Why weekend working is a festering issue in estate agency

In the last two weeks I’ve had similar conversations with the CEOs of some large and well-known independent companies.

Each of them reminded me how difficult it is to retain staff, even at a good upmarket company like Douglas & Gordon that was my experience when I was there.

We all know that dynamic young staff are an agency’s life blood, but agents wouldn’t function, or more particularly win and service instructions, without their experienced operators.

Problem is that they get older, expecting different things out of their weekends – like being with their families or making time to do the things they want. Inevitably there’s going to come a crunch point when they’re expected to work some Saturdays, and it usually coincides with another, probably upmarket, brand offering a them a job where they don’t have to.

With tech ever improving there’s also the danger they go and start up on their own from home and take some of your best customers with them.

The CEOs I have spoken to cite staff retention as one of their top three problems, and the reason it’s such an issue is the uptick in demand for weekend viewings.

This demand isn’t going to go away and I’m not sure that judging a buyer by their willingness to come out during normal working hours is going to cut the mustard any more.

Most hard-working families operate six days a week and only have a day a week to sort domestic stuff.

Younger buyers and tenants have embraced change in other industries and will look to do so in ours.

It’s been thrown into relief seeing that the way some clients have used my new business, by giving their negotiators two viewings each weekend until they get used to it.

They say it’s a complete success, staff largely have their weekends back and make money out of the viewings they’ve arranged.

They also use the viewings wisely, even as open houses. Staff love it, applicants love it, clients love it and agencies are making more money.

Many upmarket agencies use weekend staff where they can to relieve the burden on staff, so it’s not as if using non-branch staff is a disincentive to the buying and renting public.

Indeed a survey we recently commissioned found that 81% would have no problem being shown round by an independent person.

Senior staff and weekend working is a festering issue for many and is usually not sorted with cash: it’s a life/work balance thing.

Even Richard Branson is getting in on the act by suggesting many need to see work as fun, and could do a week’s work in three/four days.

Employment power used to rest with employers, but increasingly it’s the other way around.

It’s not showing any signs of going away and, from my ever-increasing contact with all sorts of agents, is becoming a bigger and bigger issue – solutions exist, but perhaps innovation needs to be looked at from a different angle.

* Ed Mead is co-founder of outsourced viewings service Viewber

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23 Comments

  1. surrey1

    Having young children makes working Saturday’s seem like a rest.

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  2. nextchapter

    These articles always make me laugh. Here’s a suggestion. Why not let everybody have the weekend off, heck let’s just work 4 days a week it’s the right thing to do says Ed mead. Oh and by the way. If you need people to cover the days off, I run a business that can help with viewings!

     

    Honestly. It’s the deception of these articles that wind me up.  I’d like to also point out, that any successful person, truly successful person gets in early, stays late and does what they have to do, to be at the top of their game.  I’m sure Richard Branson wasn’t doing a 4 day week and having weekends off when he was building his business. Articles like this just promote the idea that you can work less but gain more in a career.  It’s nonsense.

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    1. Bless You

      Yep at least put a disclaimer near the title. £35 for a viewing will only work in home counties anyway.

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  3. AgencyInsider

    I don’t like the thinly veiled pushing of his business but… he is correct in saying that weekend working is an issue for many; and he is correct in saying there are some solutions available. Ignore the issue at your peril because, for better or worse, the snowflake generation won’t poke up with working practices that were once the norm.

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    1. nextchapter

      I hate the term snowflake. It just means a unique indivudual.  Isn’t everyone unique? We have a team of millennials and they have a vision of the future, they’re unbelievably hardworking and on the back of this. They’ll have a wonderful future.  They honestly put so many others to shame. Due to their work ethic they’ll be far more successful than people that decide not to work as hard.  

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      1. CountryLass

        I’ve always taken the term ‘snowflake’ to mean a delicate little thing that goes to pieces and melts the second things are outside its ‘perfect’ setting.

        It’s what I call CountryKid when she starts whining about the fact CountryBaby is using the blue plate when she wanted it!

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        1. PeeBee

          CountryLass – of course you are correct – both in the context that that AgencyInsider uses the term and in its’ most general usage.

          And of course the irony is that being Millennials themselves, nextchapter’s post just proves the point.

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  4. JonnyBanana43

    Does Ed Mead pay PIE to promote his “articles”?

    Answer please PIE

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    1. Nick Salmon, M.D. Property Industry Eye

      No. He doesn’t.

      Ed is a regular contributor to EYE and his business interest is made clear.

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  5. Jrsteeve

    Yet another advertorial.

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    1. PeeBee

      Yes, it is – but there’s no ‘favouritism’ being shown here.  We all have the opportunity of submitting articles (including self-promotion pieces) for EYEs approval and publishing.

      Mr Mead simply does what 99.9% of us don’t.

      With most things, it swings both ways.  I’ve not been particularly welcoming of his offering in past posts – still aren’t if pushed to state my position – but clearly it is working for some.  I would like to think that Mr Mead is appreciative (ish… sort of… maybe in a “please just shut the f**k up, PeeBee kind of way…) of my comments as I believe he recognises genuine objections as that, as opposed to sour grapes.  I do know that if he wasn’t he’s big and bold enough to shoot down the best of barbed comments in an EYEblink.

