The fall and fall of the large agent chains

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    Having experienced the late 1980’s when the financial ‘experts’ bought up like starving Labradors estate agency companies and then quickly ‘sold’ what they had bought a recent headline in the car section of last Saturdays Telegraph rang more than a bell with me. I paraphrase but Jean-Phillippe Imparto the CE of Peugeot was asked how the famous brand got trashed. His answer was ”No car guys in charge, just career administrators and …….accountants/administrators/functionaries, with no understanding of or love for cars, have been blamed for quite a few gone-wrong things in the French Industry.

    Substitute cars for agency and those of us with agency through our blood know exactly why these large chains are having the difficulties they are. Ok its not simple but its also not rocket science



    Ahhh – the glory days of Corporate Agency…

    (Actually – had that first line have started “The gory days…”, then that would have been far more apt, accurate and resonant in most people’s minds and hearts.)

    Insurance companies, banks, building societies – all thought they could be better Estate Agents than the Agents themselves.

    In came hoards of FAs, accountants and B…b…b…ankers running the shows (feel free to add an ‘i’ between the ‘n’s if you feel as strongly that way as many do…) – and in fairness they and aa boom market brought with them a fair smattering of “professional salespeople” whose egos kept them on the top of their game until the market dictated otherwise and they mainly all slunk back from whence they emanated.

    … I remember them well.<u></u>



    Can’t believe I used the incorrect ‘hordes’ and got away with it – where the chuff’s the Grammar Police when you need one?



    A large estate agent is the same as small estate agent. It just has more branches. It needs to be successful on a branch by branch basis and be in tune with market it seeks to trade in. If it isn’t, it will not be successful and eventually fail.




    Interesting take.  Unfortunately (or maybe it’s fortunately?) that isn’t the way that the corporates and quasi-corporates look at it.

    They see it all as a Numbers Game.  Every property they list is one that the competition don’t get to have on their books.

    If it sells… all the better.  If it doesn’t – so be it.

    Not a view I subscribe to.



    With Countrywide offices being reported in Eye as being closed with  their livery left up is so reminiscent of the late 80’s and so typical of retail run organisations.

    What always kills the large players is the bean counters and ‘Head Office’ add on costs. I was recently speaking to a director of a medium size chain in Devon/Cornwall and all the directors are fee earning and hence they remain a force within the area really connected and know what is going on. For the bean counterspossibly reading this fees = dosh and dosh pays the bills. Too many bean couters eat up too much dosh.




    ONE bean counter is one bean counter too many – for the following reason:

    Bean counter cost – say £100k

    Turnover 1000 units per annum – cost of Bean counter = £100 per unit

    Turnover 500 units – cost = £200 per unit

    and so it goes on.

    You don’t get much of a bean counter these days for your £100k – so when you start doubling… trebling (or even worse) then the figures really start looking scary.

    Unless a bean counter can pay for themselves (never met one yet) – then they are simply an expense – and surely for company credibility alone, put someone in charge who looks, walks and talks like an Estate Agent!

    There again – looking at some of those at the helm of the Call Centres…

    Always an exception to every rule, I guess.


    Chris Wood

    I well remember the collected intake of breath at a regional conference of GAPS (now Your Move) when I pointed out at a ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘nothing is off limits’ (Ha!) forum that, using genuine head-office figures, for every £1 paid to a “fee earner*”, £7 was paid to “non fee earner**”.

    At the time, GAPS was losing £30,000 per branch across the network and the managers had been tasked with finding a solution. Mine was firing a large tranche of “non fee earners”. My suggestion met a mixed and, it is fair to say, heavily polarised reaction from the conference room full of managers (generally supportive) and the head office staff (generally less than impressed). Interestingly, my office immediately received an unscheduled two working day audit the following day. So much for blue-sky thinking and nothing being off limits (we passed the audit with flying colours).


    *estate agent to you and I

    **Bean counter


    smile please

    Similar experience to share as Chris.

    Whilst working in the city in fs, we were taken out for a very nice posh lunch. At the lunch the manager of the call center we had was highlighted for doing a commendable job.

    They had managed to now only miss 24% of incoming calls as opposed to the 29% they were missing.

    When i suggested that missing 24% of incoming calls for new business was terrible and unacceptable to praise such a stat i was met with hostility from the bean counters.


    Thomas Flowers

    Whilst working as a manager for a large corporate agent I had the privilege off getting the push from direct orders of the CEO as I could show he may have ‘adopted’ some old ideas of mine that may have helped propel him into that senior position.

    It appears that things don’t change as I can show today how very few of these current, highly paid, bean counters have an innovative, strategic or decisive bone in their body either!  See below.

    This does not include RM’s brilliant executive team – you have to give them credit for ‘persuading’ all their member agents to surrender their most valuable asset- real time data for ‘free’.

    I remember when the corporate financial institutions paid around £250,000 per branch for this data in the mid 1980’s!

    Lets put this rout into perspective:

    Say £250,000 then is £500,000 today.

    So £500,000 x 15,000 residential branches = £7,500,000,000

    No wonder RM chose 4th July 2016, Independence Day, to cut their overnight feed?

    To support my statement above:

    Why have no industry leaders suggested that surrendering your real time data to RM for ‘free’ may be a bad move?

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by  Thomas Flowers.


    Although I have not worked for any large chains for years I have used their (diminishing) offices for both sales and letting requirements and it would appear obvious to me that the letting sides appear more effecient and helpful than the sales side. I wonder if this is because the sales side , when times are good attracts a ‘quick buck’ type person?When the going gets tough they jump ship back to selling whatever they were selling before. Certainly the number of sales staff in the large chain s are very good at operating their technology based systems but when it comes to property knowledge at all levels from how much garden, ownership of boundaries, local facilities, even values ( unless in front of their screeen!) they are wanting.I have even had an agent  refusing to report an offer I made on behalf of a client as the agent was of the opinion the house was worth the asking price. Even their just out of bed after a good night out appearance and demeana reflect the management above them. With little interest in their outward appearance even with the best technology aids behind them I think this is one of the the real problems the falling chains have to grapple with, oh, and the almost standard answer when making a telephone enquiry about a property, ‘all the information is on our website’. Need I say more.

    Look after your customers ( yes I know you call them clients) and they will look after you.

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