In the Financial Times this week, you can find an article titled ‘Why people should love estate agents’, written by Ed Mead, an executive director at Douglas & Gordon Estate Agents. It poses a good question – why should people love estate agents? Ed admits that even after 35 years as an agent, he’s still unwilling to admit his profession when someone asks him what he does. That’s not surprising though, lots of people really hate estate agents. Type “estate agents are” into a Google search and autofill will present you with “estate agents are useless”, “estate agents are crooks”, “estate agents are evil”, “estate agents are liars”, “estate agents are awful”. It’s not high praise to say the least, and it’s not that hard to see why people might not like them – after all, they’re charging a lot of money in commission fees – for the price people are having to pay, they should get a service that matches the price. Instead, they’re getting lazy, money minded estate agents from an unregulated industry.
We’re so used to the stereotypical image of the traditional estate agent, which hasn’t changed in years – smarmy and arrogant throwing out false promises left right and centre. But it would be unfair to say they’re all like that – Ed Mead, for example, though perhaps a bit heavy handed on spinning a sob story for the struggle of the estate agent – doesn’t seem all that bad, but he’s left to pick up the carnage left behind by the ‘useless, evil, lying, awful crooks’ of the estate agency world. He rightly points out that agents play an important role in ‘’disposing of your most important asset”, and “surely you should love them for that”. When estate agents are pulling tricks like bait and switch – using a well-established and experienced agent to value your home and then once you’ve signed up, leaving you in the hands of a less experienced (and more useless) agent – it’s only natural that customers won’t be left impressed with the service they’re paying out for.
You are trusting them to sell what is most likely your most expensive asset, so realistically you want someone who is not only trustworthy but hardworking too – and one of the biggest criticisms of agents is that they only care about the money they’re making off commission.
Constantly deflecting any blame when something goes wrong, as Mead does, saying “it’s not actually our fault when their dream crashes around them” and “the seller will rail against the agent who is powerless” is all well and good, but customers want to work with an agent who’s going to hold their hands up and admit when they’re wrong, and do their upmost to amend it.
According to Mead, “there is one very good reason why you should love your agent. Very few property dreams come true without one” but I don’t think this is the case anymore now we’re a modern age of digital convenience. You don’t need to rely on a travel agent anymore to book a place to stay, you can just log onto Airbnb. If you want a taxi, you can do it from the click of a button on your phone, so why shouldn’t selling your home be as easy as that? Rightmove and Zoopla get 100 million and 50 million views a month respectively, and 98% of house hunters start their search on the internet, so why are estate agents still reluctant to move off the high street onto the online world? Maybe traditional agents do still have a place in this digitally evolving world. But, for me, they need to not so much up their game as learn the rules of how it is played. If they want to earn their commission prove to people what they do to earn it. Unfortunately for Mr. Mead crying about people hating your profession is not the same as proving that opinion wrong. Adapt or die I say.