Comment: When selling homes, the human touch is key

Is a culture of low fees and little to no service really all that estate agency is about, wonders Kelly. Picture: contributed.
Is a culture of low fees and little to no service really all that estate agency is about, wonders Kelly. Picture: contributed.
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In an always-on discount culture focused on perceived economy, it is easy to see why the estate agency industry currently faces serious challenges.

With many now accepting the idea that houses can be bought and sold like any off-the-shelf product, it might look like there is no room for a different narrative in our highly competitive world.

When flashy online providers started making news headlines with shockingly low prices and exciting new tech, the future of traditional agency services started looking rather grim – mainly to the people inside the industry.

In an attempt to steer things in the right direction, corporate and online property agents seem focused on delivering the lowest-cost provision for customers, no matter what. This is one of the reasons why many high-street estate agents face financial difficulties: the inability to generate enough profit to thrive as a result of something akin to an all-out war on price.

While a low price/high volume strategy might work for some, let us not forget that online estate agents are backed by monumental volumes of investment in order to acquire market share. As for the demand for low-fee services, I can understand why some home-sellers might feel they can receive the same level of service – or thereabouts – at a much lower price. That is an easy choice to make in a market with average services driven by the mantra “business as usual”, but is a culture of low fees and little to no service really all that estate agency is about?

While the race for lower fees between corporates and online agents rages on, I’m proud that Corum, an estate agency we established more than 15 years ago with the aim of providing high-quality personal service, is flourishing and even dominating in areas of the Scottish marketplace. We have retained our fee structure, increased our high-street presence and invested inwardly in our infrastructure with the sole purpose of delivering the best possible service. The result is performance figures that exceed even pre-recession statistics and show absolutely no sign of slowing down.

The secret to this level of performance is very simple: there is no substitute for providing an excellent level of service. In every area we operate in, we invest in employing and retaining skilled people with local expertise who know the market inside out and are committed to achieving the best possible results for our clients. Our extensive research has found that more than 80 per cent of our client base value a personal phone call, proving that there really is no school like the old school, and that a human touch is still highly valued, even in a world seemingly obsessed with doing things online and focused only on the next bargain sale. I firmly believe that adding modern marketing tools to traditional ethics is vital to our long-term growth. At the core of our strategy is a universal human truth that selling your home is first and foremost an emotional journey, and we will continue to invest in providing a service that doesn’t just act as a soulless sales mechanism but instead guides our clients every step of the way.

Looking at the bigger picture, the property market may have been showing signs of stress in other areas of the UK, but remains remarkably buoyant in Scotland. We find that we are consistently generating sales over home report value and seeing homes going to closing dates, due to buyers competing for the limited available stock.

The high demand is fuelled by affordable financing options – in the last 12 months, five times more mortgage products have become available to first-time home buyers which is what is stimulating growth in other demographics as well.

Against a backdrop of this positive picture, I believe that as long as we are committed to delivering an exceptional service, our clear identity and straightforward, trustworthy approach will continue to thrive.

John Kelly, managing partner, Corum Property