‘Estate agents will close offices in 2011, but not us’ says newly appointed financial services director to Countrywide, Nigel Stockton.

In a recent interview with industry publication The Negotiator, Mr Stockton states that the independent agent will suffer from lack of volumes this year but that the mighty, often impersonal corporate agencies like Countrywide who own Bairstow Eves, Abbotts and John D Wood, to name but a few, will somehow thrive.

This is curious. The big multiples often have the highest selling fees and are less and less popular amongst property owners who simply will not pay through the nose to sell their homes anymore. They also have colossal overheads. Despite, in fact, closing 10% of their branch offices since 2008, Countrywide still have 900 or so premises to maintain. That explains why their estate agency division lost £1.5 million in each month it traded last year.

So given their extreme commissions in an age of austerity, of careful consumerism and the rise of cheaper and better online estate agents as their real competition, it’s an odd statement to make when Mr Stockton’s own organisation appears to be more vulnerable than the independent firms on the High Street that in just about every town across the UK beat the corporate agents on market share position locally.

But regardless of the battle between the big chains and the smaller High Street guys, they are all pricey by comparison and best avoided. Internet estate agents are set to shake them all up a fair bit from here on with lower fees, better marketing exposure and longer opening hours. More… For less.

Selling property online is today’s ‘David’ but soon set to be a goliath among property sellers for sure. Indeed it is Countrywide that should beware of the growing giant.

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