“Change before you have to“ – so said Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric – and a very relevant and poignant statement when applied to the changing face of estate agency today. It was also the motivation behind our decision to launch Penfolds.
Nothing stays the same forever of course and nowhere is that truer these days than on our high streets. The decline in the number of businesses with high street shop fronts of all descriptions is self-evident and estate agents make up the fourth-largest category in this decline.
There is no doubt that digital innovation has been the driving factor behind these changes within the estate agency sector. Political and economic factors have also provided challenging times with agency streamlining also resulting in the closure of many branches.
The fundamental change:
Crucially, the property industry has shifted from an ‘agency’ to a ‘property’ led business. Traditional, high street ‘shop windows’ are being replaced by online and digital portals. At the click of a button, prospective homebuyers can now browse hundreds of properties at their leisure or receive an instant alert flagging up any new properties coming to market that fit their specific criteria. Our customers are not out on our high streets anymore, they’re to be found online.
It all seems like a far more convenient solution with the logical conclusion being that the online agency market would be set to grow. The net result however is that home buyers and sellers are having less and less contact with real people who understand the business and the process involved. Early evidence would suggest that growth has been slower than expected with some indications that the online business model may not actually be sustainable.
What people want:
The reasons to me are very clear. Nothing can be a substitute for human contact. Human beings are ultimately best equipped to understand the needs of other human beings and that is what we seek to do at Penfolds – to bridge the gap between all the benefits of modern technology but not at the expense of service.