The new chief executive of the Guild of Property Professionals has accused some online agents of carrying out “aggressive” marketing campaigns that have been “lacking in integrity.”
Iain McKenzie, speaking at a London seminar discussing online reviews and customer service in the agency industry, told the audience that traditional estate agents had behaved in “a very British way”, suggesting they had been reluctant to speak out against some online competitors.
Without naming any company he said that it was curious that some online agencies appeared to have more positive online reviews that they had ever had properties listed.
He specifically excluded eMoov from his comments; the same event, organised by online review company Feefo, also heard from Julie Morrissey, customer service manager at eMoov, who explained the process her agency used to vet online reviews.
The debate - which also included James Wyatt, partner at the Surrey agency Barton Wyatt, and business coach and author Paul Wearmouth - centred around new research conducted by Feefo suggesting an increasing number of home buyers and renters rely on reviews to inform their decision making when selecting an agent.
This was particularly the case for 25 to 34-year-olds, where 70 per cent say they rely chiefly on reviews when selecting.
However, trust in reviews remains a major issue, with only one in 10 respondents stating that they completely trust the reviews they read.
“As the younger generations enter the property market, estate agents will be increasingly judged through online reviews” says Matt West, chief marketing officer of Feefo. “Yet trust in the reviews themselves is evidently very important to these savvy consumers. Estate agents should therefore consider ways to guarantee that legitimate and transparent reviews are readily available to potential customers.”
The survey also revealed that trust in estate agents was seen as important for 28 per cent of consumers when choosing, with knowledge of the local market seen as the dominant factor by 42 per cent of consumers when they had properties valued.
The research also reveals that consumers have more positive attitudes towards estate agents than commonly supposed, with 88 per cent of consumers saying they were satisfied with the service they received from the last agent they used.
However, paperwork was identified as a grievance that the largest proportion of customers (46 per cent) would love to see technology sort out for them. Next on the list was reference-checking (36 per cent), followed by booking appointments (34 per cent).
“These results clearly show the positive work estate agents are doing to make sure customers are satisfied in the levels of service provided,” says the Guild’s Iain Mckenzie. “It’s refreshing to see that whilst there are problems, customers are confident that technology can help resolve these issues in the near future.”
Emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence are anticipated by 32 per cent of consumers to improve levels of service when engaging with estate agents. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of the 16-to-24 age group had the greatest level of belief that technology will transform estate agency.
Low fees are considered the most important deciding factor by 35 per cent of consumers choosing between online-only and traditional estate agents and quality of service is almost as decisive a factor for 34 per cent of consumers.
The research, commissioned by Feefo and conducted by polling organisation Censuswide, involved 1,152 individuals who had used estate and letting agents.
The debate was moderated by Estate Agent Today editor Graham Norwood and a comprehensive summary of what was said follows below, written by Conor Shilling from Angels Media - it was a very well-informed debate, and the report below makes fascinating reading.