Why do so many people think that showing people homes is all that agents do?

I often used to tell people that if they wanted to deal with Foxtons they should buy a ‘pay as you go’ phone, conduct all communication with them via that phone and, when the transaction is over, throw away the phone.

This would be the only way to avoid having a Foxtons operative call you every two months for effectively the rest of your life to enquire as to what might be going on in your property world.

Now, whilst making those comments tongue in cheek, there was a hint of admiration given that Foxtons were one of the first estate agents to recognise that mining data points, i.e. everyone who has ever interacted with the company, is by far the best way to get listings and make money.

This has been amply proved by their track record – and don’t be fooled by the share price: for a company that makes the cash they do, it looks cheap.

Many agents have sought to follow, and it’s a sad commentary on the industry that the majority of proprietary software produced over the last 20 years hasn’t made this at all easy.

Most systems were produced to match, not commercialise, and it’s now clear that one route to future profitability is to capture and utilise this data.

If you want to do it better you need more people digging, yet most companies have a finite resource, so how do you spend your money?

Talking of this, I thought I’d try an experiment last week.

I asked 20 non-estate agents what they thought estate agents did.

Twelve gave their top answer as “showing houses” while the same question put to estate agents yielded 75% of them replying “getting deals through”.

Furthermore, talking on live radio on Saturday, the host’s opinion, and that of many others I’ve spoken to, tallied with my own insofar as – apart from a small minority open to persuasion – most people have “bought” a property within 30 seconds of seeing it for the first time.

Buying property is an emotional process. Estate agents know this – and little they say or do will make a difference in influencing a buyer’s choice.

To this end, surely future estate agents will look different from the way they do now.

To my eyes, apart from portal advertising replacing print, not much has changed since I started in the late ’70s, and if the public’s perception is that all we do is show properties, then that’s a sad indictment on what we actually do.

What agents actually do is infinitely variable, but always vital, according to the vagaries of each deal, and the fact that the public still doesn’t get that makes the case of the high street agent trying to defend themselves against digital threats that much more difficult.

The perception (propagated by many a competitor) that agents are paid for simply showing people around IS a widely held view, like it or not. Knowing it’s NOT true doesn’t seem to make it go away.

With the vast majority of agents characterising themselves as high street, they need to educate the public and learn from the threats.

Human evolution has tended to work by learning from mistakes, but how many more can the agency world not afford to learn from?

* Ed Mead is now a director of outsourced viewing service Viewber and an independent property consultant / commentator


Email the story to a friend


  1. Fawkes

    PIE article from 2014 – http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/youre-worth-agents-actually/


    Tony Szabo’s LinkedIn Post – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-do-estate-agents-tony-szabo-fnaea?trk=mp-author-card


    Jane Gardeners original LinkedIn Post – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140827143504-45311277-estate-agents-working-hard-for-our-money

  2. AgentV

    Be interesting to see if anyone agrees on this with me, but I tend to find the more viewings we generate on a property, the more offers we get, the more offers we get, the higher offers we get. The vendor walks away with their very best end result, but overall  it’s much harder work for us than simply doing three or four viewings and recommending the first reasonable offer that is made. So there is just ‘showing people homes’ and there is ‘showing people homes’ the best way.

    However you are right in that I am sure the general public doesn’t understand this and I totally agree that high street agents need to ‘stand as one’ in getting things like this known and understood.


  3. femaleagent88

    If only Channel four would do a positive insight into any profession then the hard work that we do could be seen, I’m always reading bloggs about “day in the life” and I reporter saying how much we do that they didn;t realise but this then gets plastered on property bloggs, which lets face it the general public aren’t seeking out. The same as the car industry, which I do rememeber watching a programme about a dealer and it was all undercover, they didn’t come off badly, we just get “from Russia with love” the worst kind of estate agents representing an entire profession!!

    1. Ostrich17

      Some years ago Channel 4 had a series of programmes with Kirstie called “Property Chain” – whilst not necessarily promoting Estate Agents, it did give a good insight into the potential problems when moving house. Perhaps they should run it again – or could NAEA/RICS use some of the content to illustrate the role of a good EA?

  4. htsnom79

    It can be a bit of a catch 22, those sales which are essentially problem free and sale through with the bare minimum of input from agents other than logging milestones, a bit of updating here and there before submitting an invoice would appear to be money for old rope, especially in a market where it might only take a matter of days and a smattering of viewings to generate a MOS ( dont have a pop AgentV I’m only making a point ). Those sales which are not friction free, require a huge amount of time and creative problem solving, are inevitably stressful for all concerned and can leave all parties feeling somewhat bloodied and bruised, so you end with either the agent didn’t earn their money or the whole process was a nightmare from start to finish with the agent front and central, the best that you can aim for here is that your client ( the seller ) perceives you as in the trenches with them for the greater good which, when the message that you convey might not be what they want to hear, can easily be morphed into ‘ only interested in their commission ‘.


    1. AgentV

      Don’t worry htsnom79, I totally agree with you. In my area I believe most best offers are generally produced after lots of viewings and competition, but that’s just my particular area …however occasionally you sometimes get that very early killer offer from the buyer for whom the property ticks all their boxes, and they just want to secure it and not risk losing it to someone else. Obviously the skill is in recognising that and knowing when to draw the line….even if it is fairly early on. I think with longstanding experience of a particular local area you do just know that.

  5. Ding Dong

    sort of applies to lettings as well

    “all you do is collect the rent” for the %

    actually, the good landlords and tenants, subsidy the bad landlords and tenants.


  6. Woodentop

    Nice article and those that have been around long enough would probably say it applied decades ago, as well as to day and likely to in the future. What agents actually do is infinitely variable, but always vital, according to the vagaries of each deal, and the fact that the public still doesn’t get that makes the case of the high street agent trying to defend themselves against digital threats that much more difficult. An agent who takes the time with the vendor at the outset, educates and gets the instruction. If the lister is only in the property for 5 minutes they are trying to get the instruction on price and fees. All too often from my journeys around the country, effort is lacking. The successful agent is one that puts time in and educates both vendor and byer when taking offers, of the process ahead and their commitment to help. Or put another way, they never see how hard you work and just look at fees touted by on-line agents.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to prove that we offer a great service it is nearly always topped by a cheap fee and an inflated asking price. I’ve got more positive reviews on Google than all of my competitors put together.

    I know there are sensible people out there who do make a decision based on good advice, but they tend to be few and far between.

    Over the last 3 months the available stock in my area has swelled to approx 60% more than normal, but on a weekly basis I’m seeing more price reductions than new instructions. And they’re still not selling.

    To say the market here has stalled would be an understatement.

    BUT, vendors here are convinced that they can overprice by £25k and have an all singing – all dancing open day. Every single blinking one of them. They also expect to get above their over-inflated asking price.

    And the agents are all colluding with this – “You’ve got the best house in the best road, it’ll sell in minutes Mrs Goggins, we’ll show lots of people round.”

    The REASON that people think that all we do is show people round houses is because in 20 years of valuing properties, nearly every instruction I’ve ever lost has been because the other agent has behaved like this. Me explaining how good my customer care is just falls on deaf ears – customers SAY they want good customer service, but that is third on the list after price and fee.

    1. AgentV

      I have a specific strategy that I use for situations just like this. I tell the owner the story of ‘Buyer V’. You may already know it / or do it anyway, but if not, I am happy talk it through with you if it might help….. but not in open forum….contact me if you want to discuss.


You must be logged in to report this comment!

Comments are closed.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.