Once upon a time, when estate agents didn’t have the internet, they had to actually talk to potential buyers on the phone – or in person – to discover their house-buying requirements and budget. All this information would be carefully kept and meticulously matched against new properties as they were listed. This record was called a mailing list.
If you were a buyer, you would need to register on the mailing list of every agent in your chosen location, or else miss out on any new and potentially desirable properties coming onto the market.
In those good old days, an agent was only as good as his mailing list. So, the Knight Franks and the Savills had long lists of big spenders wanting county piles, and the little independent valuer+admin offices would mop up all the first-time buyers, as well as the pensioners looking for sheltered accommodation.
Then along came the magical World Wide Web. Now, buyers no longer had to phone each agent’s office and laboriously give all their details over and over; instead, they could enter their requirements in the simplest form – no contract details needed – and see instantly what was available for them. Fantastic! But what about the agent with his precious database of buyers? Is he redundant?
Well yes, and no.
Yes – because buyers don’t need him anymore, because the information they need that was previous held captive by the agents, is now publicly and freely available.
But no – because the agent still needs the buyers. A really good agent will understand that the internet is just a filtering device for buyers, who will often screen out properties that may actually be suitable, judged purely on an unflattering photograph, or an optimistic asking price. The agent’s skill is in matching houses to buyers, and that takes experience, enthusiasm and a genuine liking for his clients.
Buyers need to trust their agent to guide them through the complicated maze that is house hunting, and accept coaching from him to make good decisions. These skills and this experience cannot be replaced by an internet search.
No matter how detailed and comprehensive property portals become, the vast majority of us will still look to a real person when it comes to making one of the largest purchase decisions in our lives.
The mailing list may be dead, but the estate agent is still very much alive and kicking.
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