‘Estate agency has survived longer than anyone expected… and only upmarket agents will survive’, claim

Estate agency has lasted longer than anyone was expecting but a wave of innovation in the sector could soon see most traditional agents swept away by online firms, a prominent Guardian journalist has suggested.

In a column inspired by the fall in the price of Countrywide’s shares and the continued rise in the value of online rival Purplebricks, Guardian Money editor Patrick Collinson said that the relative direction of the two firms “tells you all you need to know about where estate agency is heading”.

He said: “Countrywide could, just about, cope if its problems were purely cyclical. Transaction activity, more important to estate agents than rising house prices, has fallen significantly in the crucial London market. The volume of sales is down, and the time it takes to close a sale is rising.

“Meanwhile, the long boom in letting agency income is over. Rents are flat or falling and buy-to-let activity in 2018 is expected to be one-third the levels of 2015, squeezed by rising taxes and tougher mortgage lending criteria.

“Estate agency has survived longer than anyone expected. We don’t know if it will be Purplebricks or another challenger that will be the ultimate winner in online home selling. What we do know is that the dam has broken and only the upmarket estate agents in the luxury and country home market are likely to survive the onslaught.”

Commenters on the article were quick to point out that while Collinson had made mention of Purplebricks’ fixed fee of £849, he hadn’t explained that it was payable whether a seller’s house actually sold or not.

They also shared their experience of using estate agents, whether online or traditional estate agents, with mixed views on both.


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  1. ArthurHouse02

    I am not sure why he feels only upmarket agents will survive, but he is entitled to his opinion. Unfortunately our industry has many enemies, but i am sure that in the future whatever happens and if high street estate agency vanishes it will be missed. How many times have we seen the call centre agents listing properties were the value was set by a high street estate agents knowledge being used? How many times do we hear of chains being saved or cajoled along by a high street? Mark my words, Call centre agents have a market, but it is limited, many many people want a good level of service and that is not available to the same level with a call centre agent.

  2. Chris Wood

    I believe Mr Collinson has had a very bad experience with an/ some estate agents at some point in his life which is a great shame, as it appears to have affected his ability to write balanced, informed articles on this topic. This is not his first piece which cherishes the downfall of any type of agency. A pity, as he is clearly an intelligent man in many respects.

    The stark facts of agency and the survival of bad agents on the high street is a combination of factors. First and foremost is that </>95% of the public have not embraced the call-centre model despite millions being thrown at it and highly misleading/ false advertising campaigns and claims. Next, are a combination of a wide lack of knowledge of consumer rights, already low service expectations by consumers, a lack of will to complain at the end of a major life event and property transaction and, a lack of funding (and apparently will) for agencies tasked with protecting consumers/ law-abiding agents to prosecute poor practice.

    Truth be told, many high street agents probably should not be in business but remain so because no one expects any better and no one is prepared to complain/ do anything about it.

    Perhaps if, instead of calling for all agents to be roasted alive as Mr Colinson might wish, he called for good agents and agency practice to be championed and for poor agency (of ALL business models) to be properly sanctioned, he and the public at large, might have a better experience the next time they come to move home.

  3. jeremy1960

    Ah, another desk bound journo from the smoke what is London town! There is life outside the M25 believe it or not.  Just because the for  sale board opposite your office window hasn’t changed to sold Mr journo it doesn’t mean that the world is coming to an end!

  4. AgencyInsider

    Well I never. Reading the comments on the piece I find that Purplebricks is not universally loved. I am amazed.

  5. AgentV

    The Guardian columnist would do as well to remember that his job probably only exists because of the generous voluntary donations to the Guarduan from the public.

    To write a story courting public opinion, which could affect the livelihoods of thousands of small local businesses, without proper research giving a more balanced story, is extremely poor journalism. For instance not to mention the charging structure of both models (no sale no fee and pay whether you sell or not) is just plain ignorance.

    It is the last thing I would have expected from the Guardian….favouritism towards very large investor backed companies, designed from the ground up to make a few people very rich, against many small local family owned community businesses.

    What goes around, comes around, Mr Collinson! I for one will no longer consider donating.

