Warning for High Street estate agents

“Adapt, shape up – or be left behind.”

Online property specialists could be handling up to 50 per cent of all property sales and lettings within three years. That’s the prediction of a leading Midlands-based online lettings agency, which is warning that traditional estate agents risk being left behind as new-generation customers forego visits to High Street shops in favour of online searches.

Charting the rise of online prop-tech giants, who year-on-year are now taking larger slices of the ‘property pie’ away from the shops that have been a feature of the High Street for many years, Jonathan Daines (pictured), chief executive of Midlands-based lettingaproperty.com said: “From feedback, some of the obstacles and frustrations with the high street include the fact that they are only open during traditional opening times, agents aren’t always available to show buyers or tenants around, and that there is a ‘middleman’ involved when there really doesn’t need to be.

“Although there will always be some property owners who are slow adopters and who actually enjoy the experience of visiting their local agent, this is very much generation past, not future.”

Mr Daines said that a behavioral shift away from high street agent has been gradual but during the last three years, in particular, it has gathered pace and by 2020 it is predicted that Internet firms could handle up to 50 per cent of all sales and lettings. Factors such as price, as well as faster and more demanding lifestyles, are behind this behavioural shift, with a greater need for faster, slicker new services that better fit the needs of the market, and this is where innovative technology fills the void.

With easy-to-use website navigation, reduced paperwork and the advantage of homeowners and landlords not needing to leave the comfort of their own home to set the selling and renting wheels in motion, it means one thing; more free time for them to do the things that matter most.

In a world where time is arguably one of the most valuable commodities, renting and selling with ease is fast becoming as much a lifestyle choice as it is a function of property prices, and with digital disruptions happening in many different market sectors, the sales and letting agent on the high street need to shape up on a digital offering or take the risk of being left behind.

Time is money for busy landlords, in particular, who want convenience, cost effectiveness and efficiency from the off in order to achieve the objective of securing a tenant as soon as possible.

Home owners were also now becoming more accepting of selling their property via the biggest property portals.

Mr Daines said: “Although clinging on to the notion that having a specialist local knowledge and a shop presence is still of great value, the traditional estate and letting agency is living on borrowed time. For almost a decade, the online property market has been quietly yet meticulously taking to pieces a sector that hasn’t changed for 30 years, and carefully putting plans in place to execute all aspects of the sales and lettings process online but smarter, with a significant cost saving advantage and real-time interaction.”