Will real estate agents follow travel agents and disappear from the high street? A new company of estate agents believe they will in the next few years.
The company’s business model is based on the results of a survey conducted by Hunters, a large chain of estate agents based mostly in the north of England. The survey interviewed buyers and tenants who had bought or rented property through them. The survey found that fewer than 5% of house buyers and tenants actually went into one of their high street premises, an astonishing figure. Instead buyers searched the internet and toured the local area to look for ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ boards and compiled a short list of properties. They then telephoned the agents to arrange a viewing. Negotiations that follow once the buyer has found a suitable property can easily and conveniently be conducted by telephone. So why have a high street shop or office? Or, more to the point, why should sellers and landlords pay for the cost of such premises through high fees?
High street shops and offices do have high running costs. By doing without such premises it is possible to reduce fees and still make a good income.
We do have an office – one office which copes with the paperwork of the company’s franchisees throughout the country who all work from home. Bookings for viewings are also dealt with by head office, enabling the local agent to spend much of his or her time meeting sellers, landlords, and potential buyers and tenants. This means that anyone seeking a viewing or an appointment with the agent doesn’t have to talk to an answer phone.
Sellers though are still wary. There is still a mistaken viewpoint that you get what you pay for and many sellers still prefer to pay high street agents’ inflated fees. Maybe these sellers are concerned at missing out on the fewer than 5% who actually do go into an agent’s high street shop! Although if the shop did not exist this tiny minority would surely find a way to discover which homes were available to buy or rent.
Predicting the future with any accuracy is of course difficult or impossible. However, the ever increasing influence of the Internet suggests that our prediction has a good chance of happening.
Homefinders is a new type of estate agent, selling and letting houses via the internet and without a high street shop. The resulting savings in costs enable Homefinders to reduce fees to sellers and landlords. The first branch is offering houses in the Buckingham area.