An independent high street agent has launched a new tool designed to help both his own firm, and others, compete with online agents.
Unusually, it is free to vendors – with the purchaser paying a fixed fee on completion.
It also offers free listings to agents. However, the model is designed to incentivise agents not merely to list but to sell.
Matt Hazle, of family firm Hazle & Co in Emsworth, Hampshire, is calling the new product Yellow Brick Abode.
He said it is designed to be used by high street agents to supplement their main business, and not as a primary marketing tool.
Hazle said he had originally come up with the concept to help his own firm, but then realised that having built the technology, he could make it available to others.
He said: “Yellow Brick Abode can be introduced when they might be disinstructed, or feel a vendor is just wanting their local expertise to value their property with an intent just to use a cheap online alternative.
“It also allows high street agents to be able to be considered when a seller is just looking for a cheap online alternative.”
Yellow Brick Abode generally charges the seller no fees. Instead, the buyer pays a fixed fee of under £1,000 payable on completion.
The model is therefore similar to the For Sale by Tender process, used by some high street agents.
However, Hazle said: “From my experience, in many cases it is not made clear to the purchaser that they will be liable for the sales fee upon completion. It is often a higher percentage than what would have been agreed with the seller normally.
“I have seen buyers pull out of a sale just before exchange due to this.
“With Yellow Brick Abode, the buyer still pays the sales fee, but at a fixed amount, sub £1000, which is made clear from the start and visible on all property details.”
Yellow Brick Abode does offer a ‘managed sale’ service, whereby sellers would pay nothing upfront but a fixed fee of under £1,000 on completion – it bills this as a ‘high street service for an online fee”.
It also offers a quick sell option, where there is an upfront fee to the vendor of £195, plus £995 paid on completion.
In the short time since Yellow Brick Abode was launched, Hazle says reaction to it has been positive.
He said: “There has been some scepticism about selling for free, but once the payment structure has been explained, vendors are happy.
“The public have become a lot more internet savvy, even more apparent with future generations who will know nothing else. If you look how other industries have been affected by the internet, the likes of LoveFilm, Netflix and other streaming services killed Blockbuster off virtually overnight.
“In travel, with LastMinute and Expedia to name a few, most of the big high street brands have now diversified into airlines to compensate.
“Amazon probably didn’t help Woolworth and high street banks are closing more and more high street offices to focus online, irrespective of what customers want.
“It’s inevitable and naive for agents to think that the same won’t ultimately happen to high street estate agents.
“Saying that, I feel there will always be a need for a high street service for estate agency, just not as many as there are now, as not everyone is happy to sell themselves, they’re too busy or for probate sales.
“A good agent can always justify their fees for the additional services they offer. In order for agents to survive in tough markets, they have to be able to offer competitive packages for their customers.”
He added: “Ultimately it would be nice to see Yellow Brick Abode as a property portal in its own right, put there with the help and support of the high street agents.
“I see Yellow Brick Abode as an innovation to the market rather than a disruption like online agents have been.
“I hope it will help stabilise the market rather than displace high street agents any further.
“As there are no plans to charge agents to list their properties on Yellow Brick Abode, the possibility for it becoming a major player is more than possible.
“The only fee that might incur would be an annual contribution to hosting costs, but that would be dwarfed in the savings the agent would get from dropping one of their major portal subscriptions.
“Yellow Brick never intends to take away anything from high street agents, but give them a better fighting chance of securing and keeping business.”