Stop being dinosaurs, ditch the suits and relate to younger people, ex-agent tells industry

A former estate agent who still keenly follows the industry says young people view agents as dinosaurs.

She said that, from her perspective, agents should show courage in a brave new world – and ditch both their suits and leafleting.

Martina Murphy, who has now been out of the industry for two years but whose experience engulfs working in both corporate and independent agents, said: “The industry seems to currently spend a lot of time fire-fighting the growth of hybrid/online launches, arguing over portals, and fighting their patch on the traditional battleground.

“Yet, for the upcoming generation of younger sellers and buyers, who are used to efficient, smart communications, and tech-based processes like Uber, Airbnb and similar, many estate agents must appear like relics from a bygone age.

“Pricing structures also seem to be in complete disarray and the flurry of online/hybrid agents is reminiscent of the early days of dotcom risers and fallers.

“The industry is rightly caricatured for all the pseudo pomp that goes with having a train of 18 year olds in ill-fitting suits, cufflinks and pointy shoes walking around high streets with flip folders like they are about to negotiate a Brexit treaty and most high street agents are still generally viewed by the public as untrustworthy.

“As for leafleting: most people hate flyers through their door, are inundated with kebab shop and pizza leaflets (whilst your branding gets mixed into the same genre on the doormat).

“Younger generations (and this includes first-time sellers now) are very eco-conscious and environmentally friendly.

“So is leafleting still something the industry should be supporting?”

Murphy, who now runs her own furnishing business, added: “Being approachable for a face to face chat and experienced in a locality and its particular nuances from street to street, are something no app or online site can provide (as yet).

“This is the great strength of the decent independent estate agent who knows their client base, runs a good ship and provides service to their customers.

“They are the ones who need to grasp and adopt as much of this new technology as possible within budget constraints and be brave in this brave new world of estate agency.”

She called for the following:

  1.  A national control to prevent any Tom, Dick or Harriet opening online or on any street corner without relevant professional qualifications and training
  2. A degree in a property related discipline, such as conveyancing or surveying, as mandatory for entry into a ‘profession’ that brings with it a decent basic wage and encourages bright young people who may ultimately shape the future of the industry from within
  3. A ban on the shiny suit. Smart casual dress should become mandatory and suits banned.
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60 Comments

  1. nextchapter

    Wow. What a complete waste of an article. She runs a furnishing business? Is this article a joke?

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    1. Robert May

      It sometimes takes till 7 for the headline story to appear, but this is it; Key stage 3 – business studies homework-  Fail, no understanding of the subject.

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      1. NewsBoy

        Poor girl.  Back to kindergarten, I think.  The word “clue” and “not a” come to mind.

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  2. The Outsider

    I completely agree with her.  Cardigans and beards are where it’s at these days.

     

    I still want leaflets for kebabs amd pizza through my door though. Just an FYI.

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    1. Robert May

      No no no smart casual means;

      wearing a suit jacket that’s way too small with a pair of £3 jeans that cost more than St Michael suit and a shirt that has one odd buttonhole. Re the beard,  that’s out! Try look like you didn’t go home for 3 days and had to make do with a  quick scrape using a blunt ladyshave.

       

       

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  3. Fawkes

    Nope …. still don’t get it.

    Now read it again after a Cappuccino and I’m none the wiser. Perhaps, having owned a few sofas in my time and sold one on Ebay once (well, my wife did actually) I can offer her my views on the furniture business. Must be a slow news day for PIE.

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  4. Trevor Mealham

    What a load of…….

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    1. Trevor Mealham

      Or even relevant ‘prefessional’ qualifications – for those who looked twice

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  5. Eamonn

    While I was reading this, I thought,

    How does she tie her shoelaces ?

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  6. Ric

    I’ve trained ****** hard to become chubby and bearded to fit in with the “in-trend” look.

    and like The Outsider pointed out, it’s all thanks to leaflet dropping! Keebab tonight TFIF!

     

     

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  7. Ric

    More importantly a nearly brilliant story in the BBC news this morning, leaning towards High Street Agency rather than Online for a change…… I say nearly as so much more could have been said but it’s starting!

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    1. AgentV

      Ric, I missed this morning breakfast on BBC ( decided to read PIE without background). Can you give us a just of what was said…so can see if worth catching up on iPlayer after I have spent a couple of days sleeping rough in the park…to look more like a modern estate agent should do.

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      1. AgentV

        jist not just

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        1. Ric

          Sorry Agent V, hectic morning and a plane to catch later (woo hoo jet setter – well half term holiday actually)

          Basically was about “Does it pay to sell Online” meaning using a PB eM or Yopa type agent (as they named these) went on to give examples of unhappy sellers, who were paid to NOT sell, basically and felt let down in more ways than one.

