Just puppets in the portal war?
Our reliance as an industry on property portals risks us becoming little more than puppets in our quest to attract online visitors.
The portals continually tug our strings by raising their fees, leaving us with little option but to dance to their merry tune.
And we’ve all gone along with it, handing over the primary responsibility for web leads, traffic and our inventory, making them stronger in the process – and us all the poorer. Every time they raise their fees, our profits dwindle as they drive up returns for their shareholders.
Trust me, their model is to continue to charge more for their membership fees and display products. But I say ‘no more’. If they keep tugging our strings, those strings will snap, leaving us like a heap of broken marionettes.
It’s no secret that Spicerhaart are members of OnTheMarket.com and our second portal of choice is Rightmove.
There’s a reason we’re part of an agents-owned site – one which is gaining in recognition and traffic with almost 20m visitors since launch and more than 5,000 members.
That’s so we can control our own future, without extortionate fee increases tipping everyone over the edge.
As the property website of Agents’ Mutual, agents using OnTheMarket.com have the opportunity to fix fees until 2020, ending any uncertainty. It’s important we have this choice – and don’t leave portal supremacy in too few hands.
The estate agency industry is in turmoil, with increased competition – both on our high streets and online; everyone is fighting for a share of the same markets. If we keep handing the power to the portals, we’ll only make them stronger. Just like we’ve all done with Amazon and Google.
Look back a decade and see how much has changed and how much our online costs have gone up. Now look forward a decade and what do you see?
If we all carry on with our portal strategy, they will keep taking our profits away. I therefore urge everyone to think about their long-term online and portal strategies.
Otherwise, maybe the portals will be the ones selling houses, not us.
As puppets, we’ll have crippled ourselves; and we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
Setting new standards in estate agency
Starting up as an estate agent is relatively easy. That’s why the market has become saturated with agents going it alone or starting out in the current climate.
But with new consumer protection legislation coming into force in the autumn, how many estate agents are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to meeting Trading Standards requirements?
A new government-funded website – businesscompanion.info – has been set up by trading standards experts to help raise awareness.
Without exams or licensing to keep a check on our profession, which I’ve long called for, the very least that new entrants can do is to read up on their responsibilities.
Moving forward with the times
One thing that can be said for increased competition is that it keeps you on your toes. Not only do we all constantly have to invest in new technology and websites, we have to keep our brands fresh and our advertising interesting.
Yet I look around at some of the corporates and see some of the same old brands with outdated images that haven’t changed for 20 years.
With local independents getting their act together and upping their game, alongside new firms coming into the market, there’s a lot more quality marketing and engagement online. Isn’t it time for some of the bigger companies to spend some money and keep up with the competition?
There’s no point in being an oil tanker in a sea of speedboats. You need to be able to turn quickly and go with the tide. Otherwise you run the risk of being left high and dry.