High street agents extinct but just don’t realise it yet, says easyProperty boss

In a move that underlines that Hunters does not think online-only is the way to go, two of its branches have moved into high street locations.

Both the Tring and Leighton Buzzard offices in Bedfordshire are owned by franchisee Caroline Murgatroyd.

They were previously located out of town, but Murgatroyd says that a high street presence has raised their profiles.

Hunters franchisees often start their businesses from their own homes or in out-of-town offices.

Murgatroyd has made her move as Robert Ellice, chief executive of online agent easyProperty, reiterated his belief in the online model, saying: “I don’t believe any estate agent starting today would believe they need a high street office… High street estate agents are extinct, they just don’t realise it yet.”

Murgatroyd opened the Tring business in the autumn of 2012 with just two members of staff and has grown the team to eight in the three years since.

She said: “We’ve experienced a massive difference since relocating to the high street and the branch is a lot busier now. So many people look into our display window which is attracting more walk-in clients.

“The uplift in business was immediate and we’ve seen a 20% increase in activity which is exactly what we were looking to achieve with the move.”

Hunters Leighton Buzzard, opened by Murgatroyd six months ago, has also moved to premises in the high street.

Branch manager David Lawrence said: “The business has really taken off and we’ve tripled our workforce in the short time we’ve been operating. Our new office makes us more accessible to our clients, which is very beneficial.

“I am very confident that displaying the Hunters brand on the high street will further raise the company’s profile.”

Yesterday, a publication called Property Reporter carried an interview with easyProperty’s Ellice.

In it, he said: “I don’t believe any estate agent starting today would believe they need a high street office. Being online, we don’t have to charge over-the-odds prices to cover expensive overheads. This makes us more agile and able to respond to what customers really need.

“When I started writing my business plan, I felt so excited because I was rewriting the rule book with easyProperty.

“High street estate agents are extinct, they just don’t realise it yet.  More and more people are putting faith in online transactions, seeing online portals are the new norm.

“Having a shopfront no longer instills trust and credibility, especially for estate agents, so there is a significant tide of people turning to online agents which are faring much better in terms of transparency.

“The marketplace is moving away from bricks and mortar, and easyProperty is determined to drag it into the digital age.”

Yesterday, easyProperty had 24 properties listed for sale on Rightmove, and 326 available for rent.

Below, the Hunters office in Tring

Hunters Estate Agents Tring Branch


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  1. Property Pundit

    When I started writing my business plan, I felt so excited because I was rewriting the rule book with easyProperty‘ Rewriting indeed. Wonder when reality will set in.

  2. smile please

    Easyproperty are going bust. They just don’t know it.

  3. agency negotiation limited

    Are ebooks killing off hardback copies? Don’t think so. People recognize the effort that goes into something worthwhile

    1. PeeBee

      Oh my!  I actually agree with you.

      I even ‘Liked’ your comment.

      There’s a first! ;o)

  4. Trevor Mealham

    Rob’s best move was securing a big brand name that allowed fast fund raising. Fortunately, budget models are unable to offer service levels (such as B2B greater exposure via agent networking) as traditional models. Simply their fees are too cheap to allow split comms.

    Without big VC funds – budget models couldnt exist.

    Many traditional models are currently growing through growth spurts too.

    The industry is changing, and were yet to see more changes. Traditional models are far from over. ……… yet some new tech models will challenge convention

  5. M Barnard

    The Hunters franchise in Scunthorpe has also just opened a branch on the High Street after many years building the business as one of their ‘personal agent’ franchises.

  6. PeeBee

    Someone just nod and let me know I’m on the right track here, please…

    This easywhassname – they’re the boys that “launched” amongst the dinosaurs, yes?

    They’re the ones whose ‘disruption’ tactics include offering the first 200 new vendors FREE fees, yes?

    They’ve been nicking every column inch possible to let people know that as well, yes?

    SO… how come, when we were all having a proper giggle nearly two weeks ago at their FIRST listing – here we are all that time later, and despite the service being FREE and offered by a humongously well-known and publicised ‘name’ – their entire register at the time of me pressing ‘Post Comment’ is TWENTY FOUR properties – and that of those, MOST seem to be developer properties.


    Oh, yeah, Mr Ellice – ‘it’s all going online… innit!’


  7. Simon Chan

    This guy is a total clown. High street agents are extinct but don’t realise it yet? Perhaps our vendors and applicants don’t realise it either because they keep walking in! Our staff must be idiots too because they turn up for work 5-6 days a week to an extinct shop front! Idiot!!