  6. Thomas Flowers

    A poorly researched article as it fails to mention recent ASA and NTSEAT changes that the largest call centre agent has had to implement so as to try and prevent further misleading users on a national scale?

    Any business that is perceived to have misled customers by regulators, Watchdog etc are more likely to be a short-term ‘corporate event’ particularly if they are finding it so difficult to turn a ‘Proper’ profit in what was a strong market?

    Remember, estate agency in the UK is amongst the best value in the developed World which may be why this call centre agent has moved into much higher commission markets in Australia and America whilst they still have other peoples money to support any transition?

    Surely, the high-end market with associated higher fees are more susceptible to disruption than the average market in the UK which has an average property price of around £180,000 north of the Birmingham divide to include Wales and Scotland based on RM’s latest price index in January 2018?

    Patrick Collinson fails to mention that printed newspapers are facing huge decline?


  7. Mark Connelly

    If I see the name Patrick Collinson and property in the same sentence then I stop reading immediately. The man has no balance when discussing property. Never has done.

  8. J1

    The Guardian has survived longer than anybody thought it would in the face of on-line news that is more up to date, but more likely to be fake than trusted traditional journalism.


  9. Trevor Kent

    This old f..t of a burnt-out agent, still hanging on by his fingernails against all-comers, wonders if the best way of dealing with the Purplies is for EVERY agent to LEAD every property description, every advert, every website, every flyer- well just everywhere, with a short pithy “PURPLEBRICKS AND SIMILAR ARE ‘FEE – NO SALE’, WE’RE ‘NO SALE – NO FEE’”.  Perhaps if we flood everywhere with this, the public will begin to get the picture . Or am I just a dreamer?


    1. AgencyInsider

      Good idea Big T.

      1. AgentV

        Trevor, how about joining like minded agents contributing to ‘Collective Marketing’?

        Contact us at in@agentv.co.uk

    2. Graham

      No you are not a dreamer Trevor. You know the PB concept is flawed as do all good professional agents. Just wait and see as thousands of penny pinchers blow their £800 – £1000 and have nothing to show for it. In a good strong market even bucket shops can sell properties, now is the time for the good and the professional 😉

  10. Property Pundit

    Is The Guardian still a thing?

  11. renown76

    This will be like the Kindle then. Books are dead now because we all use Kindles. Obvious.



    1. marcH

      What? you mean like vinyl records? The ‘Grauniad’ didn’t get its Private Eye monicker for nothing. I, for one, groan every time I read this type of biased, lazy, unresearched nonsense in what is supposed to be a grown-up newspaper. Talk about ‘fake news’ !!

  12. Cardiff Agent

    How ignorant! Why do these journalists think they are prophets, sages and experts in fields they have little or no knowledge about? Yes, they are anti-agent, could that have anything to do with the political leanings of The Guardian?  So rents are going to be low now are they? who are the Landlords who are going to supply the increasing number of homes needed? Is it simplistic to predict that all agents will be swept away by the on-liners who create a market for themselves by spending millions of their deluded investors money, with no substance to their service. There should be a law against telling lies and misleading the public. Perhaps, in this enlightened age, one day there will be.

    1. AgentV

      He also hasn’t a clue about what is coming on the horizon from the independent fraternity……because he hasn’t bothered to look. 
      Be good to make contact with you Cardiff Agent

  13. Emmersons46

    When the Land Registry was created it was promoted as the end of the conveyancer. It was suggested that people would be able to undertake their own conveyancing without any difficulty.

    More recently Alternative Business Structures and the introduction of non-lawyers into the “law industry” as well as the creation of para-legal laden conveyancing factories have been promoted as the death knell for high street law firms.

    We are told regularly by legal futurists (such people do exist) that Artifical Intelligence will end the need for human beings to be involved in what is said to be a commoditisable process.

    Law firms are still on the high street.

    Estate agents will be there too.

    Most people like speaking to real people, local to where they live or work. Most people do not wish to converse with a call centre or a computer. The secret for high street agents is to improve the offering, charge for that improved service and expose the limitations of online estate agents.

    Recent research by the SRA shows that most people-I think its about 67%-choose their conveyancer through recommendation.

    The high street is not dead. It’s just changing. Those who operate on the high street need to work at their USPs.


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