Online Agents Aren't Dead, But Neither is the High Street Agent

Published: 02/01/2019 By Elliott Rowland

With the collapse of Emoov & Hatched, some people are heralding the collapse of the online estate agent. Not only would this judgement be a tad premature, but anyone in the estate agency industry who are taking a little too much delight in this prediction, are failing to learn a valuable lesson.

For starters, the online agent isn’t dead. Purple Bricks, who were valued at £240m when they IPO’d on the London stock exchange in December 2015, may have suffered a share price fall during 2018, but such is the nature of a share price. With increasing revenues and gross profits, it continues to be a major disruptor in the property industry, with major international plans.  

Those looking, or rather hoping, that the fall in the share price or operating profits signals the downfall of this online behemoth, should really asking themselves one question - Is this what you want to happen, or what you think will happen?

Hoping your rivals will just disappear and leave you to mop up the profits isn’t realistic. We should embrace competition for the improvements it makes to the industry as a whole, and look to what the rise of the online agent can do to help you understand what the consumer wants from a modern estate agency.

The thing is, it’s never been a binary choice between online or the High Street. Not everyone wants to sell their house online, nor does everyone want to sell or buy property in the “traditional” way. What the consumer wants from the property market is a whole spectrum of services.

All online agents have shown us, is that people like to save money and that they like to do things online. None of this should really be a surprise to any of us. If we take the example of online businesses such as Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo. What they have done is enabled smaller, local takeaways to branch out to a wider audience then they “traditionally” ever could. These apps haven’t been the death of the takeaway, far from it, they just show we don’t necessarily want to pick up the phone and speak to someone to order it anymore.

The world has changed, and those that have adapted have thrived, those who have failed to adapt have fallen by the wayside. Such has been the way of business since, well, forever. We’re just seeing the evolution occur in a different digital context.

Purple Bricks and the other online agents don’t own the digital space. In fact, all they offer is a specific business model, enabled by the clever use of technology to aid automation.  The fact is, that anyone with a website can be online. Anyone cleverly using technology can give the consumer another avenue to enable their business. All you have to do, is embrace it.

Because the thing is, lots of people still want your service. They just want to be able to access it online for convenience. The ability to book a viewing online, or allow a vendor/landlord to view their documents through an online account on your website, will help them to do that. But more than that, it allows you to concentrate on the areas where you do add value to the marketplace and increase your efficiency.

The advantage that Purple Bricks has currently, is that they understand the digital space better. They know how important Google searches are for generating new business, and they understand the customer journey the consumer wants to go through on their website to convert that initial interest into solid business. You can learn from what they are doing, and there is wealth of experience within the Proptech industry who can help you navigate the digital world. Of course, it’s not easy, and sometimes the choice of suppliers and services can seem overwhelming. However, it’s presents you with an opportunity.

Online agents don’t own the online space, anyone can. But you do own your service, your business model, and your experience, which can give you the best of the both worlds if you work for it.

You know what they say. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. So, give online a hug, embrace it, and you might just find your business is more successful than ever.

Elliott Rowland is the Operations Director for Webdadi Ltd who has been working in the Proptech industry for over 8 years.