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Agent Provocateur: Going the virtual office route is a bold play to try and get more listings


As 2017 settles down, talk about proptech gives way to early concerns about the bottom line – listings.

At this time of the year, if you haven’t got them you’re dead.

More than any other recent period in the industry, there is a feeling of siege from competition, regulation and taxation – it is almost overpowering.

Margins are still on a diet and it’s difficult to see the right way forward.

My old firm, Douglas & Gordon, is going down the virtual office route in surrounding areas in the search for listings, as EYE reports today.

This is nothing wildly new BUT it is a bold play for a well-established and successful high street agent.

My belief is that this has to be a viable way forward, with most small agents able to service several more offices with their existing infrastructure. Local negs and managers are bound to live in, and know, the surrounding areas, and for D&G to support an opening in Streatham is no sweat.

It’s easy, and we love, to throw brickbats at Countrywide, but who really knows whether the brave decisions being taken won’t be the right ones?

They are certainly getting some column inches in the press, and sellers might like a forward-thinking view that offers them a choice between a DIY and a full service model.

The property industry seems to have been largely immune to change.

Frankly, the only serious change over the last two decades has been the way properties are advertised – and look how that’s come back to bite us on the a**e.

Mining for listings stil seems to be done the old way – a combination of letters, following old vals up, looking at what your competitors are doing (polite way of saying touting) and getting involved in your local community. All this will work for many.

But what about those repositories of information – your databases.

My recent travels as I aim to get my outsourced viewings business up and running, have yielded VERY little positivity on the customer relationship management front and have met with universal eye rolling.

Partly it’s because there are simply too many software systems within agency that don’t talk to each other, but also because most systems were designed in an era when listings were easier to come by.

Matching buyers with sellers is quite simply technology that has long been slick and commonplace in other industries, and was considered cutting edge in estate agency years ago.

But is this still the currency of the future? Most existing systems struggle to do that even now, and matching systems are still far too clunky.

I am not sure when you last thought about it, but few people ever buy what they set out to, and filling in fields in a registration form is SO last century.

Do we really have to wait for a universal translator that’ll enable all systems to talk to each other?

HUNTERS NS - to June 2017

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