EA MASTERS 2017 – a resounding success for the biggest ever industry event yet staged in UK

I’ll be honest.

Earlier this year, when Peter Knight gathered a select group together and announced his intention to launch the Best Estate Agent Guide, I was sceptical that he’d pull it off. The sheer scale of the undertaking sounded unbelievably daunting. Might he have bitten off more than he could chew?

Thirty thousand ‘mystery shops’ later, and with the co-operation of Rightmove, the job is done. And Peter and his team have pulled it off.

On Friday the launch of the Guide took place at EA Masters 2017, a conference and black tie dinner where the top agents in the country, as identified in the Guide, came together for a day of high-quality speakers and an evening of celebrating achievement.

Not only has the Guide been published but also the Property Academy’s survey of sellers, landlords and tenants. There are many fascinating statistics to take from it and in the first session of the day Peter Knight outlined some of them: 10% of sellers who have not sold within six months are likely to change agent. If it goes beyond six months with no sale, 38% will change. As EYE noted a short while ago, the average sale fee is now just on 1% + VAT.  Some 40% of landlords are paying less than 10% for a fully-managed let.

The survey gives the lie to several misconceptions that are held by quite a number of agents – if the comments on our pages are anything to go by.

Just 9% of vendors chose their agent because they offered the cheapest fee. A whopping 70% of potential vendors and landlords do not read online reviews. Of the 24% that said they do read reviews, 42% look at Google, 36% look at the agents’ own website, 11% look at Trustpilot and 7% look at allAgents.

Turning to the Best Agent Guide, Peter said it has three main aims. To be a reliable resource for consumers; to reward the good agents; and to raise standards within the industry. He clarified the role of Rightmove by categorically stating that RM has only supplied Property Academy with the results of analysis of its own data.

Property Academy has not been given direct access to that Rightmove data. Overall the RM data amounted to 25,000 agency branches, 1m properties, 3m transactions, 50m leads and a staggering 3bn property views.

I have long held the view that the two most over-used words in agency are ‘customer service’ and that far too many agents have not got a clue what they mean. I’m really sorry to have to say that the stats confirm it.

In the mystery shopping exercise the least good agents really shouldn’t be in business. As the story above says, 46% did not ask for the caller’s name, 50% did not take the caller’s telephone number, 65% did not ask for an email address. And, worst of all, 40% of web enquiries went unanswered. Is it really any wonder the public holds some of us in such low esteem?

With those abysmal examples of ‘customer service’ ringing in our ears it was time for Darren Shirlaw to take the stage and give us a mathemetician’s view of the economy and profitability of business. In a nutshell, Darren contends that under immutable laws of math the economy follows a cycle of 18-year boom followed (after a recession, I presume) by 14 years of flat-lining. At the moment we are on the tail end of a flat-line period and the economy should start to grow again from 2021 (Brexit permitting, I wondered).

You had to be there to understand Darren’s assertions that the profitability of growing an agency business could be predicted with total certainty based on the number of branches being operated. Suffice to say that if you have 1, 4 or 12 you are profitable. If you have 7 then you are less profitable than you should be.

I’ve heard the name ‘Josh Phegan’ bandied around many times but this was the first occasion on which I have heard him speak. It was interesting to hear the ‘guru’ of the Australian real estate industry, and his message of extracting full value from the lifetime of a customer was persuasive, especially in relation to mining old valuations. Phegan also strongly suggested that since the customer is not interested in the politics of the estate agency world, neither should be agents. “Don’t get involved in bickering about onliners, focus on the customer.”

I reflected that the pages of EYE would be a little less lively without a daily dose of bickering about onliners…

Matthew Syed gave a fascinating talk on ‘The Science of High Performance’. I did initially think that he was going to be so highbrow that most of what he said would go straight over my head but in fact it turned into one of the most compelling presentations of the day. His first-hand insights into how Dave Brailsford and Team Sky transformed the fortunes of British cycling were extraordinarily interesting and the revelation (again, first-hand) that Google spent time and a lot of money analysing the most effective shade of blue for links on a web page was fascinating. The differences between a fixed and growth mindset were highlighted with the example of James Dyson who went through 5,126 prototypes before finally launching the dual-cyclone vacuum cleaner.

After an intense morning session it was time for our delightful presenter, Gabby Logan, to call a halt for lunch and the 1,000 delegates vacated the vast conference hall in search of smoked salmon bagels, filled wraps, a variety of hot dishes and a selection of exquisite chocolate and lemon fancies. There was also time to visit the section of the hall where the exhibitors (or ‘supporters’ as they are described by Property Academy) were displaying their services, and to meet up with a considerable number of friends and acquaintances.

