TEPILO and EMOOV MERGER.
IS BIGGER BETTER?
You probably don’t have to follow the estate agency business too closely to have heard about the merger of a couple of the bigger players in the online market. Urban along with TV celeb Sarah Beeny’s Tepilo, and former market leader Emoov – usurped from the No 1 slot by PurpleBricks – are linking up in an attempt to knock their well-financed rival of its perch.
The thing is, although one or two commentators may have raised an eyebrow – and the high street estate agents have certainly taken the opportunity to crow about apparent weaknesses showing in the online business model – it’s not actually all that surprising.
After a period of rapid expansion in online estate agency, consolidation was probably inevitable – particularly with the market contracting a little as we wait for Brexit to play out.
A few half-hearted fringe players are bound to fall by the wayside while mergers and stock market flotations are a way of raising capital. Once that’s done, we can probably expect another surge of high-profile marketing as the new-look online agencies reassert themselves.
But one thing which worries us a little is where the customer stands in all this?
What price service?
Naturally, like any business, the online estate agents want to maximise their profits and make themselves resilient against the changes that new technology is bound to bring. But what happens to good, old-fashioned customer service?
The bigger players may look strong when it comes to their property portfolios; they may be able to come up with some nifty TV advertising or a quirky brand which knocks all the stereotypical estate agency guff into a cocked hat.
But who answers the phone when your sale seems to have got stuck? Who will keep tabs on solicitors and knock heads together if necessary to keep things moving? Who will check out your potential buyers or give you feedback after a viewing? Who do you complain to if you’re not happy and, more importantly, what will they do to put things right?
We tend to find that, the bigger the company becomes, the more likely it will be that the responsibility for all of the above is “farmed out” elsewhere – and, when that happens, not only does the responsibility become diluted, so is the personal care taken with each transaction.
So, as we stand on the brink of a new era – possibly dominated by fewer but larger cut-price online estate agents – we’d urge you to remember this: paying less doesn’t mean you have to put up with poor customer service.
There are a few of us out there who believe in it enough to put it at the centre of what we do.
So, to borrow a phrase from another ad campaign for a restorative treatment: “Why not try it. You might like it.”
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