The Paul Smith Column: What’s your data goldmine worth?

Estate agents are sitting on a data goldmine worth an absolute fortune – yet most won’t be aware of the value of the information they collect.

Recently, I was offered the email data for 5m UK addresses – but it came with a hefty half a million pound price tag!

So how much is your database worth? And how are you going to monitor it?

We are at the start of the data ecosystem, since people come to us and give us their contact details.

But what information do you store (with their permission and complying with data protection regulations)? And once you’ve got it, what do you do with it?

I’m told many agents are dropping up to a fifth of all leads from portals because they are not correctly capturing data from prospective customers!

It’s often been said that data is king – it is in fact the new gold rush.

But how do you create value once you have got that database? How regularly do you contact people on your database and ask if they are still looking for a property or wish to receive information?

Do you even have a contact strategy and how often do you clean up the data to ensure it is accurate?

With so many different ways to keep in touch, what’s your email strategy, your text strategy, your social media strategy, your video strategy?

If you were to calculate the cost of a lead, you may find you are wasting tens of thousands of pounds worth of data if you don’t capture the information fully.

I know the cost of every lead we register, based on how we have gathered that information. I know it’s a lot cheaper to have an email address than it is to gain a prospect through newspaper advertising or direct mail.

Many agents just don’t realise how valuable their database is – and should be included in any valuation when selling your business. If you buy a business without a database, what are you actually buying?

We even use advanced propensity modelling on our data, combining it with other data sets, to establish how likely a person is to move. It’s an extremely successful way of obtaining new leads.

Looking to the future, people will be going to their local estate agent for the full moving package, including white goods and carpets or finding a plumber, so the value of that database is going to be huge.

Are we going to give it up to other parties like portals, just like we’ve done with our stock?

We’ve got an opportunity now to gain the upper hand by registering everyone who comes through our physical or virtual door.

Let’s ensure that when they are knocking, we do let them in – and then provide them with the right information that will ensure they are customers for many years to come.

What does the future of estate agency look like?

When you reflect on the incredible changes that have taken place in estate agency over the past 20 years, you can’t help wonder what the next two decades will be like.

The digital world has transformed all our businesses – whether it’s promoting our properties on our own websites or portals, or using social media or email to communicate, or even using digital screens on our shopfronts or using mobile phones and tablets to take photos and videos.

It’s hard to imagine what the next wave of technology will do for our businesses and whether the public will embrace it in a way that makes it cost effective for us to implement. Take, for example, virtual reality headsets.

Will genuine prospective purchasers really want to sit in their living rooms and take a virtual tour through someone else’s property – or will they want to see the local neighbourhood for themselves, hear the railway line at the end of the garden or enjoy the view?

Surely it will always be important to get people to a property to see it for themselves – one of the reasons that open house days remain so popular.

What better way is there for local agents to meet people in the flesh who are interested in buying – and potentially selling their own properties?

That’s not to say that new digital technologies won’t work or gain support.

There will be agents who specialise in certain forms of technology, encouraging visitors to stick around on their websites by using games or augmented reality, enabling people to see what a property would look like with different furniture, colour schemes or appliances – and then offering those items for sale.

Imagine if you can completely gut a home and add in a new kitchen and bi-fold doors – and see the associated costs in the process. Then buy them through your website!

It’s a concept I trialled 20 years ago – the total moving experience (TMX), but it was ahead of its time!

That time is here. Amazon may have started with books – but now look what they sell. Almost everything. They’ve already teased that they may start to sell property. That could land us all in trouble if it proves to be true.

Future generations will be completely tech savvy. They will expect far more from their agents. Will those agents who don’t embrace digital change be here in 20 years’ time? I somehow doubt it, don’t you?

Chancellor needs to address Stamp Duty concerns

Speculation is mounting that the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, will cut Stamp Duty for first-time buyers in the Autumn Budget. It’s critical he heeds calls from us all to go through with this.

As house prices have continued to rise, with the average cost of a home now £11,000 more than it was this time last year, so has unaffordability.

Stamp Duty is holding back a whole generation of young people already struggling to save for a deposit, and it is time to bring this injustice to an end.

The recent interest rate rise could mean a further surge, as buyers fight over limited stock in the run-up to Christmas, and look to lock down a cheap fixed rate mortgage before the new rate makes home-buying even harder .

For hard-working individuals who have to borrow for the basic cost of living, saving for both Stamp Duty and a deposit to own their own home is a far-flung reality, especially as our branch data shows first-time buyer deposits are up 6% on the month, outpacing inflation.

We’ve also seen a 68% drop in the number of investors wanting buy-to-let properties, as the Government has taxed them into oblivion.

Hammond needs to see that the landlord is not the enemy and savvy investors are realising they are getting better returns on the stock market, so share prices are on the up – and we’ll have another crash!

Which incidentally would make the heavily indebted Countrywide and other listed agents ‘bust’ businesses!

Come on, Chancellor, address these concerns – or the housing crisis will continue to worsen.


Email the story to a friend


  1. GeoW10

    As the owner of a digital marketing company I could not agree more.

    In the case of their data, so many companies don’t realise they are sitting on what accountants would call “an intangible asset”, when if fact it has a very tanglibe £asset if only they would stop ignoring it and put it to good use in the ways you suggest!

    Fact: The vendors, buyers, renters etc etc were the original target, but these same people are regularily in the market for other goods, services…… and not necessarily reated to “actual bricks and mortar”.


    1. cybelex

      Under existing DPA regulations companies should not be making this data available to third parties without the data subject’s knowledge and consent, whether or not they may, or may not be, ‘in the market for other goods‘! When GDPR comes into force, consent will need to be explicit, and rightly so; why should anyone else be able to make money from an individual’s data without their knowledge and consent, just because they want to be sent details of a specific property for example? GDPR is going to make a welcome difference for data subjects, thank goodness!

  2. P-Daddy

    His point is fairly made, agents don’t realize the value of their data….but Zoopla do. Look at how they are monetizing all of the agents data and property through all of the businesses they acquire. Even Rightmove want to build on line booking of viewings and valuations through their site not the agent..another loss of control and access to valuable data that the agents are likely to walk into blindly. You have all been warned and it is this feature of online appointment booking that has helped online/hybrid agents claim they are challenging the market.

    1. GeoW10

      Absolutely Correct and Right !!! Your Zoopla example nails it down…

  3. astroestates23

    Does everyone know that Rightmove SELL YOUR DATA!! We’ve tested it with random addresses. It’s our data but ANY chartered surveyor pays RM a licence fee and can buy ALL your property addresses for “Valuation Comparisons”.

    This has annoyed me for so long. Initially RM denied this practice but finally our rep investigated it and saw OUR DATA was being sold. So with ownership details available at the Land Registry you don’t even have to go to a property to tout it. The fun starts when you use an algorithm to change the address on your data, but to do this you should NOT upload to RM via your software.

    It is about time this practice was stopped for Data Protection reasons. Can we have some of your agent fees back now please Mr Shipside? We could all get together and challenge the ICO on this.

  4. astroestates23

    To my knowledge, Zoopla are NOT selling your property data to third parties.


You must be logged in to report this comment!

Leave a Reply