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Online .v. High Street

This week, LSL – one of the largest estate agents in the UK – announced the closure of 124 of their High Street offices. It has been widely reported that the reasoning behind the closures of so many of their branches was down to the rise of the Online Estate Agent… I beg to differ.

A couple of months ago, we were talking about the demise of Emoov and Tepilo – two of the largest Online Estate Agents – so maybe the answer lies elsewhere.

It’s no secret that the current issues surrounding Brexit are of concern, but this is not the only factor. Countrywide have seen their share price fall almost 90% in the last 12 months alone. My theory is that neither the old High Street model nor the new Online model are fit for purpose.

The problem with both models is the size of the corporations. Large corporations lack a personal touch and are restricted in the services they can offer their customers due to rigid company policies. If you call up your local estate agent, you want to speak to just that… not some person sitting in a call centre 200 miles from your property.

The footfall in offices is at an all-time low but customers still want that tangible office where they can visit their local property expert and resolve any issues. Face to face interaction is of paramount importance in this industry as the main qualities a customer looks for when choosing an estate agent is ‘honesty and trust’… this is hard to build up and maintain over the telephone or via email.

I truly believe that the only way forward is a mix of Online and High Street… also known as Hybrid. There needs to be large hubs where people can visit their local expert; this will help reduce the overheads of several bespoke High Street offices whilst maintaining a base where customers are welcome to walk through the door.

Smaller independent agents have a place in the market as these have the personal touch that the large corporations fail to provide. Instead of being a number, customers feel like they are cared about and their needs are met.

The only question is, which agent will carry the baton and lead the way to the new revolution?

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