  8. Robert May

    Property reporter? what’s that then, a niche publication circulated to friends, family and gullible investors?

    I’m also re-writing the rule book; I’m quite excited too! Only thing is I’ve  written a new set of rules that favour my customers rather than myself.

    It will be  interesting to see which set of rules the selling public favours most: an industry where agents continue to  strive  to achieve best possible price or an industry where vendors attempt to save a few quid using a system designed to cut out experience and service. One of us is going to be a game changer, I wonder who it will be?

  9. Harry Hill

    I like Robert Ellice and, unlike many of your comment makers, agree with many of the things that he says. However, whilst I too think that Estate Agency is a quite rapidly changing scene, and that some vendors will certainly opt for a low cost/reduced service offering mainly (but probably not exclusively) available through on-line agents, I think that to call the end of the traditional High Street proposition is premature and misguided. What concerns me more in many ways is the seemingly relentless drive to the bottom on fees across the industry, where the consumer expects more and more service and is being asked by many to pay less and less. The “justification” of most appears to be a desire to “win” market share, but with about 1 million transactions a year being shared between more agents offices than has ever been the case, the reality is that the only “winner” is the customer.

    1. Robert May

      With respect Mr Hill it was you who laid out quite  correctly and eloquently in 2010 the viability analysis of agency.  The fundamental difference in the two business models is that vendors need an Agent to be good at their job, applicants (now called consumers) want agents to be bad at their job. Service comes at the costs you set out.

      You have been at this long enough to remember that cut price, passive intermediary agency began even before Rightmove [by about 2 years] so that ought to be enough time to have all this sussed out that Agency is not the rapid changing scene every one has been claiming since 2013.

      1. Harry Hill

        Robert, I am often abused by people that hide behind funny names on these comments forums, and therefore rarely participate! However, whilst I had the privilege to run Countrywide, I made enormous efforts to encourage comprehensive staff training and maintain high fees, with the National average rarely dropping below 2% across the network. Cut fees (in my eyes) necessitates cut costs, one “easy” target being staff training. One therefore gets what one deserves, evidenced I believe only yesterday when I received “vendor feedback”  on a house that I’m selling (not through Hunters unfortunately as they are not represented in the area). The feedback read “unfortunately he needed to much work for them” Some may say that the 1% fee that I was quoted is just about right for this garbage!


        1. Robert May

          Mr Hill, I’m a service supplier to a service industry and that dictates deference, you however command my full respect.

          The line between  internet listing only passive intermediary services and  Estate agency is too blurred and at present it is too easy (unavoidable pun) for  the former to portray itself as a  cut price version of the latter.

          Estate Agency is about  selling property not simply agreeing  sales. There is a subtle but very  significant difference between to two and Agents need to understand that service and advice is something that does no have to be given away in order to compete with a sector that actually very lucrative for the services being provided.

          1. observer

            Apologies for jumping into this discussion but I query why the customer shouldn’t be the “winner” as it was put by Mr Hill? In every other industry the customer has used their power to improve the service that they receive. This is a natural progression because consumers can now demand more and actually receive that due to suppliers being able to respond to changing demand far quicker than in previous generations.

            The passive intermediaries that you talk about provide an option and that is all it is for their customers. eMoov for example claim to have sold 4,500 homes in five years- it seems that it is an option that many want to take.

            Estate agents have seen property prices far outstrip operational costs and inflation which has simply brought more estate agents into the market rather than lowering fees. As Mr Hill states there are now more estate agents than ever selling pretty much the same number of properties – the only way that this market imbalance can happen is because the revenue generated per sale has increased enormously.

            If I haven’t explained this clearly here’s an example:

            In 2010 the average sale price of a property in Hackney was £318,099. A 1.3% fee on that sale would be £4,135

            In 2015 the average sale price of a property in Hackney has been £513,346. A 1.3% fee on that sale would be £6,673

            This is a 61% increase in revenue from a single property and yet instead of lowering fees as the market rises, we just see more and more agents entering the market and dividing the relatively stable number of property sales between them.

            It is no surprise that vendors are looking at alternative methods when the response from the entrenched operatives is essentially no response.

            It is of course highly unlikely that high street estate agents will ever be extinct. Currently the vast majority of the market values the work that they put in and the service they receive. This is unlikely to change for the foreseeable but to ignore the demands of customers is to follow a well-trodden path to disaster.

            1. Harry Hill

              Sir, I am absolutely all in favour of the customer (be they buyer or seller), receiving the highest quality of service, and understand your point about house price inflation “protecting” to some extent, fee levels.

