For decades, the process of buying or selling a home in the UK remained unchanged. An agent would put up pictures in their shop windows, displaying their properties. They would advertise through traditional channels and hope that some small sliver of viewers would contact them and thus create a lead. Reputations were built over generations and relied upon to generate new business via word of mouth. Today, an entirely new model is being created and driven by new technology built from the ground up to give consumers more of what they want, and a new generation of estate agents are taking advantage of it.
The traditional brick and mortar estate agency now finds itself in competition with online agencies, which can offer 24/7 availability and lower fees. This pressure is giving rise to the “hybrid agency”, which uses the same kind of technology in conjunction with face-to-face interactions to bring customers the best of both worlds and address the concerns of a modern consumer.
Hybrid estate agencies: What customers want
Below is a quick look at what percentage of consumers claim are important issues they would like addressed:
- Charging excessive fees – 54%
- Impersonal service – 23%
- Inflexible hours – 21%
- Showing properties that don’t fit – 41%
- Not returning phone calls – 41%
A cursory glance at those figures will reveal that what consumers really want is better, more personal service, in addition to greater availability. This may explain why Purplebricks conducts 70% of their business outside normal operating hours. It is clear that customers, accustomed to the 24/7 nature of the internet, are now beginning to expect this level of service in all other aspects of their lives and are not willing to settle for less.
For the traditional shop front, this poses a problem. Creating a website is just the first step in addressing these demands, but what comes next? Stepping into the ever-advancing world of technology can seem daunting, but these days, the transition from traditional model to hybrid agency is easier than ever.
‘The Cloud’ and Changing Technology
If you knew nothing else about technology, you would at least know that it moves fast and is getting faster all the time. What is cutting edge today soon becomes obsolete, making investments in tech seem like a dangerous bet. How can you be sure that what you have today will still be useful in a month? That may have been true in years past, but the arrival of cloud services has done much to address those fears.
Cloud-based solutions do not require the large outlay of money that used to be the hallmark of tech upgrades. If you wanted a new computer, you had to spend money and buy it. Nowadays, the computer is just a tool that allows access to the real work that is being done in the cloud. The benefits of such a system are immediate.
- Instant upgrades mean software is always up-to-date
- Security updates keep data safe from evolving threats
- No expensive hardware is needed to access the cloud
- ‘Always on’ means ‘always available’
Because of this, cloud-based software is easier to adopt in the beginning, and makes adapting in the future simpler and faster as well. Cloud-based software solutions are about as close to “future proof” as a business can get. It’s not difficult to see why many agencies would seek to take advantage of this technology while also maintaining a traditional shop front, creating a hybrid agency.
Benefits of The Hybrid Model
The above list makes it clear that technology alone will not create a successful agency. Consumers still want a human touch, and buying a home is one of the more stressful events in a person’s life. The speed and convenience of the internet has pushed Purplebricks to the forefront of people’s minds, but even they recognize the need for a physical presence. As a result, they have ramped up their hiring of local property experts to address this concern. As we’ve mentioned before ‘The Year Ahead’, once a disruptor enters a market, they almost always have to adapt their model.
Traditional brick-and-mortar agencies, strangely, find themselves in a unique position. They already have a physical location. They already are local experts. And they are, therefore, already more personal than purely online agencies. This means that it is less problematic for them to adapt to the changing model than it is for an online agency to become local. Getting software, in other words, is easier than setting up shop in a community. So how does technology benefit an agency, specifically, and how would one go about it? To answer these questions, let’s first look at the benefits.
- Automated tasks free up agents to focus on customer service
- Take advantage of 24/7 availability via the internet
- More opportunities for extracting maximum value
- Increase speed and flexibility
As an exercise, let’s examine the old model versus the newer, tech-based model to see how the different approaches would handle the same situation. In the past, for example, if an agent wanted to create a brochure for a specific property, they would tour the site with the seller while taking notes and photographs. Once that was completed, they would have to return to their office, sit down and start typing, editing photos and so forth. They would then have to get approval from the seller before then sending it off to be printed.
Now imagine the agent of the future who shows up to the meeting with an iPad. During the tour, they take photos and instantly incorporate those photos into a template, complete with text and information the seller wishes to advertise. At the end of the meeting, they can show the seller their customised brochure and have it approved or amended right on the spot. The agent could then email that brochure to a list of buyers in their database who are looking for such a property. All of this happens before the outdated agent even sits down at their desk.
That same database would also contain information on removals companies, conveyancing, insurance brokers, lawyers and more, allowing the agent to make introductions between the best possible matches and extract more value from a single sale than they may have before. This also might help them address the concern over excessive fees, as even a slight drop in those fees might attract new customers, leaving them better off overall as a result.
Client Login Area
Another exciting development that takes advantage of your full database is the upcoming Client Login Area. This new feature will allow vendors to sign in, and at a glance, view activity across multiple properties, status, updates, and more. This can also greatly increase the ease of communication with the agent since both parties will have access to the same information and can send messages via the app. Buyers, Sellers, Tenants or Landlords can also use the same system to search for similar properties, save them, update images, manage rent payments and log and book viewings or valuations. The Client Login Area will help support the hybrid agent by providing a central hub that keeps everyone on the same page and up to date.
Becoming a Hybrid Agency
As we have seen, adopting this new technology isn’t as scary as it may seem and the benefits are numerous. What then, are the first steps to becoming an agency equipped to meet these new demands? Rezi was designed for just this sort of thing. A powerful API fifteen years in the making, Rezi can automate tasks like emails and reminders, keeping an agent informed as to whom they should be contacting, for instance. It was created to integrate with almost any third party software and to evolve with the times, making it virtually future proof. This flexibility also means that an agent can bring their own creativity and use it in new, exciting ways. Want to send flowers to congratulate a new homeowner? Rezi can do it for you, complete with a customised, personal note. Have an idea on how to improve your business or customer relations? Rezi can help you realise those ambitions.
One of Rezi’s most powerful tools are its fully customisable workflows. With minimal effort, agents can set up automated and personalised workflows to handle tasks that would otherwise require time and attention better spent on customer service. These workflows can handle things as mundane as emails and reminders, or something else entirely, like automatically sending clients a bouquet of flowers on the anniversary of buying their home.
Once implemented, these solutions are designed to automate as much of your business processes as you like, leaving you with more time to focus on customer service. They also help maintain a consistent brand as all of your materials originate in the same place. With such power behind them, you might think creating an automated workflow would require a degree in computing, however, the entire Rezi interface is built to be simple and easy to use, helping you get the most out of its technology
With so many options for customisation, Rezi is the best way to turn your brick and mortar operation into a hybrid agency designed to get the most out of evolving technology. As the market changes, Rezi helps you change with it to meet the future head on. Becoming a hybrid agency might have seemed daunting in the past, but with Rezi’s software, it’s easier than ever. Our experts will make sure that Rezi fully integrates into your business and will oversee the transition to ensure fewer issues after launch. If you’ve ever wondered how you might grow your business by taking advantage of the newest software, Rezi is here to help.