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Written for the National Association of Estate Agents in England, September 2017

How do we survive the arrival of the online agent?

Agencies like Purple Bricks are a part of our marketplace, at least for the foreseeable future.  Personally, I welcome them as it allows the true professionals in our field to shine, and helps to weed out those who think that having a RightMove account and a phone make them an agent.  Those of us that have been around longer than Help to Buy know that to succeed (in any business) you must change, adapt, improve.  I’d like you to stop for a minute and think about how your business will adapt to survive the online competitor.  Yes, stop now, I am actually asking you to NOT read my article for just a moment, but please remember to come back…

What changes have you come up with?  Honest changes, not just something that you could be doing better if there were more minutes in the hour and more hours in the day.  Last summer, my world was turned upside down, I had to leave the UK and the market that I had been building a network in, all my friends and connections gone, and start fresh.  To say I wasn’t pleased would be an understatement.  Did I give up, feel sorry for myself, and decide it was too hard to start over?  No, but I also made a vow to never start over again.  I spent some time soul searching, thinking of ways that I could use my contacts all over the globe to redesign my business and ultimately my life.

How many of you go out for an instruction and find out that your clients are selling to leave England and start again?  With the news reporting that there is a mass repatriation underway for those that have come from EU countries, there must be a fair few.  The next time you are out take the time to ask your sellers what their future plans are, do they plan to move to Milton Keynes or Majorca?  Why aren’t you making introductions for those clients in their new location?  In many countries buyer representation is widely used and referrals can put some significant commission in your bank account.  Have you thought about offering buyer representation through your business?  Why not?  When I immigrated to the UK in 2011 I sought out a representative to assist in finding our rental home and her services were worth every pound we paid her.

While we are on the topic of foreign buyers, where are you advertising your listings?  In today’s global marketplace advertising in the high-street shop window isn’t providing your seller with the marketing they deserve.  Foreign buyers typically spend more, often with significant cash in hand.  Advertising your instructions abroad can bring in more interest, and possibly achieve a higher selling price for your clients.  If you choose to offer buyer’s representation it could supply a steady flow of buyers for your firm.

In the past year I have been able to make an international move and begin building a client database in my new locale, all while working with international buyers and sellers as a second stream of income.  In doing so I have future proofed my business against changes in the local market, my market is now global.  I have assisted clients who are selling in London to purchase in Singapore, clients in the UK selling a second property in Spain, and clients looking to enter the UK market on commercial ventures.  If I find myself in a position where I relocate again I will not have a defined stop and start to my business, the international market is booming regardless of my location.  Beyond that I am providing a very underserved market with real solutions, and while travel isn’t required I have been able to work my passion of traveling and exploring new cultures into my business model at the same time.  Agencies like Redfin and Purple Bricks are no longer a threat, they do not provide the services, or the quality, that my business prides itself on.

So the next time you see a discount agency sign in someone’s front garden, remember that those signs are the reason the market will change.  A change that will be for the better for those that embrace it and see it for the blessing it will become.  If you’d like information on how to take your business global, please reach out, I’d love to pop by for a cuppa.

Deborah Dennis is a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) with the National Association of Realtors.  She has lived in six states and two countries, and is currently based out of Denver, Colorado.  To get in touch please email