              However, the facts are that current volumes of home sales are circa 30% lower than the long run average, and fees nationally have dropped from something between 1.5 and 2% to 0.75% to 1.25%. During the same period costs have of course been subject to inflation.

              in that scenario I continue to contend that many agents seek to cut costs wherever they can with staff salaries and staff training costs often seen as areas for saving, thereby sucking in lower paid, less well trained staff, many of whom offer fairly deplorable service (see my example above- which I fear is by no means unique).

              Homes are to most people their most valuable asset, by far, and elsewhere in the world most people seem happy to pay much higher fees than those that prevail in the UK. My personal opinion is that a high percentage of people in the UK would be prepared to do so too if they were convinced that they were receiving value for money. If not, why doesn’t everyone drive a 5 year Skoda motor car?

              1. observer

                I think you have hit the very crux of the problem facing estate agents with cost cutting seen as a way of improving the profitability of an estate agent’s operations at a time when they are receiving higher revenues for individual sales on identical properties that they were selling five years ago. To a customer this seems a terrible combination: higher fees & less well trained staff.

                This is completely against what is seen other industries where suppliers.companies focus on improving customer service rather than employing under trained staff.

                I think the example of the Skoda is probably not the best analogy as there is long term value to the use of a car whereas an agent fulfils a one off transactionary service. Perhaps why doesn’t everyone use online conveyancers might be a better comparison?

                The value for money that you speak of is the absolutely vital point. If estate agents can prove that they are getting a higher level of service for the increase in fees they are paying (for the same role) then agents have nothing to fear.

                How exactly an agent can prove this is by far the hardest problem that is faced by the industry when cost-cutting variants put the pressure on. Companies founded by the likes of Sir Charles Dunstone and Neil Woodford won’t just go away.

              2. GPL

                Harry Hill….. I’ll try to keep this short and relatively impersonal….. I had the great misfortune to work with Countrywide after your £1 acquisition of Nationwide. Your manner, methods and ethics were in my opinion and many others akin to a back-street Arthur Daley fly-by-night dodgy dealer ….thankfully I had personal standards & ethics that meant I happily walked away as I had no interest in being part of the Harry Hill managed circus… albeit I had to engage near MI5 techniques to ensure you didn’t stab me in the back!

                So, if it is you engaging here be assured that I and others remain in the industry upholding what is good about real estate agency and real estate agents!

                Each time I lift a stone I expect you to be hiding under it!

                Nothing personal Harry as I spoke frankly then and frankly now.

                I chose to make my living in a decent, ethical way Harry…. enjoy the money you have made from our industry however when you spout here and elsewhere from your lofty tower I have to reach for that brown paper bag that one finds on airplanes!


                1. Harry Hill

                  sir/madam. I don’t know who you are, and the reasons for your sentiments towards me. I am confident in saying however that you are in a very small minority in suggesting that the senior management team at Countrywide of which I was part, did not act in a decent and ethical manner.

                  When we took over the failing agency business from the Nationwide, which had been assembled carelessly and run deplorably, the business was losing millions of pounds a month and needed radical corrective action to prevent the whole operation collapsing and every employee being made redundant.

                  if you personally were an unfair casualty of that reorganisation, I apologise, and am pleased to note that you have made a living in the industry elsewhere in the meantime.

                  It is probably also fair to say that many people who joined Countrywide at that time went on to have very successful careers within the enlarged business, the very best example being Paul Creffield who is now one of Countrywide’s most senior and responsible directors.

                  1. GPL

                    Harry…. odd that some of your Senior Management Team ended up having to deal with the “authorities” and newspapers over their unethical dealings?

                    However, I have made my point. I was a well established estate agent prior to Countrywide’s arrival… and recall your smug “I only paid £1 for Nationwide” remark to assembled staff on your arrival.

                    I was no casualty of Countrywide, I had the common sense to extract myself from the unethical business model that was iltimately driven by you

                    1. GPL

                      …we are different beings Harry. I wake up each day very comfortable in my skin as a real estate agent.

                      Money can buy many things Harry however genuine respect cannot be bought.



            2. Robert May

              I am struggling to read this post due to the confusion over the words customer and consumer.

              49:1 vendors are not looking for an alternative or cheaper way of selling.  This trodden path to disaster is 17 years long so far and the 2% penetration  has not got any bigger in the past  7 or 8 years.

              I think to leave out other economic factors such as  a 17% fall in transaction numbers  and a trend line decrease in sales volumes tends to  support a  convenient but somewhat naive argument.

