Sometimes it’s so easy to get so involved in your own business that you can’t see the wood for the trees. When I do my regular LBC slots with Monty and listen to caller’s issues in the real world, it really helps lift my head up out of the woods. For my own business it took a piece written by our Chairman, a grizzled City veteran called Richard Cunningham, to help give me an overview of the estate agency industry.
Many talk about property prices (I’d still rather they talked more about volumes but ‘twas always thus) and the press have been understandably focused on online vs high street.
But what Richard did in his piece, which is currently sitting with a broadsheet waiting for a slot, hopefully, was to focus on how any estate agency business has to be efficient first and foremost. Many point to service levels that can differentiate the high street from some online agents, but what definitely hasn’t changed for generations is the fact that many estate agents’ offices are full of people whose time is not used to best effect. Having people sitting around waiting for the phone to ring and then possibly getting some viewings is simply not an efficient use of a fixed resource. Only this morning an established six-branch outfit in Derbyshire has been bought out of administration after high fixed costs were blamed for fatal losses.
Mortgage broking has changed over the years, and I’m pretty sure the estate agency world could learn from those changes. The admin involved in presenting a potential borrower, one that could fall away and yield zero from an income perspective just like estate agents, is complicated and time-consuming. But the ability to pull info from the web and communicate intelligently with borrowers, plus lessons learned from new tech threats that boldly struggle to fulfil their claim to be able to do the entire mortgage process online, has meant that many brokers have learned to be lean and mean. I’m not sure that’s something that many estate agents can yet claim, and there are still many struggling to see how.
The only reason someone of Richard’s calibre agreed to become Chairman at Viewber was that he could see how the efficiencies inherent in what we do could be a significant step on the path agents need to take to improve time and motion in a way that will enable to them to remain profitable.