Posted by: housingdabble | November 27, 2009

Are estate agent’s high street offices day’s over?

There has been an interesting debate taking place in the housingdabble linkedin forum around the above question and so I thought I’d post my views on the current state of play.

Rightmove’s recent online consumer survey asked what influenced their decision when choosing an estate agent and the top four aspects in order were:-

1. High street presence
2. Sold similar properties
3. Advertise and present property well
4. Local expertise

This surprised me because over the last few years we’ve seen a strong argument to show that we are moving towards a time when agency offices no longer need to be high street locations. I still expected high street location to be an important aspect, but not the top one.

The reason I think this survey came out so strong in favour is the recession. Over the last two years we have seen people almost curl back into a ball in terms of spending. This has meant that we are looking for something tangible when we make buying decisions and the confidence of a high street presence and also a brand we are familiar with seems to be making a difference.

From having spoken to number of agents with a wide branch network, they have seen their longer established high street branches do better over the last year than their newer branches that were the high flyers in 2007/08.

So in the high street days being numbered debate, I thing we might be experiencing a slight stay of execution, but when confidence returns we will begin once again to edge towards non-high street locations and even online offices.


Responses

  1. Interesting debate, Winchester Lettings believe you can’t go wrong with a High Street office as it gives the public immediate awareness of your branding. Normally Lettings are seen as departments or not in the main High Street and that’s what makes us different.

    We have been looking at the concept of opening in a retail park with a Lettings Super Centre covering a region or borough. This is somewhat of major financial commitment but as yet not done by any agents we know of in the UK.

    Although a different industry Halfords were one of the first to do this as originally they were High Street based and now the Coffee companies are following suit. We have a retail park in Orpington called the Nugent it is always busy and rammed full of shoppers, in our opinion these people are less likely to be going into the High Street to shop.

    In the harder times a few agents have gone into serviced offices to operate a call centre for smaller offices that were not doing so well this could be the future of agency.

    On a final note we don’t think the public will not want to see agents on the High Street as if you go past most agents shop fronts in the evening you will almost always catch someone looking at the latest offering, we are like the Travel & Recruitment industry you can’t beat face to face meeting.

    • I’m not aware of many ‘retail park’ agents yet to make asuccess of this, but I’m sure there are some and I have to agree that this is probably a busier location than some city centre areas. Big commitment but then they say the biggest the risk the bigger the rewards!

      Lots or regional agencies are beginning to wider their nets with ‘personal agents’ which obviously is low cost and can still ride on the wave of the main brand. Maybe these type of set up’s will eventually open in services offices once they can afford to commit and then we will see the idea having more appeal.

  2. If the REMAX has failed to take off here, and to a greater extent it has failed, then I cannot see agents moving off the high street. Online banking exists, but the vast majority of banks are still right where they were 30 years ago. Agencies tend not to turn over enough money to retreat to the small convenience store developments dotted around towns. As for lettings, really a high street presence is an enormous advantage. Non High St agents have their place, as do private sellers and private sellers websites, but they are no real risk to traditional agents. After all good service means clients will return to you from cradle to grave. The web has transformed marketing, but it has not made a dent in the need to have a high street presence if you are keen to make serious headway and have some longevity in the industry. After 4 years in a tertiary location, we are finally moving to the High St- there’s nothing like a recession to free up some suitable space in the high street! 🙂

  3. Not a new notion by any means…….. I recall we all began thinking, eight years ago that High street agencies would diminish as the internet took a hold, yet very few actually dissapeared, despite the financial burden & the increasing inability to park close to the office.
    Changing old habits & traditions is clearly harder that we expected. Methinks it will take a lot of agents to migrate from the High Street to out of own sheds, to get the message through to the public. The herd instinct would prevail, I believe, but …….. taking the plunge???? Mmmm, that’s the tricky one.

  4. This is an interesting debate, one that I expect is also influenced by the geographic location covered.

    My agency is based in London – Young London – and although we have a retail unit it is not on the High Street. Most of our clients come through our website http://www.younglondon.co.uk, and also increasinglu from social media channels, such as twitter.

    I suspect as with many aspects of the web, there will be a generational change, this will (has) probably started with lettings as that tends to attract a younger profile.

    However, the most important factor has to be service, we recently won the best small letting agency gold award at the Sunday Times sponsored event. See blog for more detail http://neilbyoung.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/young-london-best-small-lettings-agency/. If you give good service word gets around.

  5. I think during the recession people will want to see tangible offices as it shows that the company is there, with so many businesses going out of business, you need to know it will still be there and you can go in and ask questions. The reports that so many estate agents were going out of business was a sure sign that people would need to see someone and get that level of reassurance. Buying a house is stressful enough without worry about an estate agents.

  6. I think that increasingly high street offices are becoming redundant. Certainly clients want to know that you are a local company with visibility and credibility but these can be achieved in many ways beyond just a high street office.

    I expect that another growing trend will be fewer, larger offices covering bigger geographical areas. Small offices with 2 or 3 staff are inefficient, hard to manage and add unnecessary fixed costs.

  7. We are seeing an ever increasing liberation of the consumer who are prepared to break convention. This will extend to consumers selling their own property over the internet.

    Those who predicted the end of the high street agency may have been too early but that does not mean to say that they are wrong.


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