The 90-branch agent with no head office – and where only three out of 20 viewings come from portals

It started out as a single branch in Twickenham 25 years ago.

Eight years ago it had 16 offices, and now it has almost 90, growing at an annual rate of 26%.

We are talking about Dexters, now one of London’s largest estate agents – and still an independent.

Jeff Doble, boss of Dexters, does not however believe that big is necessarily beautiful.

That said, the firm has 25,000 landlords on its books, conducts 45,000 viewings a month and turned over £75.5m last year. This year, turnover is likely to be £85m.

So, how has Doble done it?

Well, there is no bloated head office.

Indeed, there is no head office at all. Dexters is “not a classic command and control type of organisation”, he says.

Nor does he even faintly subscribe to the idea that all an agent has to do is stick properties on Rightmove: just three out of every 20 viewings come from the portals and print advertising. The rest are generated by Dexters’ own database.

Nor does he seem to believe that everything will be online.

“The tech guys who tell you that estate agents are finished and that it’s all going to be online miss the point,” says Doble.

He says someone still has to drive the cars and “do the hard yards”. People buying or renting want to deal with someone reliable: “The internet has not replaced salesmanship or reduced the importance of human contact.”

A fascinating Management Today interview can be seen here (registration is necessary):

https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/5-minutes-jeff-doble-estate-agent-kingpin/entrepreneurs/article/1459732

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16 Comments

  1. agency negotiation

    Perfect.

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    1. Bless You

      Interesting that rightmove always quote visitor numbers and hazy impression numbers.

      How about visitor to viewing conversions through their site.

      I expect people do call up after seeing on rightmove but it shows people still want to deal with a human and not a bot

       

      Warning.. click bait article to join a online mailing list mag.

       

       

       

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  2. smile please

    Well done. Sounds like a very good business owner.

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    1. Robert May

      Jeff told me in 2001 he was going to build a “100 office firm”.  It looks like he’s not far off his target even if it’s taken a little longer than he originally planned!

      Well done Mr Doble! I can now wave a jaunty two fingers at my co-directors who questioned the Dexter’s deal at every board meeting for 9 years. My standard reply “If we don’t help people with a vision, we’re a reason for their failure, they’ll remember that. If they pull it off they’ll think kindly of our support and will be there when we need them”

       

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  3. EASPORTS84

    3 out of 20 viewings are from the portals?? Hmmm so those poor 3 ******* where showed 5-6 properties each that they where not interested in…sounds about right !

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  4. dkever06

    The stats of percentage of rightmove enquiries that result in viewings is interesting, is this lower than most agents think? Are other agents ablle to confirm similar results?

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  5. AgencyInsider

    Nothing but respect for Jeff Doble. He doesn’t tolerate fools and he knows his business. All power to him and his team.

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  6. MrLister

    3 out of 20? No.

    Stats like that will lose you credibility.

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    1. PeeBee

      …and if anyone knows about how to lose credibility, you’re the boy!

      This should therefore be classed as expert advice from one of the best in the business.

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      1. MrLister

        Wasn’t looking to trade insults PeeBee. Simply wondering how many other agents get 17/20 viewings from their database and 3 from all the portals they advertise on, including their own website. I run a busy high street branch and have done since the portals started. I don’t believe that figure is accurate or possible. I’d say most of our counterparts would say the same too.

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        1. PeeBee

          Pretty much nobody else commenting here seems to agree with you.

          But, then – the figures are pretty impossible to accurately collate.

          Ask someone where/how they first came to be aware of a property – what answer do you think they will give you?

          The most relevant point made here Mr Lister is that the portals are simply a tool.  An extension of what an Agent brings to the table when marketing a property for their client.

          For some, however, It is the table.  And the chairs… the knives,… forks… spoons and crockery.

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  7. Stevie

    I believe he is pointing out that 17 of nearly every 20 viewings are from hard work of his staff using their phones or from converting foot traffic coming into the office which proves high street agents are still needed, well regarded and actually if not first point of contact then most certainly second bur the preferred way of following up towards a viewing and ergo an offer/sale.

    Thats how we used to compete in the days before portals but how we should still be performing with portals as our backup as an additional service to our clients, good luck to him and his staff.

    Robert, the more I read from you the more I’m intrigued as to what you do and who you are and from wence you came, all for good interest, nice honest and accurate wording at the end there too,

    PeeBee, as ever an interesting read.

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    1. Robert May

      I’m a service supplier who has a huge respect for clients like Dexters, Ward & partners, Belvoir and Martin & co and about 4000 other agents who paid me a wage between 94-2009 in return for me helping  grow their businesses.

      I am currently in the final stages of building the 5th generation property search system for estate and letting agents; a GDPR compliant system designed to put individual agents at the centre of property search rather than an aggregating portal. I’ve built the product, I’m just starting to extend the company and the customer base.

      We’ve set an affordable subscription level which will go up in line with regional house price inflation, it will also come down if prices in an area fall.

      Traditional agencies without traditional ITZA premises will get on my system. Internet listing firms, passive intermediaries and firms reliant on the aggregating portals will be encouraged to stick with what they know. I’ve built a system agents who have a genuine #local presence and respect rather than those who react to portal enquiries.

      That’s me and what I’m up to. Thank you for asking.

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  8. TheHybridAgent

    Sounds like OntheMarket should have a partner link on Dexters website to get some traffic!

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  9. Ben the Badger

    When I started in estate agency – don’t ask! – my boss said that a good estate agent knew “when to smell blood”.  Nobody – at least in our business – has invented a bot which can smell blood.

    Our best branch for conversions was at a popular sea-side location where the office was the first estate agency visitors saw as they came out of the station. After coffee and a sensible chat the negotiator would put them in his car and set off to see five houses.  They’d visit the most likely prospect as number four with number five to reinforce the merits of number four.

    They were so well known and respected by other estate agents that they could show any of their properties they drove passed with a ‘for sale’ board which their couple liked the look while going by.  If a sale resulted, the fees (5% on the first £500, 2.5% on the next £4,500 and !.5% on anything above which were then few in number) were shared 50/50.

    Personally, my cheapest sale was for cash. A little old lady waddled into the office and counted out £7,000 in used notes.  And the sale went through.  Next day a colleague said:  “Do you know what you have just done?  You’ve sold our leading brothel-keeping another one for her chain.”

    That was then: today, that little terraced house would approach half a million – maybe more.

    BTB

     

     

     

     

     

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  10. SmartOctopus30

    45,000 viewings a month for 90 offices? 500 viewings a month per branch?

    2,900 properties for sale and 1,765 to let on their website, so roughtly 51 properties to sell and to let in total per branch.

    If they do 3 viewings out of 20 using Rightmove, they should definetely consider saving money and cancel the subscription and spend that money on increasing the efforts in branches. Otherwise it seems that they are paying too much for 15% of viewings. It would be great to know how many of those Rightmove viewings actually end up buying?

     

     

     

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