Hybrid agency is all the buzz – Purplebricks, Countrywide and Martin & Co are just some of the better known brands looking to shape the space.
But should every agent consider going hybrid? And what apps will smooth this transition?
The most difficult part of estate agency is not selling homes. It never has been.
It is for this reason why Rightmove dominates mindshare without having ever sold a home.
The same logic has led to the rise of Purplebricks which does little more than list property online – essentially piggy-backing on Rightmove’s essential place in the mind of the property-loving public.
The challenge for every estate agency – and this is what Purplebricks have cracked with their TV advertising – is how to win more instructions.
So how would you, one of many independent estate agents, ditch the high street office and ‘go hybrid’?
In my opinion, the truth is you really cannot, without working under the umbrella brand of an instruction-winning organisation like Martin & Co or Purplebricks. (However, see the story immediately below my column.)
These companies will provide instructions, technology and training, and negate the need for you to have a boss or be tied to a high street lease.
It is this last sentence that is the most important in this article: independent agents win business in spite of their ignorance of providing staff with technology and training.
There are of course great local entrepreneurs who train their staff well and are forward-looking with their use of technology – we featured one last year before their efforts were more widely recognised as the Estate Agency of the Year.
Why does this matter? Because agents are being sold software to ‘go hybrid’: book viewings 24 hours a day, mobile branded apps, e-signatures and conveyancing sales progression portals.
Will having these things make up for revenue lost by closing your ‘expensive’ bricks and mortar office? It doesn’t take a genius to come to the conclusion that you won’t be in business much longer without the credibility that your high street office brings.
Before hybrid agents, many negotiators and managers of high street agents set up as ‘bedroom agents’. Ditch the costs and win business by under-cutting (your previous employer) on fees.
Some of these have gone full circle and built enough of a business on the back of having a Rightmove membership to then open a high street office. Why would they take on this expense? To increase the number of instructions they win.
So before you decide to ditch your office, which probably costs less than 10% of revenue your business generates, consider how you would win instructions.
The US has a solution for such things – and yes I did consider the repercussions of Trevor’s comments before saying this: split commissions via a Multiple Listing Service, or MLS for short.
The concept used to be prevalent in the UK – it took my Dad the whole of 1986 before he earned his first commission as an estate agent. And yes, it was a split commission.
I still have the impressive stack of ‘property particulars’ where the the ‘listing agents’ had written the amount of commission they would split with my Dad if he succeeded in bringing a buyer to the transaction.
In a world where Viewber exists, all an agent needs is to grab hold of a person buying or selling to earn a commission.
This is exactly what Movebubble are doing: their much-loved app acts as an agent representing renters.
The service is designed to ‘aggregate’ tenants – grabbing the tenants and tying them in – who find the Movebubble experience more enjoyable and less frustrating than having to themselves figure out whether a listing is still available and then negotiate viewing times.
It sounds simple, but so is free next day delivery, and that better experience has helped to create one of the largest companies on the planet.
Without any marketing spend, Movebubble now have 60,000 renters on their app booking viewings for property that is verified as still on the market.
The company claims that current growth rates are 20% month on month and all of that is driven by referrals from happy renters – and some agents.
Yup, agents are conducting more business because they’re able to take viewing bookings 24 hours a day, and even let property remotely without needing to get tenants back to an office.
I can hear the outcry from a section of the readership – what you think is needed, really isn’t. There’s no reason to waste someone’s time when you can conduct referencing, take payment and sign agreements all from an app.
Best of all, Movebubble wrap all of this functionality into a free ‘Negotiator App’.
Movebubble aren’t yet prepared to say how they will make money in the future, but from our conversations to date it’s likely they’ll find things renters find valuable and charge them.
Unless of course Movebubble becomes the 21st Century MLS for rental property.
There will be plenty of free options in the future to help you navigate the brave new world long before getting rid of your high street office becomes a sensible thing to do.
Note: We do have a very successful MLS in the UK called Lonres – however, this business hasn’t really grown beyond Prime Central London yet.
You can find out more about Movebubble and how to work with them here: