Agents risk becoming 'commoditised'

Estate agents must provide more value to customers than merely processing a transaction, or risk becoming a commodity should they fail to step up and do more for customers.

Smaller practices are often nimbler than franchises and have stronger ties to the community, which may assist as a way to ‘future-proof’ a business.

Christopher Bates, founding director of Canopy Private Financial Advisers, said the problem affecting today’s estate agents is that whether you are selling or renting the challenge is if a client only sees you as a basic service provider and doesn’t value what you can do.

“The industry is becoming commoditised. By the time potential buyers have approached a real estate agent they have already looked at 15 properties and it is getting easier for people not to need an estate agent,” Mr Bates said.

“Expectations for property sales come in so high and even if you are great at what you do and perform great service, people don’t always see the value in that because clients expect only the best price, whereas the value for an estate agent is taking a much better holistic approach.

“To start offering value you have to understand the ways you can help to educate clients on all the areas they need to think about… the market is hot at the moment, there is a lot more stock on the market and in those times people are going to go to an estate agent they trust and stop seeing their relationship as only transactional.”

Empire Estate Agents principal Jamie Horner said there was an era where both buyers and vendors completely discounted estate agents and stopped using them. Ms Horner said, in general, potential buyers and vendors did this to avoid paying fees, but often only two or three weeks into the campaign decide it’s worth the money to hire an agent to sell on their behalf.

“About 10 years ago everyone was attempting to sell their properties themselves but they missed out on market knowledge and how best to design contracts, and of course, how to negotiate effectively,” Ms Horner said.

“The value an estate agent offers now goes beyond the transaction because they advise on presentation and marketing and have a high level of experience with what works for digital photography styles and property marketing since people often buy from photographs.

“Negotiation of price is always where an estate agent becomes an objective asset as well as during the home opening, inspections and while getting ready for an inspection. Some people can take between six months and a year to make a home ready for actual presentation.”

McCarthy Real Estate principal Gerard McCarthy said organising quotes for important things such as landscaping, painting and flooring is integral to adding value to a property.

Mr McCarthy said while all the niceties of marketing put a house in its best light, often the worth of a real estate agent comes to play during sale negotiations.

“There’s also the skill of not disclosing the price at auction and letting the market determine the price, or allowing buyers to reach a figure they are willing to pay,” he said. 

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