bit.

What is clear in our shared economy is that a fast and great user experience will drive transformation. People will adopt it, the signals are already there.

Take the relatively recent rise in micro home deliveries, for example. Paying £1.80 to have a packet of nappies delivered to your door in 10 minutes shows us when, how and where people want to use these types of services.

Now get some future-focused people and build a proper team to solve the problems that the public have when doing property.

To all the bright young people out there, here is your challenge – Build that online agency, make it like Amazon, and you will scale the world.

Andrew Stanton is the founder of Proptech-PR and Proptech-X. He grows proptech companies using his influence from decades of industry experience and is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations.

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