          Short story but a nice starter which could be expanded on now have their attention.

          Sorry got to dash.

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          1. AgentV

            Many thanks Ric……..enjoy!!

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  8. Property Ear

    The article says Martina has been out of the business for 2 years – Was she by any chance a passenger in the spaceship that was supposed to have landed on Mars this week?

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    1. Robert May

      It only takes an NVQ and 5 months to become expert these days and do RICS professional valuations (wish I was kidding).  On that scale with 4 years in the business Mx Murphy is a guru.

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      1. smile please

        Any details on that Robert?

        Best i could find was £12,000 and qualify in 18 months through SAVA

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        1. Robert May

          Qualify? who mentioned qualifications?  Expert in 5 months  plus the confidence to say “yes, yes it is an RICS valuation, sign here. our website says it is a professional valuation so I guess that’s what you mean”

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  9. AgencyInsider

    Well it might be a slow ‘news’ day but it certainly isn’t a slow ‘reads’ day, is it. Treat it for what it is – a provocative dig – which you are all rising to. Happy Friday people.

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  10. Rob Hailstone

    Cant get a shiny suit in Devon for love nor money!

    Now these points are interesting, although a degree is a bit much!

    A national control to prevent any Tom, Dick or Harriet opening online or on any street corner without relevant professional qualifications and training.

    A degree in a property related discipline, such as conveyancing or surveying, as mandatory for entry into a ‘profession’ that brings with it a decent basic wage and encourages bright young people who may ultimately shape the future of the industry from within.

     

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    1. AgentV

      A few years back I went through a phase of getting fairly cheap shiny suits as they were always getting ripped on brambles in overgrown gardens. I gave up on them when I watched a programme on the 70’s which highlighted the dangers of B……nylons and getting too close to gas fires. I wasn’t sure what I was wearing wasn’t made from the same kind of stuff.

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    2. Robert May

      Try Damons in Barnstaple High Street,  do you want flair or bell bottom , wide lapels or skinny 80’s?

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  11. El Burro

    That good an agent that she ditched (or was ditched by) the industry 2 years ago at a high in the market.

     

     

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  12. Mark Walker

    Okay, we’ve had the jokes, now the sober reality.

    The youngsters of today are Generation Rent.  We are unlikely to ever need to service them as sales agents.  The average age of our customers does not come close to ‘young’.  I had to talk one of our clients through how to find his property on Rightmove (boo) yesterday.  I would not have described him as internet savvy.

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    1. Mark Walker

      I wrote this before I got to the next story on Savill’s and letting v sales, honestly.

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      1. Mark Walker

        I think that should have been Savills’.

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        1. Mark Walker

          Actually I put an ‘and’ in, so let’s go with Savills.

          *Might not be awake yet.

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  13. StatementOfFact

    I always find ex-agents offer the best opinion of what is happening now, rather than people actually doing the job. A bit like asking the butcher whats wrong with your car, whilst a local mechanic prepares your BBQ pack for the weekend.

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    1. AgentV

      Brilliant

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      1. StatementOfFact

        I try.

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  14. NickTurner

    Ok a little humour  on a Friday is good for us all and Martina does raise some good points; I would like to know how long she was in the Estate Agency world?

    Pointed shoes etc I quite agree with her comments, and also the continuing and annoying lack of knowledge of the basics of buildings and land. Hedge and ditch rule, septic tank or cesspit, plain tiles or other, shared rights of way. I could go on.

    Martina is right in that basic standards are needed to train all who enter into a world of business  where they are entrusted with a persons greatest valuable asset.

    I was involved in a meeting prior to The Estate Agents Act becommimg a White Paper and the then Director General of the Office of Fair Trading Sir Gordon Borrie ( later Lord Borrie a Labour Peer) was adamant that he was against minimum standards.

    Time to look at it again…..

    By the way I have only been in the business for nearly 40 years and with all the computers and other communications relied upon by all it certainly makes a simple business much slower and complicated bts thats for another discussion!

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    1. Mark Walker

      I’m sure internet agents with their Local Property Experts who can appoint their own viewers, all for under £1,000, will raise standards no end.

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    2. Robert May

      She started in 09 09,  had her sofa business two years.

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  15. wardy

    Listen to you lot, she’s 100% spot on.

