Estate Agency Today

Traditional, Hybrid, Online, Full Service, No Frills … everyone has an opinion, everyone has a (different) definition, everyone has a theory.

It’s not that long ago, though, that the talk was of how estate agents would all disappear completely. Of how the entire industry would be disintermediated. That had been the fate of so many products and services as a result of the web, it was only a matter of time before it was the turn of those nasty estate agents.

Well here we are, many years after we first advertised all of our for sale stock on a single “internet page” and we’re all still here. No sniff of disintermediation. Why is that?

There’s a simple fact that so many external observers overlook when they compare home purchase to the retailing of other products and services. A home is not a product. It is not a commodity. No two homes are the same, no two human stories are the same, no two transactions are the same.

How many times have we sold a house to someone that was completely different from anything that they described to us when they first registered? Lots of times, more times than not. Maybe every time. The simple fact is that there is a dream element, a love element at play in home purchase that isn’t there in quite the same way in the retailing of products and services. Home buyers can only ever go so far in specifying their dream home. OK we all have our red lines, but otherwise we can tick all the boxes we like but chances are we’ll fall in love with something completely different.

Blind date! One intriguing phenomenon of this online age is the preponderance of dating web sites. Visitors to the sites can (apparently!) tick boxes and select from menus to specify all manner of requirements and physical attributes that they desire in their partner. All very detailed, all very scientific. The database match is made and the date (the viewing) is booked.

But guess what, and here’s the thing, these two people who’ve ticked each other’s boxes meet and find that they simply don’t like each other. The very next day, one of them meets someone else who doesn’t meet a single one of the carefully selected criteria but it doesn’t matter one tiny bit because they fall in love.

We all know that technology is changing human behaviour, we see it every day. If human behaviour ever evolves to the point where people no longer need to meet until the day they get married, then maybe estate agency will be disintermediated. Maybe it will be dead?

Until then, proper estate agents will carry on helping people find what they didn’t know they were looking for.

With acknowledgement and thanks to Bob Scarff of Callwell Limited for this piece.