Many businesses have fallen victim to the internet. However, estate agents around the world have adapted themselves, allowing them to remain up to date with the latest trends. Even when there’s been a property market crash, estate agents have managed to get through it all. Mortgages, interest rates and house prices are constantly changing, which means that it’s essential for estate agencies to do all they can to help those who are looking to buy a property. Today we’re taking a look at how property marketing has changed over the years and also discussing what the future holds for estate agencies.
Where it All Started
While looking at how estate agents began may be very difficult, it’s important to understand how times have changed. The early history of estate agency started to thrive in London, just like many other popular industries. Established more than 200 years ago in 1805, Chestertons – originally based in the UK’s capital city – is one of the oldest estate agencies in the world. Over time it has become recognised as one of the most familiar names in property. These days, Chestertons has expanded the business into exciting new international markets, with the network covering 21 countries via 100 offices.
At the time, if people were walking around their local area, more often than not they’d browse what was on offer – even if it was just out of curiosity. But that didn’t matter, because back when estate agents were starting out, there wasn’t that much competition. So estate agencies knew that when the time came, you were likely to choose them as your first port of call. However, the more and more estate agents that set up a business, the more competitive the market became.
To market a property was known as kerb appeal. It was all about looking at houses from the outside when you’re walking down the street. It was likely going to be superficial things that drew people in, like a lush, green garden, large entranceway or pretty brickwork. Whatever it was, chances were you would not know what you’d be getting on the inside unless you could see through a window. Even though there’s the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, that’s exactly what you had to do. And if you liked what you saw, then you’d make an enquiry with the local estate agent.
Since 1805, estate agencies have continued to pop up on our high streets. They are known for having branded branches with eye-catching boards, window displays and logos that are designed to attract potential buyers and sellers. The whole idea of having physical stores was that there was a personal touch. And with an army of staff on hand to assist you as soon as you walked through the doors, what could possibly go wrong?
More than Just a Store
As more and more competition appeared, estate agents had to think of ways to stay at the top of their game. This is where many different marketing techniques came into play, including:
- Business cards
- Telephone directories
- TV and radio adverts
Although we see many of these marketing methods as old fashioned now, it was what used to work for estate agents as it allowed them to show off their business.
The Rise of the World Wide Web
Despite the local competition, there wasn’t much for estate agents to worry about. They knew people were always going to be buying or selling property, so they could be fairly confident in the industry. However, the invention of the internet in 1983 brought a certain element of uncertainty with it. All businesses, not just estate agencies, were unsure of what was to come, though they knew that they were likely going to have to change their marketing efforts. But how or when to do this, no one really knew.
Although computers existed, any form of online communication like we know today was barely a thing. It wasn’t until 1993 that things really started to develop, and is often referred to as a time that the world wide web started to rise. As the internet became more and more popular, kerb appeal didn’t really matter as much anymore. Now, estate agents had to think of a new, more innovative way to get people to enquire about a property.
Things started off simple. If you had a website and had submitted yourself to a few online directories, chances were that you were already ahead of the competition.
When 2004 came around, things were due to change again thanks to the introduction of Facebook. Although social media had been around since 1997, it wasn’t until Mark Zuckerberg – along with fellow Harvard College students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes – that it really started to grow. These days, Facebook is arguably the number one source of lead generation for estate agents. It’s estimated that 35.4% of the UK population has a Facebook account, which roughly equates to 33 million users. And it’s not just teenagers who are using it, around 23 million of those users are over the age of 30.
Being Anywhere, Anytime
In the 21st century, people want to be able to access what they want when they want. And that’s all doable because of smartphones and tablets. 1992 was when the first phone with a touchscreen was made and it was known as the IBM Simon. However, it wasn’t until the late 2000s when tech giants such as Apple and Samsung allowed smartphones to really take off.
The combination of better devices, faster internet speeds and the busy lives people lead mean that there’s simply less demand for physical stores. This is why estate agents have taken to offering their services online, so people can access information about the company and their properties at a time that’s more suitable.
With social media continuing to rise and new platforms being developed, estate agents are able to reach out to audiences in more ways. We all know a picture can paint a thousand words, which is why having high-quality and professional images are a must in this industry. After all, how do you expect to sell properties if the images are dark and dingy?
Instagram is a photo and video sharing app that was invented in 2010. This is a highly effective tool for estate agents as it allows them to show off their properties. As it’s such a visual tool, it allows potential buyers to get a good idea of what the property is like without having to visit it. More than 5 million posts have been tagged #property with around 231,000 being tagged as #estateagent, which is an exciting prospect for estate agents.
What Does the Future Hold?
Unless you’re Mystic Meg and have a crystal ball, it’s always going to be difficult to try and predict what the future holds. With advances in technology constantly being made, there are two areas that we think estate agents should bear in mind. In fact, there may even be some estate agencies out there who are already applying the following methods to their business. It’s something to think about if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
FaceTime & WhatsApp
Without technology, if you lived far away from an area that you were looking to buy a property, there would be lots of stressful and time-consuming travel involved. However, with phones being what they are now and having such amazing cameras, there may be a solution to this: FaceTime and video calling through WhatsApp. If there’s a buyer who is seriously interested in a property but can’t manage to find the time to visit, estate agents are starting to go by themselves and show the interested party the property via video. All you’d have to do as an estate agent is find a suitable day and time to ring and digitally escort the would-be homeowner or tenant around the property. Time is of the essence in real estate, with technology playing an integral role in the whole process now.
Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence
Although virtual reality has been around for some time now, it’s only over recent years that it’s started to become largely successful. Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment that you can interact with. VR property tours offer viewers a unique insight, giving them an experience they simply wouldn’t get with just looking at images or videos. This accurate presentation enables people to get an idea of how spacious the property is as well as see how the rooms connect with one another. It allows those looking to buy a home to immerse themselves in their surroundings without actually having to be there.
Now, what is a complete game changer when it comes to VR is artificial intelligence. Some virtual reality tours may still require the presence of an estate agent so that they can talk to the viewer about what they’re seeing. However, with the up-and-coming rise of AI, buyers will be able to ask questions that the virtual agent will be able to answer.
Brexit is Looming
The UK had been due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. However, following several delays, there’s still a lot of doubt over what the future holds for estate agents and the property industry.
Since Brexit was announced on the 23rd June 2016, the pound has weakened significantly. This has meant that people have tightened their budgets, which hasn’t been helped by rising inflation and static wages. This has meant that house prices have been dragged down, which means that not as many people are looking to sell.
After a 6-month extension on Article 50 was confirmed, the new deadline is October 31st 2019. What will happen after that, no one really knows.