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November 2010

Where there's a will...

Agencies extending their services amid recession gloom

ESTATE agencies around the country are extending  the range of their services as the housing market contends with the vagaries of the recession.

And the strategic use of technology and new media in terms of promotion to the maximum number of potential clients is more important than ever as agencies contend with the biggest economic slump for decades.

A recent survey carried out on behalf of trends and statistics experts Enders Analysis found that agencies of all sizes realise the importance need for diversification in the light of the general contraction in the market because of the general economic circumstances.

For example, the two biggest estate agency groups in the country, Countrywide and Connells, with more than 1,500 offices between them, have recently added will writing among many other new features to their portfolios.

Estate agencies of note pride themselves on quality service, not just the basic business of buying and selling homes.  That would explain the rise of ventures such as the ‘Personal Agent’ scheme successfully introduced by Hunters Estate Agency.

The agency is based in Yorkshire but has an ever-growing presence all over the country thanks to its Personal Agent scheme, whereby agents are based from home and offer the best in personal service, without High Street overheads.

As far as property listing is concerned, Connells lists all its properties on Rightmove – still by far the most popular site with agencies despite a recent increase in subscription rates - and Connells has recently formed a strategic partnership with the Zoopla portal.

The partnership includes a long-term listing agreement and a seat on the Zoopla board of directors.

Countrywide, one of the founders of Rightmove along with Connells  in 2000, have also stayed loyal to the long-time leading portal but most significantly recently have added to their on-line presence by the formation of Propertywide, offering a wider range of properties and services.

The sample of agencies around the country approached for the survey appear to have taken the recent Rightmove price rise in their stride, probably more out of necessity than choice.

As Ivor Dickinson, MD of London agency Douglas and Gordon, said: “(The price increase is) fine – as long as they continue to supply a number of leads.”

All agencies seem to have taken a careful look at newspaper advertising in recent times and in many cases have reduced their spend in that sector, finding that it offers the least value for money in terms of leads.

But just as the vast majority of agencies are reluctant to leave the High Street behind and plump for just an online presence, many prefer to stick with some newspaper advertising, even in a much-reduced form, as well as an online presence.

The combination offers the best of both worlds and agents appear to prefer it that way.

It acknowledges  the need to constantly keep moving forward but with a bow to the traditions which gave theagents their good name in the first place - and keeps clients coming back time after time when they decide to enter the market.

What the agencies have to say – click the links below for some sample survey results:

Countrywide >>

Connells >>

Hunters >>

Spicerhaart >>

Kinleigh Folkard and Heyward >>

Harrison Murray >>