      I, for one, would love to see more ‘reader submission’ in articles.  If nothing else, it gets all our danders up – and usually makes for an “interesting” comments thread…

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      1. AgentV

        I, for one, would love to see more ‘reader submission’ in articles.  If nothing else, it gets all our danders up – and usually makes for an “interesting” comments thread…

        Pee Bee, I think you may have just put the final impetus into motivating me to get writing again!

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        1. PeeBee

          AgentV – simple, clear advice always freely given… 
          Get
          It
          Done

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  6. AgentV

    Worked pretty much every Saturday I’ve needed to for the last eight years. It’s the most popular day for viewings by far, and I like to be ‘at the coal face’.

    I believe it is the most valuable day for me to learn about my business as well……feedback from viewers, meeting potential buyers with properties to sell, news from people about the market in general and what other agents are doing. Invaluable networking day!

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    1. MrIndependent

      I couldn’t agree more with this, I created a role for myself within a small independent firm last year which sees me often working 7 day’s a week, but in fairness I have total control of my diary and few of these days are the long hours I used to do with a corporate agent!

      Anyway, main point being that the weekends are absolute gold dust for creating leads – meeting people face to face and enthusiastically and knowledgeably showing them a house has literally talked my way through their door for me recently and I have subsequently instructed many of those properties to the market…

      crucially too, the feedback about other local agents staff they have just met, in particular the weekend or part time staff who they felt lacked knowledge, well that’s invaluable!!

      worth noting that I have a girlfriend and dog but no kids, so maybe my perspective would be different if I did, but I doubt it, as the weekends really do prove to be so fruitful  in what they create for me!!

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  7. ArthurHouse02

    In my personal experience i’ve staff retention has never been an issue, neither has working Saturdays. Pay your staff what they are worth, keep them motivated and make them feel important and valued and these issues dont arise. If Saturdays are a problem, hire a part time or weekender, but give them proper training, so when doing viewings they come across as a proper member of staff rather than a school kid.

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    1. MrIndependent

      well said – not just in agency, any business! If you treat your staff like s**t, neglect them or don’t show your appreciation and recognition regularly, shame on you and you deserve the repercussions!!!
      thats exactly why I left the corporate side of estate agency!!!

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  8. EAMD172

    I must say, I am not keen on advertorials listed as articles. This shows a huge bias towards his business, which is totally unnecessary.  We have around 40 staff with relatively low turnover most of which work every other Saturday. No complaints. It is actually an enjoyable day to work as it is shorter  and just doing the best bit of estate agency which is viewing and selling. A lieu day off during the week is much more restful and productive. We have people queueing up to work Saturdays who are largely very capable middle-aged ladies who also then provide holiday cover and sometimes end up working full time.  Some of our younger (snowflake) employees are the hardest grafters and  have a burning desire to succeed so hours and days are not an obstacle for them. I have never met a successful person who did not work extremely hard in their younger years of work, probably still do.

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  9. DarrelKwong43

    In the end, this site is all about creating debate and ensuring that they get visitors number up….

    I am sure the majority of the readers are clever enough to work out, whether or not, they wish to take up any offerings by ED.

    what I don’t like, is the article a few weeks back about referencing, which obviously had *fake* reviews posted.  Thankfully PIE removed them.

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  10. seenitall

    Gulp  – oh dear.   We arn’t open at weekends sorry.  I value our staff and my own work/life balance.

    Yes we may lose some viewings and some landlords but they are very few.    We don’t sell either so maybe that’s a different kettle of fish. 100% lettings.

    We do work hard during the working week and are successful for our clients and tenants and are good at gaining work.

    If a tenant is keen to rent a property they do in 95% cases juggle their time to the normal working week.  9am – 6pm Mon to Friday. If they cant or don’t want to from my experience they are not that serious.    Same with prospective landlords – when we did weekend viewings/valuation half would forget despite reminders and a large percent of the rest were just thinking not actually ready to do.     So I didn’t find the balance worthwhile for me and us.

    At the end of the day as the business owner Im happy with the balance and compromises we all have to decide upon.    I think with lettings (certainly with our older clients) its more of a steady, reliable service we give based upon repuation and solid results then a pop bang whiz type based upon low fees and young “hungry” 20 something bouncing all over the place.

     

      

     

     

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    1. AgentV

      We only do sales. Wished I could find an ‘Only Lettings’ agent who wants to expand into the Midlands, who we could work with, sharing resources.

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      1. surrey1

        Just start lettings. Got an office, got historic clients with buy to lets? 40% of our income is lettings, we’d be kaput without it over the past couple of years.

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  11. Ed Mead

    I thought this might get a few people going. Weekend working is the norm when you’re younger, I did it too, as I’m sure did Richard Branson. The issue is about making more money and differentiation, especially leveraging Sundays. No agent actually claims they can show any of their properties 24/7 because they can’t – there is a way to make that promise now and deliver on it, some customers are planning to say just that on their homepages and I look forward to seeing the results. I always enjoy the ‘banter’ on here and the likes of PeeBee and AgentV set the tone and don’t take any prisoners. Please bear in mind my experiences since leaving D&G are uniquely objective and have been formed in the course of getting Viewber up and running, so not mentioning (which I haven’t in this case you might notice) it is often difficult. I’m also well aware that most staff are happy, but there are very few senior negs who, if given the chance to answer honestly, would rather NOT work at weekends.

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