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Traditional v. online: Almost one in five high street agents now playing ‘both games at once’

More agents now consider themselves to be operating as hybrids. The 18% proportion compares with 11% two years ago, while almost one in five of high street agents are playing ‘both games at once’.

The findings are among the first to emerge from the preliminary results of the latest survey tracking the competitive landscape between high street and online agents.

Our readers were asked last week to help independent researcher Mark Notari with a follow-up survey to the first one he did (as a thesis for a Masters degree) 20 months ago.

Answers to the second survey closed on Monday at 5pm, and Notari has wasted no time in collating the results.

They have not, however, been analysed, and in particular, the results have not been compared with the findings of the first survey. Notari expects his analysis to take about a fortnight, and we will let you have these further results when we can.

Meanwhile, we can tell you that EYE readers completed 183 surveys – and we would like to thank you for your interest and time.

A total of 125 responses, all from independent high street agents, form the basis of this latest hot-off-the-press research.

The preliminary bullet points are:

  • The majority of the sample (38%) think that online agents account for 5% of listings published on the portals; the next highest proportion of 12% think online agents have 10% market share.
  • Most agents (47%) expect online market share to increase over the next year, but opinion is sharply divided, with 46% thinking online market share will stay the same. Only 7% expect online market share to decrease over the next year.
  • It is an entirely different story when asked if online market share will increase over the next five years: 56% of high street agents think it will go up, but equal numbers (22%) believe it will stay the same or go down.
  • Most agents (81%) believe high street agents will continue to dominate the industry; 17% believe high street and online agents will have equal share; just 3% believe high street agents will become minor players.
  • High street attitudes towards competition are revealing: most think the most important competition is other independent agents (59% strongly agreed with this statement); corporate agents are rated as the next most important competitors, by 32%; only 22% believe online agents are the most important competitors.
  • Most high street agents (35%) are seen as talking about the online competition but not doing anything about it; 27% of high street agents are seen as taking appropriate steps; 5% are ignoring online competition. And while 19% of high street agents are judged to be proactive, 14% are seen as “making too much noise” about it.
  • Asked about their own responses, estate agents are unequivocal: 78% plan to stay focused on their own business; 4% are ignoring online agents; and 18% are playing both games at once.
  • Loyalty to the high street is enormous – but commitment to the ‘no sale, no fee model’ rather less so. Almost all the agents in the survey (97%) have no intention of shifting their business to be entirely online; however, 52% are considering moving to fixed agency fees – one of the defining characteristics of online firms.
  • Asked what sets high street independents above the online competition, the winner is better local market knowledge (82% of agents rate this as their top characteristic), followed by the ability to build stronger relationships with local buyers (71%); in comparison, 61% believe their ability to achieve higher selling prices is their own best point of differential.
  • When it comes to their weaknesses in comparison with online agents, the high street cites its worst weaknesses as charging higher fees (54%) and having higher overheads (48%).
  • Asked why they have not yet switched to an online business model, most of the agents said they did not think it is viable.
  • Agents thought the biggest risks were compromising the quality of the service offered (54% strongly agreed with this statement); undermining the firm’s reputation (44% strongly agreed with this); and cannibalising the existing business model (32% strongly agreed with this).

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