I’m intrigued by the comments on the Property Industry Eye website today by traditional agents in their ever louder quest to protect themselves against the better value proposition that we offer to people wanting to sell a home. The arguments are somewhat reminiscent of famous historical predictions such as these….

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

“The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” -– Charlie Chaplin, actor, 1916

Since I founded eMoov.co.uk in 2010 I have seen an interesting transition in the attitude of the high street agent. First, the new online sector was entirely ignored. Then, laughed at. More latterly, the traditionalists have fought against us in ever more vociferous terms, just like the incumbents of other industries that have been disrupted by technological efficiency over the years. To me this is satisfying as it shows that we are being taken seriously.

What we hear from the dyed in the wool estate agency establishment are appeals to the consumer (and each other) that go something like this…

‘Online estate agents are not proper agents’

‘They don’t have the local knowledge that an agent needs to perform well’

‘Only a high street agent can achieve the best price’

‘Customer service is better from high street agents’

So let’s deal with these misnomers in turn. Because they are exactly that, knee-jerk inaccuracies that seek only to protect the mainstream estate agency industry and, above all, their unjustifiable fee structure which is predicated around the cost of overheads, not service quality.

Online estate agents vary in approach. Just like traditional agents vary from each other. But the entire ethos of online estate agents like eMoov.co.uk and most others is that they provide the same media, viewing scheduling, advice, offer negotiation and sales progression that bricks and mortar agents do. To try to contend otherwise is either borne of ignorance or an attempt to deceive the public.

Is local knowledge really a defensibility? Don’t buyers already know where they want to buy and have researched areas online and noted the various statistics that are important to them? In my 17 years in the business I have never managed to persuade a buyer to move to a particular town because I have said it’s ‘great’ or because I happen to be able to recount where all of the coffee shops and local play areas are.

The most recent critique of the internet agent is that ‘surely’ they cannot achieve the best price. A contention that is more from a position of hope than fact. Unfortunately for our mainstream colleagues, we do achieve prices that are as good. Better even. Hometrack recently published research that the average agent is achieving 96% of asking price (March 2014). Our week to week stats show that we are currently achieving 99% of asking price. 103% in London. And so this is yet another argument that simply does not bear out for the high street antagonists.

Finally, customer service. Come on. Are the public really expected to believe that the service being conveyed by the UK’s 13,000 estate agencies is at a John Lewis level? A glimpse at any third party review site that you care to choose shows that, review for review, online agents have a far, far higher rating than high street firms. Annoying, but true.

I do understand the aggression being displayed towards online estate agents. I really do. But we’re not going away. And suggesting, as one commentator has today, that ‘…they should be reported to Trading Standards…’ is a bit pitiful really.

Sellers are fast waking up to the alternative that we offer in providing a demonstrably similar offering to traditional agents at a far keener fee to what is now an Expedia/Ocado/iTunes/GoCompare consumer. It’s progress.

Play fair rather than trying to hold back a tide that is one of absolute inevitability. Inevitable whether the incumbents like it or not and regardless of them complaining to the portals, Advertising Standards, Trading Standards, the Ombudsman, the NAEA etc etc.

For there is absolutely nothing to complain about except, perhaps, that they themselves did not see this coming and adapt as I did four years ago.

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