Agent Provocateur: Open all hours? Or too busy looking at phones to get off them and provide service?

Recent property news has been a mixed bag if you’re an estate agent.

You read about how lettings is getting more difficult, the sales market is toughening, interest rates are likely to be on the rise and unless you’re involved in the tech sector somehow, you’re never going to make money again.

I’ve been around long enough and know that in tough times the way ahead is to give a better service than your competitors.

In the past, companies like Foxtons were open seven days a week and were everywhere, serving customers and being paid well for it.

Their approach is now prevalent with many ex-staff now running some of the country’s top agents.

But there are a few things that seem to have changed, with even Foxtons giving up on seven-day opening as no one wants to work at weekends.

The catch 22 is that the better a neg is the less likely they’ll want to work weekends.

Customer’s expectations have gone up too and with many now working six days a week, Sundays are often the day they want to be served – you only have to go to shopping centres on a Sunday to see that.

I saw an ad for wealth manager Cazenove the other day. It now offers 24/7 communication for any customer wanting trade or advice.

There are lots of different types of estate agent these days, and the existing model is going to alter.

A Whatsapp group I’m on posted some ads from a copy of The Times somone found from 1978, about the time I started, with loads of ads in the back for property to buy and rent (including a three- bed flat in Beaufort Street SW3 for sale at £35k!!).

The awful truth is that not much has really changed in terms of selling your property since then, except that The Times has been replaced by Rightmove/ZPG/OTM.

As a seller you pick up the phone to your agent, they advertise it, potential buyers or tenants try to see it when it suits the agent and that’s about it.

There are enough solutions and bright people out there to update a system that urgently needs it.

The mainstream media may not always understand what agents do but they are increasingly looking at the sector.

So the dilemma is to find staff and technology that will give the customer the responsive service a new generation of buyers expects.

That includes communications, new ways of presenting property searches (and the portals need to watch out as there are some clever new search methodologies being developed) and facilitating access when it suits those requesting it.

The trouble is that the same age group is so obsessed with looking at their phones that they can’t get off them to provide the service people now demand.

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