              Net worth reports on a large number of passive intermediary firms show a consistent declining net worth and some have simply  been dissolved including that of one very outspoken blogger on the subject.  This online  bizzo isn’t all it is cracked up to be and in this case isn’t enough to support a once vocal professional PR man.


              1. observer

                The 17% fall in transaction numbers only furthers my point. There are now more estate agents than before selling 17% less homes at higher prices thus enjoying higher fees per sale.

                I used the word consumer once and quite deliberately in a broader sense to take in more than just the estate agent industry. People using services and products expect better as time passes.

                A customer is a person who pays for a service and a consumer is a person that enjoys the service or product. In many cases these are the same but in the estate agent case, a buyer would only be a consumer and a vendor would be both as they pay for the service and also enjoy it. Or… a consumer gains the utility from a product or service whilst the customer pays for that utility.

                1. Robert May

                  Sorry observer you have missed off the balancing economic effect of more agencies opening or operating. The fees  do rise (and fall) with prices but they attract more agencies into the industry. Online is seen as a way opening up an Agency that looks and feels like a traditional agency from its online persona but is often a sole operator or area rep for a central office.


                  1. observer

                    That’s my exact point. Rising fees which are an exogenous factor to the industry are leading to an increase in agents even though the actual amount of work done per branch is less on two counts:

                    1. Less properties sold per year (aggregate)

                    2. Less properties sold per branch/office due to the rise in number of agents (compounded by point 1)

                    Neither of these help the customer. There is no data to suggest that more agents = lower percentage fees. Customers still pay enormous fees and receive worse customer service as indicated by the esteemed Mr Hill and also the rise in number of complaints to the Property Ombudsman.

                    The only assumptions I am making are that fees as a percentage are staying level – as indicated by your Mr Hayter showing fees on average at 1.3% over the last 15 months – in which time a further 30,000 have entered the industry. I understand that these are not all boots on the ground estate agents but there can be no economic argument that this benefits the customer. In a time when the customer will get what he/she wants this has to be a concern when you can’t (haven’t yet been able to) prove the increased quality in your customer service to reflect the exogenous impact of rising house prices/fees.

                    Online agents are still in their infancy and building trust takes time but to dismiss them as passive intermediaries whilst being part of an industry that refuses to adapt to customer demands seems extremely short-sighted.

                    Then again I’m no property expert so what do I know? I just find this industry absolutely fascinating!

                    1. Robert May

                      I am the biggest advocate of advances in agency but agencies set up to simply  lift a valuation off the internet and list property on the internet is a passive intermediary. It is not possible to run an estate agency at the  fee levels being quoted  by passive intermediary agents falsely claiming to be estate agents.

                      As previously  predicted  in debates and subsequently demonstrated as necessary, the cost of replaceing public awareness more than outweighs the cost of office premises.

                      17 years attempts to achieve viability is not an infancy unless you are a tortoise or a tree which probably explains the painfully slow progress they are making.


    2. Martin Burgess

      Mr Hill, I know and whole-hardheartedly dislike Robert Ellice. I find him a terrible know-all who will not listen to good advice and who habitually seeks to blame others for failings whilst taking credit for successes. Anyway, I digress. My team have been monitoring easyproperty’s progress for months, collating numbers of new instructions, watching the old ones, looking at the monthly tallies and working out we believe with some accuracy the amount of business he is is truly (not) doing. His first year is up and it has been a tragedy! How long before Guy Zitter ups and leaves..? How long before investors start asking where their money has gone..? How long before Robert Ellice starts spending more time at Canary Wharf than swanning around the USA? There is a storm a-brewing Mr Hill and your decision to quit EP right at the start will yet prove a sound one.

  10. dave_d

    I actually still have a screen grab from their site when it was originally launched…


    That screen grab says pretty much everything about easyproperty…

  11. GPL

    Red or Black Mr Ellice….. your business plan? …..I’ll give you the wee ball to spin!

    Fair play to Ms Murgatroyd… an educated business move.

    I can live with real competition versus the LaLaVirtualListers! Tevali, Tivoli, Topolo?…. shocking how a Z List Telly Person can paste their face on a Website and become a property professional!?

  12. forwardthinker

    The battle goes on and will continue.