Into the afternoon session and Dean O’Brien, head of O’Brien Real Estate in Melbourne, Australia, gave us an insight into how he and his partner have grown the business from one office and four team members in 2010 to 20+ offices and over 300 team members today – and they are still expanding. The overwhelming message was the clarity of purpose in the organisation. Not just having a vision and a commendable set of values but making them intrinsic to everything that everyone in the organisation does, every day. It was not surprising to hear that Mr Phegan had a part in the immensely impressive business structuring.

Then came two truly fascinating presenters. Julian Treasure is a communications expert and is the author and presenter of one of the top 10 TED talks of all time. In a compelling 20 minutes he gave a superbly measured talk on how to handle face to face and public speaking.

I have done my fair share of the latter and I learned things I never knew. Julian was followed by an equally riveting speaker in the shape of hostage-negotiator Richard Mullender. When the preamble tells you that this man successfully negotiated with the Taliban in Afghanistan for the release of three UN workers it is time to pin your ears back and listen. And that is what Richard talked about – the art of really listening.

It was done with a lot of humour and not a little grim detail – like the fact that he and his team deal with about 150 potential suicides each year, and on average “we only lose one”.

The last speaker of the day usually pulls the shortest straw but a considerable proportion of the delegates stayed to hear Tamara Lohan MBE talk about how she and her husband founded and grew the global travel brand of ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’.

The message of “create intent in a customer, don’t just serve it” was an object lesson in how to build brand loyalty. She also emphasised the importance of using technology but at the same time ensuring it does not become “too much tech and not enough touch”.

This had actually been a recurring theme throughout the day and something nearly all the speakers alluded to. There was not a single ‘proptech’ presentation on the stage and the absence was striking. People were speaking of how the pendulum is swinging back towards real customer contact and more than one emphatically exhorted agents to simply “pick up the phone”. This was not meant to dismiss ‘proptech’ but simply to give a reminder that most proptech is an aid and a tool – it does not replace proper human contact.

The conference came to an end and every delegate I spoke to said they had been impressed with the breadth, quality and subject matter covered in the day. I take a fairly jaundiced view of these types of events but must say that this one was refreshing.

The speakers were first-class and gave truly memorable and useful talks which were practical and thought-provoking in equal measure. Hats off to Property Academy for creating such an engaging and lively programme.

After a couple of hours to change into best bib and tucker it was off to the gala dinner and an evening celebrating the winners of the Best Estate Agency awards.

Having had such an enjoyable day it was a considerable pleasure to find myself seated at ‘top table’ with the lovely Gabby Logan on one side and the equally lovely Sarah Kemp on the other.

Quite what I did to deserve that is beyond me. They probably felt much the same…


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  1. smile please

    Quite what I did to deserve that is beyond me. They probably felt much the same….


    I don’t know Nick, maybe look at your gushing review above. Like a smitten school girl 😉

  2. PV68

    There are over 20K agents registered in the UK, that is one agent for every 42 houses sold, far too many given the poor service some of them offer.

    I agree that Rightmove doesn’t do enough to pre-select and block rogue agents. It’s bad for consumers and equally bad for those agents with high standards.

  3. nextchapter

    REVIEW OF THE NIGHT – The speakers were fantastic. I mean really incredible. Gabby Logan was amazing and so was everything else, apart from the actual awards themselves!  We fell within the top 5% of Estate Agents and we’re rated exceptional. Whilst I initially thought that was an achievement, I soon discovered some of the awful competition that I receive complaints about constantly also fell within the top 5%. In fact, one Agent I know, with only 1 available lettings property, and a very very small market share for Sales managed to sit within the top 100!!!  I suppose, if you only have one available property on the market, you have all the time in the world to chat away with a mystery shop right?  I don’t like how this awards ceremony did not take many other factors into account!  THEY SHOULD HAVE SPOKEN TO OUR CLIENTS. THEY SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED THE TYPE OF MARKETING WE DO OUTSIDE OF RIGHTMOVE.  If an Agent only has 5 properties available on Rightmove and 4 have sold, its going to look like a wonderful conversion rate on Rightmove, but they only had 5 available properties in the first place, which means nobody wants to use them.  The awards do not take into account all other forms of marketing and customer service based things we do for clients.   Yes. It’s about customer service for prospective sellers or buyers that call our offices, but it’s mainly about selling a clients home, achieving a record price and helping both buyer and seller through to exchange of contracts as smoothly as possible.   To conclude – GREAT SPEAKERS, AWFUL AWARDS and I know many Estate Agents within the top 5% felt the same way on the night.   It’s now going to be all about upselling the products to all the mediocre Estate Agents that somehow managed to do well.  I will only ever attend this again for th speakers and leave before the awards are handed out.

