Let's face it, Purple Bricks and EasyJet...sorry I mean EasyProperty are EVERYWHERE. Turn on the radio, they are there, watch the telly, there they are, chat to your convenience store owner about moving and he brings them up. Gaahhhh!!! The stuff of nightmares for agents like us, small, personal and local. That one million pound a month budget for Purple Bricks is certainly doing its work and Stavros seems to find a cheap angle for delivering everything we need - between them these guys have this gig sewn up and all other agents should be shaking in their shoes, right?
I won't lie, I did shake a little when I realised Stavros was getting involved. I thought, here we go, bye bye family business, hello Stavros and...ummm...can I have a job please? The guy is everywhere lately, Easy this, Easy that, it's hard not to believe that with their kind of financial might, he and Purple will fight it out to be market leaders whilst us mere mortals struggle along until viability is gone and we close our doors forever. Even my friends are asking me: are you worried? Should you be selling an Online Package and do less work? In fact why aren't you doing that, you could go for Quantity rather than Quality!
I shook a little bit more.
You see, mad as this might sound, we don't want Quantity over Quality. We want nice clients that appreciate how hard we work, that thank us for being the ones that get shouted at in negotiations, that are relieved we are there to chase the chain when every other link in it doesn't seem to give a damn. We don't want to sit in an office listing property all day, we want to be out and about on viewings, talking to people, showing them the pros and cons of different areas, houses, schools - being involved in the process from cradle to grave. If we wanted to be away from our customers, doing nothing but collect fees, well quite frankly we wouldn't have picked this industry! But what to do if it's changing? What to do indeed.
So I got a cold towel, had a lie down and thought it through. Had a good chat with myself and the chat was mostly along the lines of should we and do we want to change our offering? Should we roll with the times or sit it out? Have I even seen many Purple Bricks or EasyJet..Property sale boards in my area? No, not really. I cast my mind back over my lifetime and tried to think of other industries that have had cut price competitors elbow their way in and, I am really delighted to advise that I came up with some pretty strong arguments for not shaking in my shoes:
Soda Stream offer the same as EasyJet..Property and Purple Bricks: a do it yourself option to making fizzy drinks. When they came out, too long ago to mention, I was seven or eight. I bugged my mum like a crazy to get one and loved making my own concoctions but ultimately, as with all these things, I got bored of the effort involved, mum got sick of cleaning it and buying the gas and ultimately Lemonade is so much nicer from R Whites anyway. It went to the back of the cupboard, gathered dust and died of under-use within a year of purchase (mum was furious of course). Soda Stream is still out there and I'm actually glad for them, but they aren't in every home and trust me, back then we all thought Coca Cola's days were numbered...honestly, we did!
Happy Shopper was a brand that was everywhere when I was growing up and until I was out working I always went for Happy Shopper Cola instead of Coke. Why wouldn't I? I had a limited budget and wanted to get the most from my pocket money on a Saturday afternoon. When I went to work though, did I stick with that brand? Of course not, no offence to Happy Shopper but I relished being able to buy The Real Thing instead. Funnily enough, I don't see much of that brand nowadays, except on shop signage that hasn't been changed for decades and that's probably because other brands such as Tescos and Sainsbury's caught on and delivered their own budget assisting ranges.
Salt'n'Shake crisps. My poor mum, I see you all judging her: NO I wasn't raised only on crisps and fizz ha ha. But when these crisps came out - WOWSERS!, us kids were literally looking at each other in delight: flavour our own crisps, have as much salt as we like? GET IN! They were a massive hit at the time but we didn't eventually stop buying them because they were bad for us (the press went crazy about salt intake), we stopped buying them because the novelty had worn off: Golden Wonder supplied us with the same crisp without the hassle of digging about for a little blue packet of salt, opening it with greasy fingers and managing to pour it over only four crisps whilst leaving the rest naked and flavourless. They were too much effort and went out of fashion very quickly as a result. By the way, I stumbled across a six pack of these recently and brought them for the nostalgic value, worked a treat, all I needed was a bottle of Lucozade with it's crackly wrapper and I would have been back in 1984...
Hair Dye (thought I'd save my mum's reputation and step away from bad snacking) is another good example and before your eyes pop out, I of course wasn't around when people started using hair dye for the first time (I am assuming this was a very long time ago but do let me know if you know, Google doesn't) but it is a perfect example of something you can do yourself but many choose not to. They go to the salon instead and they enjoy being pampered, having their hair washed, chatting about the latest news, having a cuppa or a prosecco whilst the colour takes. Some people simply have no interest in donning an old tracksuit and rubbing Vaseline around their hairline before covering their bathroom in splashes of Pillar Box Red: they find it much simpler to let someone else take on the hassle..and mess!
So you can see why I am a lot more relaxed now I have let my mind run a little wild on this one. The way I see it there is always a choice in any industry and in ours, the Internet Agent is the latest big thing. Some people have to have this offering to be able to afford to move, literally every £ counts and I understand that. Some prefer it because they relish the idea of taking on all of the work themselves, they love the 24/7 involvement. Others still just don't like Estate Agents and would prefer to have an arms length listing and nothing more to do with them (I wish I could change these people's opinions but given even our own experience in some cases, I can understand it). All of these reasons are valid reasons for having an Online Industry and I am pretty sure that unlike Happy Shopper it will not die a death, quite the opposite, but I do think it will settle down and become just one of the options.
So to my lovely worried friends and wonderful future customers: we have our gloves on and we are standing firm in the ring. I'm afraid we won't be wanting to offer an Online Only service any time soon. Instead we will stick to good old fashioned personal service. We will continue to enjoy working with the kind of clients that like to have the hassle of their transaction taken off of their hands whilst paying a reasonable and fair fee.
In short, we love working with people that want to chat at any time of the day about anything and everything before becoming firm friends that pass on our details whenever their friends or family sell. Who needs a £1 million advertising budget to get more business when you have clients like ours x