I am currently in the process of selling my house. After seven years and lots of work, it is time for a change and we have identified a suitable ‘project’ in the village.
It has been a while since I last spoke to an estate agent, so it was interesting to see how this ‘profession’ has progressed in recent years. Inviting these often unpopular people into my home also gave me the chance to consider elements of our own proposition.
As I would do with any service, I started by asking for some referrals from friends who had recently moved home. Facebook made this easy, with plenty of suggestions coming in as soon as I mentioned I was thinking about selling up. If you are thinking about how your own clients find you, chances are they have asked around on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn before picking up the phone.
Before contacting recommended agents, I checked them out online. The quality of their websites helped me to narrow down the field from the five that had been recommended to the two with whom I wanted to spend time considering further.
I wanted to see a professional looking website that had been recently and regularly updated. A few dropped out of contention because of outdated content or sloppy design. When the service being offered is marketing one of the most valuable assets you own, you want to ensure the firm you choose is capable of marketing their own business.
Meeting with the estate agents gave me a chance to compare different propositions. Whilst essentially offering the same service, both approached it slightly differently.
The first had some innovative ideas around marketing with a range of asking prices, offering a professional photography package and holding an ‘open house’ to build competitive pressure. The second was slightly more traditional, offering a more hands on approach to selling property.
There was also a difference between the individuals. Warning signs kept appearing during the first meeting. He was a nice enough chap, but had clearly spent a lot of time at the old school of selling. He engaged in lots of talking and little real engagement. I got the impression that he was determined to use up every hour of the allotted appointment time we had agreed, whether he needed to or not.
And then we moved onto pricing.
Given the recent changes introduced by the RDR, I was looking for any ideas about how estate agents are approaching pricing their services in the current market. The first proposed a flat fee for their services.
What flat fee actually meant was a percentage of the sale price converted into a monetary amount. I guess that approach fools some customers into thinking that they are getting better value. Converting it back to a (very uncompetitive) percentage was easy enough.
The second estate agent had the more traditional percentage based approach to pricing. They suggested one price and quickly offered a discount when I stayed quiet and made a slightly concerned looking face.
As much as we might not like to admit it, there is little difference between IFAs and estate agents.
Yes, we are both selling different things, but both are offering a service and both are becoming increasingly professionalised, with estate agents now subscribing to a reasonable sounding code of conduct and ombudsman service.
It makes sense to think about how we present our own propositions when considering how other business types present their own. Why and how we choose service providers tells us lots of about why and how our clients choose us.
Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice Ltd