Opinion: Should online agent be clearer about its free service for home sellers?

I wonder just how many prospective sellers have been sucked in by Housesimple’s offer of selling their home for free, only to discover this promotion isn’t available to them at all.

It’s a very bold claim to make without any disclaimer or asterisk or information on the home page of their website clarifying that it’s only available to people in Yorkshire, parts of the east midlands and the north-west – an approach which does not appear to be in the spirit of the CAP Code in terms of the marketing of promotions.

Try putting your postcode into Housesimple’s online form if you are outside those areas and you will be met by a message that says ‘Sorry we don’t cover your postcode yet’ and refers to the free service as ‘coming to your area soon’. It is only when you try to book a valuation visit that it shows the areas this promotion covers.

It doesn’t even offer an option to use Housesimple’s services elsewhere for a fee, so what’s happened to their local property assessors that covered other areas?

A Google search turns up a terms and conditions page that provides that, in order to benefit from the ‘selling for free’ promotion, a vendor must instruct HouseSimple by the end of August 2019. https://www.housesimple.com/free-terms-and-conditions.

What is Housesimple’s strategy once the promotion ends?

Moreover, if they do decide to roll out the free service, how are they going to make enough money to survive if people choose to use their own lawyers and mortgage advisers instead of Housesimple’s services, where they will make their money?

Having announced £13.5m losses to March 2018, where will their profit come from to reinvest in the business, marketing and their staff? And where’s the incentive to sell a property if they aren’t earning commission or fees of any kind?

We’ve already seen Purplebricks struggle with the low fee model, losing its two founding fathers, Kenny and Michael Bruce, following its failures overseas.

Judging by all the CVs I’m receiving from people over at Purplebricks, I can’t help but think that all is not well in their camp.

However, if Housesimple think they can steal the market from Purplebricks, they are in for a mighty shock.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: We put this to Housesimple, who confirmed that they are only active in certain postcodes where they are offering a free service. They are not offering a paid-for service anywhere, and are not currently active anywhere in the south. Housesimple made no other comment.]

Licensing of estate agents to be welcomed

I don’t understand why there’s so much concern in the industry about the licensing of estate agents, a move finally being considered by the Government.

I’ve been calling for this to be introduced for over 20 years, to ensure that estate agents are qualified before setting up in business. At the moment, anyone can set up as an estate agent – even someone who’s just come out of prison or has a spent conviction for house burglary!

The fine detail is still being drawn up and there’s no confirmation as to what the qualification will entail, how it will be administered and by whom.

Personally, I’d like it to be regulated by the Government under the auspices of the Financial Conduct Authority. It has to be taken very seriously and not fudged as a vote-winning piece of spin.

If we’re going to turn the tide in an industry which is very low on public trust, largely due to lack of legislation, this will surely be the way forward.

Reconnect with your customers and staff using video

Estate agents could probably win prizes for how many emails they send in a day, but how often do you send a lengthy email when a Facetime or Skype conversation would have more impact?

There’s nothing better than face-to-face conversations in person if you want to convey information persuasively or get your points across. You can show passion, enthusiasm and excitement in a way that you can’t with the printed word.

But you can’t see everyone in person, so why not get them on the phone and look at them face-to-face instead?

The problem with relying on the written word (aside from presenting legal documents) is that we’re in danger of losing the human touch, instead relying on streams of emails into already full inboxes.

An alternative way of connecting with people is to use email video to accelerate your sales process. Send your prospective customer a two-line email with a link inviting them to view a video where you follow up a sales enquiry with a personal response, using the customer’s name.

The authors of ‘Rehumanize your business’ conducted a survey which found this approach, compared to traditional email, generated 81% more replies and responses, 56% more referrals and 68% lead conversions.

You can also use personal video to update customers on their sales progression or respond to a prospective staff member with a job offer.

If people see your face and hear you talk, it helps them feel like they’re getting to know you. You’ll feel more familiar and approachable – even if you’ve never met. You’ve far less chance of misunderstanding a video than you would an email or text message.

I’ve often written about how important video is for marketing your business or properties for sale. It’s now really simple to set up a video email to reach out or respond to people. So why do so few estate agents actually do it?

* Paul Smith is CEO of Spicerhaart

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  1. whatdoiknow58

    Another less than insightful rant from the venerable Mr Smith only House Hopeless gets a kicking this time really? At least it’s not the usual snide I can do/would have done better Countrywide rant. The rest of the piece is just a rehash of previously reported comments by others Learnt a lot. Zzzz

  2. Property Poke In The Eye

    Don’t worry too much about other agents, just concentrate on your own agency!!!

  3. Steve_Smithson

    Not sure why the video ideas are tacked on to the end of this article … but they are good, solid ideas. Since the footfall to the High Street office’s has fallen away, so has the opportunity to make a personal connection. Using video to make that human connection as often as possible is a good idea.

  4. its all good

    I hear House Simple are seeing a number of Haarts Ex staffers joining the online agents rank’s with each agents HO being next door to one another……the feature reads as a cheap shot, surely the UK largest independent agent is better than that?

  5. AnyoneForCoffee

    ‘At the moment, anyone can set up as an estate agent- even someone who’s just come out of prison…… From PIE Sept 11 2017- Convicted thief who took part in jewellery robbery went on to work for agent  
    I think this is one of your ex employees Mr Smith. 

  6. padymagic

    Gosh I wonder when Mr Smith is going to retire.

    He is going to retire,  isn’t he?

  7. J1

    Isn’t it time to give up competitor bashing Paul?



  8. Knowitall


  9. FrankiCE

    Quick point – if someone has just been released from prison it usually means they have served their time, completed their punishment, and are being released back into society as a rehabilitated and productive member of society…. So why exactly should that impact their ability to open a business?


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