What Is A "Corporate"?

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    Simon Bradbury

    I hear and read so much from other agents ( and suppliers ) about “corporates” and “independents” in estate agency and genuinely wondered how the definition of either is arrived at, and if it means anything nowadays or in the future.

    The general mantra appears to “independent” good…”corporate” bad… but that’s not been my total experience. I’ve seen good and bad in both sectors.

    So how do you actually define a “corporate” and “independent” estate agent in an objective and clear manner.

    For example – is an agency like Spicerhaart a “corporate” because of their size? Are the franchise agencies actually independent because they are often owned and run by individuals at a branch level?

    You might believe that this doesn’t matter and you may well be right. However, with so many estate agency firms openly promoting the ” we are independent” badge – it obviously means something to them as a business, though I suspect it doesn’t  mean much to the general public.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts – just for fun!



    Cracking question, Mr Bradbury!

    What’s the old adage – ask five Estate Agents for their opinion and you’ll get eight answers… and the other two of them need to go away and think about it and will come back to you – but ask what kind of answer were you actually hoping to get!

    In my humble anonymous-troll opinion, “corporate” to most now means anything but its’ original terminology in Estate-Agency Land.

    A great many ‘independents’ are (by one way or another) run by ex-‘corp’ Managers/Directors. I tend to find that these are now run in a ‘corporate’ fashion – and sometimes even taken to the next level of corporate-ish-ness!

    I would say that the ‘reporting process’ reveals the nature of the animal.

    To simplify – any Agency that has to report its’ “figures”

    a) more than once a week;


    b) to more than one person;


    c) on more than one side of the back of a fag-packet

    is… or wants to be… a bigger bird than it will ever have the feathers for.

    (lights blue touch-paper and stands back…)

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by PeeBee.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by PeeBee.

    Simon Bradbury

    Hi PeeBee,

    And thanks as ever for your considered comments. I appreciate your attempt to help with this definition, but as you say…”ask five Estate Agents…”.

    I know where you are coming from (I think) with your suggested definition(s), though I would very respectfully disagree. Your descriptions could fit a number of, in  my opinion, very good independents. To my simple mind they sound like effective business disciplines for any agent – corporate or independent. I’m sure that many will disagree though.

    After contemplating this for a few days now I think that reaching such an agreed definition is now a)Impossible and b)Irrelevant.

    Curious that it appears only you and I are bothered enough to least have a bash at this… perhaps I should have mentioned “Purplebricks” and asked if they should be defined as independents due to the self-employed nature of their LPE’s.

    Thanks again PeeBee – have a good and productive weekend!

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Simon Bradbury.

    smile please

    I would say its more about mentality of the company.

    If its all about figures and targets in my book they are corporate. If they are interested in getting people moved they are independent.

    Example is Arun Estates call themselves an independent, truth is they are as corporate as they come.

    Traditionally the corporate agents are LSL, Sequence and Countrywide (and the previous life companies)

    The really good agents will be in the the middle of both.


    Simon Bradbury

    Hi Smile Please,

    Thanks for that. Your description alludes to a frame of mind and, as you say, a ‘mentality’, which is difficult to assess and relies upon a subjective interpretation. There is absolutely nothing wrong in that, it’s just that it leaves me without an acceptable precise definition.

    Even the lack of a definition is not necessarily a problem. I’m reminded of the adage…” If It looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

    However, so many agents claim the ‘independent’ badge as if it is important and actually means something to the general public. In my view it means absolutely nothing to buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants. Similarly, numerous suppliers and pressure groups appear to target ‘independent agents’ as if it is a properly defined sector, which in my view it is not.

    Where I would respectfully disagree quite strongly with you is your contention that… ” If its all about figures and targets in my book they are corporate. If they are interested in getting people moved they are independent.”

    I can’t believe that a significant number of so-called ‘corporates’ are not interested in ‘getting people moved’ and I’m confident that a good many of them really do care about what they do and how their clients and customers feel. I also believe that a focus on targets and figures can be a very healthy attribute and can even play a part in benefitting the experiences of our customers. Again, that is of course a totally subjective viewpoint!

    That said, I totally accept your final view that…” The really good agents will be in the middle of both.”

    I guess I’m still left without an acceptable definition of either sector – but hey ho and thank you for your suggestions.



    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Simon Bradbury. Reason: Text gobbledygook !
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Simon Bradbury. Reason: Text gobbledygook !


    Mr Bradbury

    Thank you for your response to my offering – and also to that to smile please.

    Your ‘duck’ analogy is probably the closest you’re ever going to get to the answer to your question – but the closest to what is another question entirely!

    Perhaps now that you’ve had a couple of coins tossed in the ring, your own definition could be offered forward for similar consideration and debate?

    I welcome your disagreement – in any strength – to points of view, as it allows further discussion.  I am only right because I say I am – and as such always stand to be corrected.

    Of course, my three-point definition was ever-so slightly tongue in cheek – but nevertheless I would say reasonably valid.  Of course an MD/CEO/(insert appropriate buzz-title here) wants to know whether his branches are going to be able to stay open for another month – but in my opinion having the Branch Manager spend two hours a day trying to massage the figures in order to hit all the KRAs on a 4-8 page report is the perfect example of a company not understanding the wealth of difference between marching and fighting.

    Coming from a New Homes background it reminds me of a Sales Manager who would always make her staff report site traffic on a seven-visitors-to-one-“prospect” ratio – and Heaven help them if they ever strayed from that rule.  She’d read somewhere that this was the acceptable ratio – which having sat in the seat of Sales Rep for the early part of my working life I know to be complete and utter billshut… as most of these theoretical averages are.

