28 Mar Before You Sign On The Dotted Line.
Before you sign on the dotted line, ask this question.
It's ironic that estate agencies are now facing the same dilemma that they, historically, have presented to homeowners.
A new portal launches April 2nd 2021, amid the usual fanfare associated with anything "disruptive".
Is it any good? Can we trust them? Will we suffer if we aren't seen on Rightmove?
And like the pitch from most estate agencies, the answer is shrouded in confusion and doubt.
Is it any good?
Well, there will be more features than portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla. That isn't hard to achieve since those two dinosaurs haven't exactly blazed a trail in cutting-edge technology for the past decade. A duopoly tends to bring that complacency. Until it does no longer.
But features alone aren't a reason to choose one portal over another. Secret Properties, Sneak Peak and Matchmaker exhibit all the signs of data capture and I'm not convinced that a property portal needs to foster intrigue, titillation and the equivalent of Tinder in order to benefit either the agency or the homeowner.
The Secret Property feature will no doubt encourage as many fake listings as ever. On a par with the real purpose of a free virtual valuation tool, it's unlikely to benefit homeowners. "Register your details" no longer resonates with the majority of sane consumers, especially in a buyers' market. The only benefit will accrue to the site owner.
Sneak Peak? Allowing an agency to offer limited access prior to exposure on the other portals. What on earth is the point of restricting exposure on behalf of the homeowner? Hasn't the mantra always been "Wider exposure"?
Matchmaker? Perhaps it's just me, but if I'm looking to move, I don't need conversations with buyers, or with potential sellers. That's what I pay the agency for. Unless, of course, it's part of some longer term plan - denied, of course, at the outset, but hey ho, if the business is floated and new owners decide to do precisely that!!
Those features, individually, are to be found on sites such as www.homesearch.co.uk, and www.onthemarket.co.uk
"Always loved that house six door down? Let the owners know you're interested through Homesearch. When they come to the market, you'll know before anyone else."
That should be enough, surely. Who needs a social media dating site for homeowners?
It will appeal, of course, to the agents chasing the next shiny object.
But, the question of "Can We Trust Them?" should be foremost in the minds of many U.K estate agencies.
Can they trust a portal that seeks to disrupt that duopoly?
Just as homeowners ask "Can we trust the agency?", so should agencies ask themselves that very question of any new disruptor portal.
The pitch is very similar - plenty of promises, boasting and plenty of assurances. But just like agencies suffer from a negative reputation, this new kid on the block suffers from the negative reputation of its founders. And just like there are vendors that don't need to have trust, there are agencies that will sign-up to anything that promises cheaper. Agencies that may possibly later regret their lack of due diligence. Time will tell.
I prefer the stance of Robert May, founder of rival start-up property search platform Rummage4Property.
When asked whether he would like to see the decline of Rightmove, his response was this:
"I'm not trying to disrupt them, I'm trying to out-perform them."
Out-performing them shouldn't be that hard.
Almost every estate agency hates Rightmove. For its exorbitant fee increases, for its lack of empathy, for its excessive profit margins built on the back of data that's freely supplied by those very agents.
"A necessary evil." Lee Wainwright shortsightedly called them.
Expecting Rightmove, as a market leader, to be fair on their fee structure isn't practical. Its akin to asking Facebook to be fair to small advertisers and not to favor the large advertiser.
Out-performing them requires superior technology, transparency and, brand loyalty built through strong relationships. A partner - rather than a supplier.
Simply building an advanced platform and then proclaiming its USP to be "cheaper than" was foolish and myopic for Rummage4Property.
Estate agents need trust in a supplier/partner.
By, as Seth Godin so succinctly puts it, asking two questions:
"If I knew what you know, would I choose to buy what you sell?"
"After I've used this and experienced it, will I be glad I believed the story, or will I feel ripped off?"
Before you sign on the dotted line, before you give breath to the entity that is aiming to do to portals what PurpleBricks did to estate agency, ask those two questions.
Ask whether your estate agency business would be better with a supplier, or a trusted partner?
I've had opportunity in the past few days to look at the rummage4propertyplatform platform.
It's head and shoulders, in my opinion, above the Boomin platform.
In that it gives back the power to the agency. Re-directs homeowners straight back to the agency website.
In that it doesn't collect and sell data to advertisers.
In that it's based on Google search and is 5G compliant.
In that it is simplicity itself when it comes to membership fees. Nothing complex. Nothing vague.
In that it doesn't need banner ads that distract attention from the very thing you're trying to sell.
In that it offers 'smart technology' that enables one to view listings from your smartphone straight onto High Resolution big-screen home T.V - no more the 'small homes and small heads' , classified ads mentality of a portal. Immersive, I think they call it.
And finally, in that with Robert May, agencies have one of the most respected and forward-thinking individuals. Someone that is genuinely interested in helping agents prosper - rather than a supplier that is intent on profiting from so-called disruption. Has the story been told well? Not for one moment, but that is simple to fix.
So, before you sign on the dotted line, do what vendors/landlords do - shop around and find the best fit for your agency.
"Transforming the property market for everyone."
Good luck with that! I don't think the founders even understand how the world has changed.
It's no longer enough to group people together based on the traditional demographics of Age, Location, Sex, Gender, Ethnicity and Income. The new demographics are based on Interests, passions, skills, beliefs and values. Particularly beliefs and values.
Running a £5 million T.V and social media ad campaign has all the hallmarks of a business that wants to buy its way into the consciousness of consumers. Focusing on brand awareness, rather than the message of something that truly differentiates.
There are still consumers and business that will fall for this unsubtle ploy, but they're fast becoming a minority.
Chris Guillebeau 's book, The $100 Start-Up, had this to say:
"Style without substance = flash.
Substance without style = unknown.
Style with substance = impact."
Getting the substance is one half. Getting the style, the other.
It's for agencies to determine which applies to Boomin and which to Rummage4Property.
It is far easier to add style than it is to add substance. Which is why agencies need to think twice before they sign on the dotted line.