Property agents must adapt business models for changing times

It’s not surprising that, in a world that is changing fast, many business sectors are having to fundamentally change the way they work. And the property sector is no different.

With the rise of fintech (financial technology) and proptech (property technology) where start-ups are disrupting traditional ways of selling property with new products, it’s a case of adapt, innovate and change – or be left behind.

Major trends for the property sector in the UK

The State of the Nation report by ZPG, owner of many consumer-focused online platforms, including uSwitch and Zoopla, has identified four major trends for the sector. These trends are forcing changes in the traditional business model for high street property agents, and are having a big effect on reshaping the market. They are:

  • The rise in online agents.
  • Changing consumer expectations and demands.
  • Shifting economic outlook.
  • Government regulation.

The rise in online agents

Richard Carr house purchaseTen or more years ago, just 20% of people looking for a new property used online portals. Today, that figure is more than 70%. The continued rise in online property searches mean consumers are increasingly seeing the benefits of searching and selling online, particularly as fees are generally lower than the high street agents.

Traditional estate agents have higher costs, in part due to the number of staff and the physical offices they need to pay for. This often means it’s impossible to compete with the fixed-fee, low cost online agents.

To try and tap into this market, and differentiate themselves from the old way of working, many agents are investing in new online and offline services and products. These range from responsive websites, customer login portals to online chat. Investment, innovation and speed is necessary to encourage people to buy.

Changing consumer expectations and demands

Consumers expect speed, transparency and instant access to their property transactions. More than 30% of consumers want more support for the entire process of moving, and more than half want better value for money from their agent.

Consumer expectations are changing, as are buying behaviours. However, so are the kinds of solutions that property professionals can offer their clients. Innovation and technology offers new ways of engaging with customers to increase future business.

Shifting economic outlook

The research showed that one of the main concerns brought up by agents is the UK’s economy. Just over 60% said they feel unsure about the economy, up from 43% in 2016.

Consumers are also concerned, with only 31% feeling confident in the economy. As people start to make moves to spend less money, many are also postponing moving to a new house until Brexit is settled.

Government regulation

Yet more reports, legislation and consultations have been announced by the government. These are likely to have a big effect on UK agencies, with many working out ways to mitigate them. A big focus is the government’s new lettings fee bill, which will likely cause problems in the lettings industry.

How agents should adapt

All of this means agents must utilise technology and new products to offer more interactive, comprehensive and communicative support throughout the entire consumer journey.

Increasing marketing, offering flexible fees, being more available and giving clients access to ore information with both online and offline services are steps that every agent should take.

 – Richard Carr