  4. thisstinks12

    What a joke! Preston Baker come out on top and Peter Knight is business partners with Messers Preston & Baker, an obvious and clear conflict of interest which he didn’t even have the professional courtesy to disclose to the audience on Friday apart from in his unashamed promotion of the Boomerang business?! Very smelly. 
    Lets hope Rightmove see sense and distance themselves from these nonsense awards….

    1. Curious george

      Peter knight , bow your head in shame. In partnership with Preston Baker!!!

      Their credibility has went right out the roof in my opinion.

      Im supprised no one that no one has been critical of Rightmove for their part in these awards. They are Supporting the cherry picking of agents over others, just because they paid for an award


      1. PropConsult73

        If you actually check Companies House you will clearly see that he isn’t a director of Preston Baker.   Get your facts straight and I hope your sales particulars aren’t littered with as many spelling errors as your post on here, otherwise no wonder you wouldn’t make it into the top agencies.

  5. fotw@2614

    Nick, pleased you made top table… as a credible voice for the industry, well deserved! I wish I had the opportunity to sit next to Gabby for a few hours! Great day, excellent speakers. As hard as Peter and the Property Academy try they will never manage to apppease every agent. Doesn’t every agent in the town claim to be the best but are edjudicated by their peers to be “not as good as them?” I wish the Property Academy every success in developing this even further…


  6. abull2810

    A friend had two offices recognised as being in the top 20% that he closed two years ago.

  7. NAL4726

    I think us old school guys know how the old boy network flows, lots of patting each other on the backs in the mornings as they are all generally in bed together!


    Farcical awards as per of which the general public will not give one hoot about.

  8. Hillofwad71

    Seem to recall Countrywide Estate Agents won the top award  at the ESTAS .This  will come as no consolation to many investors as the share price hovered close to 117p this morning  No consolation either to the funds who listened to Platt s sweet talk and stumped up another £37m at 175 per  share  in  March

    Catch a falling star !



  9. Eric Walker

    It was a fantastic event with incredible, relevant speakers. The overwhelming message was about revisiting the basics and not being dominated by prop tech. As for the awards I have to say I liked the idea of agents being measured on a number of mystery shops rather than a judging panel. Peter Knight promised and delivered an outstanding event. There will always be some who don’t like the criteria for winning but it seems like the most impartial method to date. I got a huge amount from the day and thoroughly look forward to next year.

  10. Simon Bradbury

    A simply AMAZING event that I personally got a lot out of.

    So much learnt – so much to do!

    Thank you Peter, your team,  the speakers, the supporters and everyone that attended.

  11. Property Peep

    Dear Peter,

    Please can you publish the 30,000 mystery shop results.

    Would be wonderful to see that they took place, and the depth that they went into.

    Or would that show these awards up for what I suspect they really are.

    An opportunity to sell tickets to an old boys network, to stand in a circle patting themselves on the back, telling each other how well they are doing.

    Get back to your desks and do some work !

    AllAgents all the way. Comes out top of natural search results, allows real customers to have a voice about every agency, well everyone except PB !


    1. PropConsult73

      Are you deluded or the owner of AllAgents? – AllAgents is fundamentally flawed – the amount of people I’ve interviewed who’ve said their employers asked them to get friends and families to do fake reviews is bordering ridiculous.   If you’re deluded that you’re a great agent because of your AllAgents reviews you’re paying lip service to yourself.    So much evidence that Google reviews are the way forward and not FeeFo, Trust Pilot and all other variants.

      To suggest that the mystery shop didn’t take place is bordering ridiculous – do you seriously think a company such as Rightmove would associate themselves with something that wasn’t anything other than robust.   Granted the awards elements needs some tweaking but overall these awards are a massive step in the right direction compared to most.



      1. DonShore93

        More than once we have come across agents who have a dedicated member of staff writing reviews on the independent sites – I was personally introduced to one in SE London with the words “Here’s Tessa, she knocks off every Friday lunchtime to write our reviews”!

        It has to be Google all the way from now on – they are not impossible to game, but it would be a brave agent that tried (given that Google know every keystroke they make) and they win hands down on visibility.



  12. AnotherPlanet365

    What can I say?

    My Company got Highly Rated.

    Sorry, I care NOT one jot!

    I do however care immensely about my Real clients.

    I look forward to the “best customer guide”, where agents get to rate those enquiring.

    I’m not sorry to say that both Property Academy & Rightmove are £ sucking leeches serving entirely their own agenda whilst hiding behind the old “Customer Service” guise.

    Look out as Halloween is just around the corner and these 2 Spooks will be creeping around knocking on doors.

    The really creepy Property Academy bit? The first 500 souls signing over their monthly souls to Advertise The Property Academy Badge get a “Special Rate”?! Creepy, horrible sales pitch.


  13. DonShore93

    Awards were ever a platform to sell some useless service.


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