    And also from that same background I developed a keen sense of spotting (and wading through) the billshut that has, in my opinion, permanently scarred Agency – the good old ‘Numbers Game’.

    I have long said that ‘The Numbers Game’ now rules our industry – and I have yet to be proved wrong.  It’s all PB are running – ‘The Numbers Game’ – just in a different way, with different KRAs to the vast majority of High Street Agents.

    For what it’s worth – there are many brilliant people working in ‘Corporate’, ‘Corporate-esque’ as I like to describe those inbetweenie companies, ‘Independent’ and ‘Hybrid’/’Online’ Agency, just as there are many frickin’ horrendous ones in each model.  And a great number of all the various levels of capability in between.

    But when their attention is forcibly diverted from ‘sales’ to ‘appraisals’ on a Tuesday because you’re not going to hit your requirement for Friday’s figures  – sorry but there’s something really, horribly wrong.

    As you seem to suggest, our next customer doesn’t give a fuppenny what the name is over the door – so when CILLA decided to set out to defend the poor ‘Independent’ model, they blew it.

    People don’t generally care that you are ‘PeeBee & Co’…’WorldWide’… – just that we do the job they task us with.  And why shouldn’t they?

    The same people don’t expect to go into a restaurant and come out without having tasted the food.  They went in for what was written on the menu – and why shouldn’t they expect to be served with it?  Their level of satisfaction then comes down to how it was served; temperature; taste; helpings; service and atmosphere – all of which count toward their ‘experience’.

    We should be judged on that experience and nothing more.

    NOT how keen we were to list… simply how we delivered.

    And that goes for ALL Agents.



    Do you have line managers – Coporate

    Do you have to sell X amount of mortgages- Corportate

    Do you have to sell X amount of solcitors packages  – Corporate

    Will you buy the bed that neither the seller or the vendor want even though a figure has been agreed and the vendor lives 300 miles away so cant “just come and collect it” and it threatens to collapse the whole sale, after 3 months of work, 4 days before completion, so you tell both parties that the other party has agreed to buy it / remove it and you go and collect it, in the rain and take it home and chop it up to burn and take the rest to the tip? – independant


    Thomas Flowers

    To save money a client of mine recently got a friend with a transit van to move her after a very fraught exchange/ completion as this seller kept on changing the ‘agreed’ completion date much to the dismay of the buyer.

    It took a whole lot of persuasion by me. as the agent, to keep the deal together.

    On completion day I popped down to check on the ‘packing up’ progress of the seller as she had agreed to move out by 1.00pm. To my horror the transit van was full and she only had 30% of her contents in it and was moving from West Midlands to Cornwall!

    I asked her why she had not ordered a removal lorry, her response was that she could not afford the £700 it would cost.

    So I went to the bank and gave her £700 cash to pay for the removal lorry.

    She moved and I added the £700 to my £1,500 sales invoice even though she had little equity and may not have had the money pay it.

    Luckily she did.

    I am an independent agent.





    Simon Bradbury

    Thank you everybody for your contributions and (as ever on PIE) passionate postings. I’m appreciative that everyone refrained from insults such as that posted earlier this morning on the main page of PIE by MrIndependent … “Goodbye corporate scum!!!”.

    My own personal view is that it really is impossible to arrive at a satisfactory actual definition of “corporate estate agency” or even “independent estate agency” despite our best efforts. Everyone seems to allude to a state of mind and an approach to conducting business as the most satisfactory means of defining these sectors…. in my view these are prevailing characteristics rather than actual definitions.

    I simply can’t come up with a definition, anymore than I can for “online” “hybrid” “high street” or “traditional” – but that’s a whole different debate!

    In any event, the flexible and customer focussed activities as outlined above are certainly great examples of “good estate agency” rather than “poor estate agency” – on that I hope we can all agree.

    Have a good day everyone.


    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Simon Bradbury. Reason: My cut and paste's came out as Gobbledygook - again. Sorry!

    Charlie Wright

    Simon, we had an interesting conversation along these lines at the Agent’s Giving Ball, tinged with seasonal spirits!

    Here’s my offering: Is the owner of the business directly accountable to clients if needed? If so, then you are the customer of an independent agent.

    If, as a customer, you are unable to reach the owner of the business you have instructed because he/she/they are too busy or don’t have time, then as a customer of this company you are merely a number on a spreadsheet to the owner. Corporations exist to serve shareholders before all others, including staff and customers. That’s the primary fiduciary duty of the directors. I.e. in a corporation, the company’s earnings necessarily rank higher than any individual customers satisfaction or feelings.

    If, as I think we agree, agency is the business of delivering personal service to people moving home, then no one is more motivated to make each and every customer happy than the owner of a business, because that owner stands to personally gain or lose more from each individual customer than any company shareholder ever will, including time and reputation as well as money.

    The smaller the business, the more important each individual customer is to that business.

    Can you remember your first ever customer and the lengths you would go to for them?

    I hope this was an helpful answer! Charlie


    Simon Bradbury

    HI Again Charlie ( Yes I do remember chatting with you about this very subject at the Agents Ball!)

    Whilst I really do appreciate your contribution and your attempt at a general description, I still feel that this falls short of an actual definition of a “corporate” or for that matter an “independent” and I have now concluded ( rightly or wrongly) that no such satisfactory definition actually exists. It is for this reason that I hear alarm bells when agents and/or suppliers identify either themselves or their proposed customer base as such – it really means nothing in my personal opinion.

    We do agree that ” agency is the business of delivering personal service ” I just do not see that as the exclusive offering from an ” independent ” or something that no decent ” corporate ” employee is able to offer.

    Thanks again and have a fab weekend!

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Simon Bradbury. Reason: Mistake ( again ) on my part!


    If I had to sum it up, six words,

    Decision makers closer to the coalface

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