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Taking costs out without crossing the line and dissing your reputation.

10th May 2021

Taking costs out of agency has often resulted in poor service. Can PropTech fill the gap and move the game on - and are agents willing to move it on?

Sales agency has barely changed in 200 years, having practiced for forty of those it’s not difficult to see why.

The vast majority of agents are small independents, mostly run by middle-aged men like me. Most have a good lifestyle business but little thought of succession planning. They may have a lettings book they can sell on but for most the profits they make don’t justify playing Russian roulette with Proptech. For example - CRM systems have been around for years, yet a significant minority of agents still use spreadsheets and hot boxes full of applicant cards.

I’m not criticising, if it still works that’s great BUT willingness to adapt to new service expectations will define how long this form of agency can survive. Many sales agents still seem to assume that buyers will come to them when it suits the agent with sketchy out of hours service at best, possibly the last industry that does.

Now that PropTech has been around for five years or so, the market is shaking out and established players are now offering solid solutions. Covid has helped accelerate the change of course but anyone arrogant enough to assume that what’s been normal since March ’20 will become the future is probably heading for a fall. Property is an obsession for Brits, getting involved as much a leisure activity as going shopping. Browsing and viewing, virtual or physical, will continue to both lead to business and waste agents’ time.

Falling fees has been a consistent problem for agents leading to an increase in hybrid and online operations, now accounting for, according to data, c. 10% of the market – personally I feel this is heavily underrated as I fail to see how the increasingly common practice of going ‘off high street’ is recorded.

Obviously taking costs out reaches a point where service suffers and there’s a silver lining in the PropTech era that most have missed, including suppliers themselves. Using my own business, Viewber, as an example we’ve created a platform that apes much of what an agent does but with massively less cost. My starting comment about 200 years’ worth of status quo is most obvious in the way agents still create details and manage instructions. If Viewber used the same methodology we’d need several hundred employees to cover c. 10,000 movements a month – but we do it nationally with six. The entire process of selling a property, from key collection to exchange can be managed using tech learnings for a fraction of what it costs now – all a corollary of PropTech development.

If you think your cost base has reached bottom – think again!

Ed Mead

Viewber Co-Founder

Viewber is a tech enabled well established service giving anyone in the property industry access to a nationwide network or vetted, trained and local viewing and inspection staff.

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