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    1. agent orange

      Wardy, I’m going to be controversial and back you on this one. I have been an agent for 20 years and im the first to jump in and defend our industry when someone takes a swing at it because I truly believe in the value of a good agent.

      the problem is, as an industry, we have an image problem. like it or not we are all viewed by the public as shiny suited ‘dodgy’ sales people all full of our own importance. This is because there are too many estate agents who are like this.

      I’m currently looking to move to a different area. I wont say where, but suffice to say every viewing I did, I was greeted by the stereotype, styled quiffy hair (don’t have any myself so excuse the lack of knowledge on hairstyles) designer suit with sparkly cuff links and drainpipe thin trousers and shoes that would pierce the skin if they kicked you. all packaged up with fake, over enthusiastic laughs and a complete lack of knowledge of the property. I felt really disappointed.

      I’m certainly not saying that beards and cardigans are the way to go – or degrees for that matter, but i do think effort should be made for agents to come across as more genuine. this can be done by looking more approachable and have a better knowledge base.

      Before i get lambasted, let me re-iterate that not all agents are like this (I’m not) and there are many of us who do a great job and have the wine, chocolates, and testimonials to prove it. It’s just that there are too many who dont.

       

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      1. A_J42

        I think this is the way to approach this, agent orange. Slightly disappointed to see people reaching to assassinate the speaker’s character instead of engaging with what she is saying, whether positively or negatively.

        Being genuine, from my experience, would appear to be the key. When I don’t know something, I admit it up front and either promise to find out, or put the person I am speaking to on to one of my colleagues who does/will know. Always seems like the best policy – and then if I listen in, I learn, too.

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        1. agent orange

          A good philosophy A_J42

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        2. Robert May

          What did you expect? “thank you for the insult and uninvited advice” From someone none of us have ever heard of and who hasn’t been introduced  the whole article is simply antagonistic.

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  16. AgentV

    What’s really interesting is that so far today this is by far the most read and commented on story on PIE!

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  17. Frany87

    “A degree in a property related discipline, such as conveyancing…”?  What?  Where?  Neither of my universities offered a conveyancing course.

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  18. Richard Copus

    Shows how important planning is before putting pen to paper!

    Actually, there are some quite good points here when you sift through the rubbish.

    1. Flyers are naff and old hat  –  even used car salesmen don’t use them any more.

    2. Yes, of course we need a mandatory minimum standard of competence for estate agents.  The courses and qualifications are out there already.

    3. Suits?!  Apart from the fact that nobody under the age of 40 can afford to buy a house these days so won’t be approaching an estate agent, pretty much every young person I speak to values smart dress, particularly in so called professionals who they are paying thousands of pounds to for a service.  Stick to your furniture store Ms Murphy  –  but I bet you still have to look smart in there!

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  19. Blue

    If I is gonna be impotent … I is gonna look impotent !

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  20. htsnom79

    Mark Walker got there first, Generation Rent are going to be buying at the same rate as the Boomers and Gen X expire in a wealth cascade, they’ll be older, probably parents themselves and be educated in the life school of hard knocks, having waited this long to get this far they are not going to squander their inheritance ( or equity release gift ) just because ‘ there’s an app for that ‘ they will want what all mammals want, courtesy, professionalism, problem solving, availability, honesty……….

    The way some commentators and exponents of online/hybrid disruption would have it young adults are some sort of new beast with digital lightening crackling from their fingertips, not so in my experience, my digital skills/preferences are no better or worse than someone 20 years my junior, or rather, some are better than me and some are not ( better is not the right word )

    The dress thing is just weird, judge me on the quality of my character and not on the shine of my suit

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  21. Colshop19

    This lady has hit the nail on the head.  I fully accept that it depends on your market and demographic of your client base but there is definitely some areas that demand a less formal, old school approach.  The young professionals that are now out there in the marketplace (and in this day and age that is into your 40’s not 20’s) are more comfortable dealing with someone they believe are more on there level and therefore understand their concerns and demands.  They are more used to meetings in coffee houses etc, when did you ever see Steve Jobs and that ilk in suits?  They want smooth, techno savvy transactions that take up the least amount of time as that is what they see as the most precious commodity of all!

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    1. htsnom79

      Sorry man ( or woman ) I can only go so far with that, it’s utopian stuff, Steve Jobs could pull it off because the design/vision and manufacture of a consumer electrical device is not the same as what we do, there is no such thing as a smooth, techno savvy transaction in a chain of 5 where Mrs Smith is refusing to move a week prior to her daughters wedding and Mr Jones is saying that unless its that date it’s no date at all, computers will just say no and the thing will collapse silently in on itself.

      Another thing,

      monitor your transaction online, log in, status update, raised additional enquiries, aren’t we tech savvy.