    There will always be a place for the traditional high street estate agent and there will always be a market of people that despise agents and want the cheapest possible fee. We sold two properties yesterday from our window display, which is unprecedented. Unusually we had six sets of people walk in, but proof there is an appetite from the public for one to one interaction. A good high street agent gets to enjoy engaging with the local community, giving support to the local schools and other groups. Giving free local market advice to people passing by. It still works and will never be ‘extinct’. The industry is evolving, but to say we are already extinct is futile. Possibly the comments of a worried man? My business is certainly not extinct and and in fact flourishing. We have a modern approach to fees and this is where some of the other traditional agents can be seen to be caught in a time warp.

    Welcome to the ‘easy’ property industry Mr Elice. I’ll let you know when you take an instruction from us.

    1. PropertyyWatcher

      Totally agree with you forwardthinker on the point that there will always be a place for both – effectively comes down to a trade off between service and cost. Similar point summarised well here http://www.propertydivision.co.uk/competition-is-good-for-high-street-agents/

  13. RealAgent

    The smartest thing Robert did was secure the licence for the easy brand. The dumbest thing he did was try to out budget the budget agents.

  14. GlennAckroyd

    The property inventory levels of EasyProperty have fallen dramatically. I did an analysis for our advisors on the major players a couple of months ago and they’ve lost significant stock since then. The online marketing I see is PPC and Facebook. When you have a national budget brand, it’s hard.

    You cannot afford to pay for the cost of acquisition of business via direct mail/leaflets, or print/TV ads because the margins are too low.

    In the low barrier to entry online world, every man and his dog now has a no-frills service. The only point of difference is price… Any A level Business Studies student will tell you that competing on price is a fight to the bottom.

    It will be interesting to see how they can position a floatation. You can float on actual profit (easiest), or forecast. But forecast must show consistent growth in line with a plan.

    I doubt many cheap online agents are making a profit – the highest profile have been initially funded by crowd funding and Angel investors.

    The day of reckoning will soon be upon us…

    1. Robert May

      I have spent time in Endole over the past 2 weeks it is difficult to find a downward   sloping net worth graph that isn’t skiable and there are a couple of black runs there too. Investors ought to be doing their homework.

      (General comment not related to any particular firm) It is  worrying when the net worth of a firm is worth less than the cash being  continually poured into it and I am simply staggered anyone is investing in a sector that is seemingly so  performance divorced from the PR, spin and marketing claims. One firm  has achieved a fraction of  its forecasted performance and I really can not see how in  9 months time it will be a firm worth £1,000,000,000. That isn’t a figure that has been claimed but  is a  ‘Derren Brown’  (brain seeded assumption that is never said)

    2. Martin Burgess

      HI Glenn… I just posted this to HH and now read your post…. Seems I’m not alone in analysing their dismal performance…Mr Hill, I know and whole-hardheartedly dislike Robert Ellice. I find him a terrible know-all who will not listen to good advice and who habitually seeks to blame others for failings whilst taking credit for successes. Anyway, I digress. My team have been monitoring easyproperty’s progress for months, collating numbers of new instructions, watching the old ones, looking at the monthly tallies and working out we believe with some accuracy the amount of business he is is truly (not) doing. His first year is up and it has been a tragedy! How long before Guy Zitter ups and leaves..? How long before investors start asking where their money has gone..? How long before Robert Ellice starts spending more time at Canary Wharf than swanning around the USA? There is a storm a-brewing Mr Hill and your decision to quit EP right at the start will yet prove a sound one.

  15. surrey1

    “Being online, we don’t have to charge over-the-odds prices to cover expensive overheads”. Our biggest overheads as a “high street” agent are consistently good staff and quality marketing, not something we’re particularly inclined to cut back on.

  16. Tuf Luv

    Listen I love the online guys, I got all their albums but I have to figure that reality is hitting this Ellice dude smack in the temple, beading up and rolling right off. Jeez Easy P hardly tore a hole in the sky but yet he’s got high street agency nailed on. Come on dude don’t be that guy.

    Ok so getting some common sense is only third on his to do list and sure, it’s cute the way he’s learning the online business at his own pace but maybe Ros closes him out at 140 characters because while I was reading his horse sh*t I lost all my money on the stock market. Lose some, you lose some.

    Dude agency’s changing. I get that. By not pulling the trigger on the web we kind of created a negative space where the online guys get to represent the industry and that sucks. The transition aint so linear though. We can co-exist. Funny, I spent the last five minutes thinking about it. The best Lionel Ritchie song is in fact ‘Caribbean Queen’ by Billy Ocean. Except for the whole cheating on me thing, my wife’s the perfect woman and she agrees. Dude you have to wonder, is the best agent online an online agent?

  17. Woodentop

    So where is the PO window sticker?


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