I was recently reminded how things have changed in estate agency. Upon arriving at a client’s property to measure the rooms, take photographs and draw a floor plan, the owner surprised me by producing a copy of the sales particulars when he brought the property in the early 1980’s. Interestingly, the Estate Agents involved were Hills, Nash and Pointen – the firm my late uncle co-founded with his two partners. The details consisted of a single A5 sheet of paper with the address and a brief description of the property – no photographs, no directions and no room measurements.
It was only in the late eighties, when I began my career, did things really begin to change, with the marketing and presentation of property making huge advances. I believe this was partly due to many of the large financial institutions and Building Societies either buying up estate agents or moving into the estate agency world – The Halifax, Royal Sun Alliance, Hambros bank and The Prudential being prime examples. Indeed, I spent five years working for Prudential Property Services and the training and revolutionary thinking set the bench mark for the modern marketing in estate agency today. Certainly today’s property details are a far cry from yester-year. Our standard details at Pointens now have colour digital photographs, floor plans, clear directions and an energy performance certificate.
Even the way we show customers around property has changed, when I started in the business I can remember on some properties, prospective buyers would call into the office, collect the keys and look around the said property by themselves. Something unheard of today.
Over the last ten years or so, the World Wide Web has rather transformed estate agency. This has been a tremendous benefit to the small independent estate agents such as Pointens because we are now able to compete on a level playing field with the large national chains when it comes to market exposure. Before the internet the national chains of estate agents were able to give the impression that they were able to promote a property to a wider audience than the small independents because of their network of offices. The national property websites have also made ‘Roadshows’ and having a so called ‘London office’ a bit old hat. At one time it was very fashionable, and still seems to be with some agents, to have a connection or an office in one of the upmarket areas of London such as Mayfair etc. thus giving the impression properties are marketed there direct to well healed London buyers. In my opinion this now has rather a limited value because buyers can now access local estate agents and their properties for sale virtually anywhere in the world, from the comfort of their own home.
I wonder how things will change in the next twenty years. Will we still have a need for High Street estate agency offices? Will properties for sale be presented in multimedia format? There are many things we can speculate on. However, one thing I believe that will remain is the need for experienced property professionals to guide vendors and purchasers through the selling and buying process thus proving that some things will never change!