       

      Whats actually happening if you’re a sales co-ordinator doing your job well

      What enquiries?

      Incomplete title with errors

      Uncertainties regarding access from the high way

      Indemnity policies out of date

      stat decs are uncoloured so impossible to determine what they relate to

      oh boy oh boy oh boy Houston we have a problem and we need to call in The Wolf!!!!!!!

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    2. South_Yorks

      And for those vendors that don’t own an Ipad or are just not IT literate? There are plenty out there. I love it if there’s a labour saving bit of tech out there, I wish everyone did but the reality is quite different. Surely the best agent is the one that reads the situation, listens to their customer and adapts to their needs, nothing new there at all.

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  22. Peter

    I think Agents are far more adaptive than most businesses. However, furniture dinostores, now there you can find relics from a bygone age.

     

     

     

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  23. GPL

    Ok…… sofa? sogood?!

    “Condescending Furniture, Martina speaking….. How may you help me?”

    (insert Martin if balance required)

    “Yes, I would like a Pin-Striped 2 Seater…. however I see your website shows just a picture of one? …….and the small print states, the current trend is to place the picture of the sofa in your room as young people don’t want to clutter their room with furniture?” “So, is that £999 for a picture of a sofa? …….however, no actual sofa?!”

     

     

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  24. femaleagent88

    I have to say the times I have done a viewing on a saturday on my day off in dress down, I’ve faired better in response, but maybe it’s because I apologise for my dress down as its my day off so they think I’m really amazing and want to work with me… Who knows, but what other business’ that deal with something so valuable where jeans and jumper/shirt combo? Not many as far as I am aware, perhaps it’s time for change but appealing to the young when the young can’t buy means you could offend a lot of traditional people who want business done with their asset not Joe blogs swopping around town in his electric car, eating vegan and doing yoga at lunch.

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    1. PeeBee

      Not quite sure what’s happened… and definitely not sure whether this will be welcomed…

      …but I’m starting to like your latest posts and finding myself nodding in agreement, femaleagent88.

      Something must have ‘given’ somewhere down the line!

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      1. femaleagent88

        Life would not be interesting if everybody felt the same all the time

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        1. PeeBee

          There’s an old saying – that when two Partners agree on everything then one of them is surplus to requirements.

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  25. DVJ

    As Neil Diamond once said, “used-to-be’s don’t count any more”.

    Like so many other self-styled property experts who ‘used to’ (but no longer) work in our industry, this lady seems to be yet another dreamer who never quite figured out how to make a successful career in agency – but doesn’t mind telling the rest of us how it’s done.

     

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  26. South_Yorks

    Tricky one. On paper I’m inclined to agree, I’d like to think I look past how someone is dressed and I hope my customers do but the reality is that the industry (particularly the corporates) perpetuate this look and therefore it seems acceptable enough, in fact despite having customers suggesting they feel more at ease because personally I know I don’t look or fit into this type of description I’m pretty sure I’ve lost instructions to other agents mainly based on their “pitch”, their image and the wild unsubstantiated claims they’ve made. I don’t think that all vendors (especially at the top end of the market) are ready for me to rock up in smart casuals driving a modest family hatchback just yet despite being every bit as competent, experienced and prepared to do the best job I can for them.

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  27. BBP

    Any idea why is she against the suits for ? Any personal agitation? Just curious…

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    1. Woodentop

      Possibly as they are offensive in deprived areas!

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  28. Woodentop

    Was this the woman we saw demonstrating last week *class war”? I’m surprised she moved to a furnishings business, not a fashion shop. She did have those qualifications herself?

     

    We are a service industry and as an employer I would expect my staff to dress appropriate for the job and standards of our business. Or put another way, every time you meet a member of the public for the first time, you are having  a job interview. We all know the consequences of failing to impress! I remember some years ago an Italian designer comment on how little effort people in UK put in with dress sense, had  a point if you look around your own towns. If you dress smart, they want to now who’s wedding you are going to or very rich and where have you parked the Bentley. Unless you have a wardrobe at work to choose different outfits for different cliental, you have to stake a stand with “one outfit does all” and all be uniform in the business to impress.

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  29. Chelsea11

    I think she has raised good points about qualifications and licenses to operate and I personally don’t see anything wrong with casual smart look. End of day the customers are there to buy/rent properties and not interview the agent 🙂

     

     

     

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    1. PeeBee

      “End of day the customers are there to buy/rent properties and not interview the agent “

      What about the customers who are there to SELL/RENT OUT their properties – who basically DO want to “interview the Agent”?

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