I recently had my house up for sale and “marketed” by a couple of local estate agents. With the market so slow I understood that selling my house would take time but I was quite shocked at the lack of proactive marketing by my estate agents. Instead I got the feeling they were sitting back and waiting for the buyer to stroll through the front door. I found this to be the case for 2 estate agents in two towns I used, so I can’t help but feel it was not an isolated case. I should add that this is based on my personal experience and may not reflect all estate agents.
How did my estate agent ‘market’ my house?
Both estate agents I used marketing my house in exactly the same ways:
They listed it on rightmove.co.uk. If you’ve ever bought, sold or rented a house you’ll know Rightmove. It’s pretty much the number 1 website on the Internet for house sales and rentals. A good start, my house had a corner of the Internet to itself on a very well presented website that’s very visible.
Listing my house in local Newspapers: I didn’t expect much from this given the size of the local market but it couldn’t harm.
In the office of the local estate agents office: Again, I didn’t expect much from this, most people are going to look online in the comfort of their own home rather than walk into the agents office.
On the estates agents website: Unfortunately, the first estate agents website wasn’t ranked for any terms associated with buying a house locally making it rather pointless. However, the second estate agent had invested in a good website which was visible in search.
Did it work?
Well, I had a viewing, 1 in 9 months but I couldn’t help thinking that the Estate Agents were a little lost. Here’s an example:
After 5 months of being on Rightmove I contacted my estate agent to ask how it was doing. I assumed that being a leading website Rightmove would be able to provide us with data such as number of views, click through rates and other metrics which would allow us to judge how visitors were interacting with the listing.
Indeed Rightmove does offer these features yet my estate agent had never mentioned it to me. When prompted the estate agent provided me with a print off showing how the Click Through Rates and other metrics had declined over a 3 month period. I asked my estate agent why they thought this was and they responded by telling me the market was getting worse and we should drop the price of the house.
This made me concerned for the following reasons:
Why didn’t my estate agent proactively look at the Rightmove figures and notify me before I asked?
Why was the Estate Agents first instinct to blame the market drop the price? Would different photos improve the CTR? Would a premium listing help? Would a better description help? Were other, similar houses selling?
With that said, I did drop the price and asked the estate agent to send me the same report in a months time to compare. Not surprisingly, the CTR and Views had continued to fall despite me dropping the asking price.
I asked for data from the estate agents website to reinforce the Rightmove data but this was “not possible.”
This experience was repeated with the second estate agent although they did manage to produce a viewing after we drastically dropped the price.
Did we have to drop the price?
I think to a degree yes, the market is tough but I do believe my estate agents could have done much more to obtain more viewings by being more proactive and by looking at other methods. I was told a number of times the market wasn’t the same as it was back in the early 2000s so why were we still using the same marketing methods? Instead we could be trying the following:
Understanding website data and reacting accordingly to take steps to improve the visibility of the house listing and understand viewers perception of it better
Re-Marketing: Showing adverts targeted to specific visitors of the house listing. This process would ensure that my house would be constantly shown to previous visitors of the listing as they navigate around the Internet on other websites including Social Media channels such as Facebook. Re-marketing has come on a long way over the last few years and can be incredibly effective.
Social Media: Most people move house to another location in their local area. An active Social Media campaign engaging with local residents providing tips, advice and information would build a captive audience. There are hundreds of Facebook groups of people looking for renters or sellers, estate agents should engage with these groups.
E-mail marketing: Surely estate agents have huge databases of potential or past buyers that could be segmented by property type to ensure targeted emails go to the right audience?
Let’s look at re-marketing a little closer.
I run re-marketing (or re-targeting) campaigns for many different business types. For some it works great, others not so great but largely it’s a very cost effective method of getting previous visitors of a webpage back to it to convert and you only pay when a visitor clicks the advert (the advert can have thousands of views yet you only pay when someone actually clicks the advert). Click prices vary but can be as low as 7-10 pence per click meaning in this example £10 per month would deliver 100-140 more views of a house listing every month. Re-Marketing adverts are also 70% clickable than normal adverts as viewers have already viewed the target web page hence more likely to convert.
Why couldn’t estate agents offer this as a bolt on service (with a reasonable mark up) to property owners? It would help struggling estate agents increase their billings and it’s relatively straight forward to set up and manage. For property owners it provides them with more potential opportunities and with a simple monthly report from their estate agent it shows the agent is being proactive.
What did I do?
In the end, I decided to keep the house and rent it out. The rental market is booming (there are 40% more people renting now than in 2006 according to a recent news report) and I’ve managed to get a number of enquiries within just 2 short days…How? I set up a Facebook page and spent £20 on Facebook Adverts targeting my local area (my enquiries came from Facebook) and I paid £60 to list it on Rightmove myself (using myonlineestateagent.com who offer a very good service for landlords and actually list your website on several websites including Zoopla, Homes24 and Prime Location). I’m not saying you don’t need an estate agent, nothing could replace their experience and knowledge but keep an open mind and look for other ways to promote your property too, particularly methods that estate agents don’t offer.
I’m not saying Online Marketing is key to sell or rent your house, but it needs to become a larger part of the equation. There is a cost involved but it can be measured and controlled accurately and I know from personal experience I’d be happy to pay am additional small regular fee I can stop at any time to sell my house quicker.
Online Marketing requires patience: the few local estate agents I’ve seen use Social Media simply “dabble” and don’t commit long term. In an industry that is often in the news there are many conversations to be had and the odd post or tweet isn’t going to build an audience that wants to engage.
I’m not an estate agent and clearly they know the market better than I ever could, but as far as I’m concerned Estate Agents are specialist marketing companies and they have to cover both traditional and digital marketing together otherwise they’re missing out on a huge potential pool of buyers and renters. Numerous estate agents have told me: “the market has changed” my response to this is why hasn’t the marketing then? This starts with understanding the wealth of data digital marketing provides to make informed decisions on how best to market the property online to complement their offline marketing. If estate agents don’t pick up their game, I can’t help but feel we’re going to see property owners flock to web based services that offer more when it comes to Online Marketing.