Online Estate Agents a Serious Attack to High Street Agents!

Interview with iMoveEstates CEO

Adam Pero CEO of iMove Estates answers questions about why he setup an Online Estate Agents and the rising trend away from the more traditional form of estate agency.

So where did it all start and why an Online Estate Agent rather than a Traditional Estate Agency?

The idea all started a long time ago and like most ideas they sit in the back of your mind until one day you decide to put them into action. At the time I was working for two of the largest Property Portals which was a great experience and insight. Especially in the way they have transformed the property market and how estate agents heavily rely on them, so much so that property owners began to understand where agents were getting the majority of their enquiries from.
Well think about it for a minute, when your estate agent comes round to value your property they highlight that ‘we list your property on all the major property portals’. The fact they are emphasising where they advertise and the importance of being on those particular websites. Only pushed their prospected vendors or landlords to contact the sites I used to work for, wanting to find a way to avoid the large fees and have more control in the sale or rental of their property. They soon found out that no major property portal would allow a member of the general public to list their property directly and your only option was to have to use an estate/letting agent who is qualified and members of the right Ombudsmen.
This happened so frequently I then started to form an idea and researched into the possibility of forming an online estate agent. Through the research there had only been about 10 online estate agents on the market at that time and no real traction in the market, but huge potential. What stood out for me was what I used to hear all too often when I was working for a traditional estate agent years before joining the property portals; ‘If I could avoid your fees I would but there is no alternative solution out there’. It used to make me feel like we were the best of a bad bunch and while I enjoyed selling people’s properties and had great relationships with my clients I sensed they disliked the fees we charged. It’s a question all too familiar with the industry. ‘Are agents worth their fees?’ I let you decide.
Why did I setup an Online Estate Agent rather than the traditional form of estate agency? It simply came down to what I believed in and what I would use if I was to sell my house knowing what I know now. I am certainly not against the high street agent I think the majority are really professional and offer a great service. It’s simply that there was no choice or alternative and to make a great market which I believe the property industry is, you need competition and services that cover for all types of property owner’s needs.

How do you see the online vs. high street agents market going?

The online vs. traditional estate agent question, I was waiting for this question to come up! I personally don’t see this as ‘a them or us’, I feel this question divides opinion and really it’s our clients who will decide. Certainly the online market is growing year by year and is here to stay but traditional estate agents will be there as well. It’s important to understand that people have different views and service requirements when selling or renting their property and both services offer alternative solutions.
Ideally I would like, and I do think it will get to a point where Online and Traditional stand side by side not necessarily in agreement with one another as I understand that’s business. But understanding that times change and the market has evolved allowing an alternative service to come though, letting the market and our clients decide which service better suits their needs at that time.

Is there an advantage to using Online Estate Agents over Traditional Estate Agents?

Good question! It’s difficult for me to say as clearly I would be biased being an Online Estate Agency owner. So let’s look at the facts between selling your property though an online agent or through a high street agent to see what the main differences are.
Online Agent;

  • You have more control through the sales process and more often than not you will be doing your own viewings so will meet your potential buyer,
  • Massive savings on fees, usually well within the thousands dependent on the sales price,
  • Open communication between buyer, agent, and solicitor so you know where you are every step of the sale

High Street Agent;

  • Only pay fees upon completion,
  • Local agency doing your viewings with local estate agency experience,
  • High street location, advertising properties to passers-by.

Looking at these main differences it’s simply a matter of choice for our clients. Some clients believe, and I agree, the best person at times to show off their property is the owner themselves. They have lived in the property and know it inside and out so can answer all the questions a potential buyer may have. So do you really need a local agent doing your viewings where often all they may know more than the home owner themselves is what properties have recently sold, something more often and not you can find out through searching on the web. Often you hear a lot of high street agents say ‘we have buyers ready and waiting’ or ‘we get a lot of traffic through our high street location’. They may well get traffic through their doors and have interested buyers but the chances are they are still searching on the major property websites.
I would like to also add that most Online Estate Agents are ex High Street Agents or have worked within the property industry for some time and therefore levels of experience, I believe, are not that different at all. The biggest advantage or disadvantage is where our clients decide and this simply boils down to cost. Some people prefer to pay on completion and others don’t mind paying upfront in order to save money on the commission fees.

How many people have you helped sell or tenant their property?

The best part of my business is helping people save money and hearing the many different stories of what they did with their savings. We are not one of the largest Online Estate Agencies out there by any means but I know we can compete with them on all fronts in selling or renting properties. Our team prides itself in selling or renting property all over the UK and have sold properties from those worth over a million to chalets or park homes worth £25,000. Currently we are closing in on our milestone of 1,000 properties sold, something we are all really proud of. Resulting in savings of over £4,000,000 in completion fees for our clients, based on the UK average on commissions charged by agents and the price achieved for each property sold.
Whether you are a vendor or a landlord here at iMove Estates we can say our service works for our clients. Our rental figures are just as impressive, we have tenanted 98% of all our rental properties that have been listed. We have now just reached over 300 rental properties to have come through our service. Most of our rentals come through referrals or clients who have sold their properties with us as we don’t actively promote this side of our business, something we are looking to expand on in the near future.

What is your best success story to date?

There are so many success stories my team or I could mention. We had an amazing experience with an Abba tribute band member who sold her home with us simply because she gave us a try having not been happy with her local agent. Initially she didn’t really want to pay upfront, but did and ended up selling!

This one is also just an amazing story of a client who was close to losing her home and livelihood. She didn’t want to sell with their local agent as they had valued her property less than what she wanted to achieve. We ended up selling at the price her local agent had said she couldn’t achieve and within the time scale needed.
Another that springs to mind is one from our early days of a gentleman who used our service and is still a huge advocator of iMove Estates today and continually refers friends to our service. His house went under offer twice under 3 weeks, the first offer was within 9 days which fell through as the buyer lost his purchaser and was under offer again 5 days later!
The one that has to be my best success story is the sale of a farm in Wales, a farm that no local agent could sell 12 months prior to the property coming on with us. We setup a plan with the seller on how to best market the property and they also had great ideas which we could take on board. Checking stats and with constant feedback from the viewings we were able to sell the farm the family had been previously struggling to sell. It highlighted all the great things about this type of service especially open communication with the seller. Being able to see their point of view which was something that the local agents didn’t do as they thought they knew best. Also the benefits of having the owner do the viewings; one particular viewing was from a lady who had previously viewed once before with the local agent. They said ‘It’s refreshing to speak directly to the owner as the questions we had previously asked were answered immediately. We had to chase up the agency several times before who never got back to me.’ The buyer who ended up purchasing the property also mentioned that speaking to the owners was refreshing and thought it was amazing that there was completely open transparency through the sales process.
I think this particular sale showed me that the Online Estate Agency service will not be a flash in the pan and that it does offer real value not just through the savings to be made but the service as a whole.

What would be the worst experience to date?

No one wants to highlight or say that they have experienced or even worse a client’s experience has not been that great. I can assure you all it is a rare case and one that doesn’t sit at all well with me but it is the one and only refund we have done to date. With over 700 customers we have only refunded one client, I think that’s really good going but it’s still a refund we would have preferred it had been avoided. One of my regular clients who are a very successful landlord had a property to tenant and needed it advertised very quickly. They paid up front, the usual service had taken place and the property was listed on all the major portals. They were receiving enquiries through one of the portals but the main portal was very quiet. My client had a look online only they couldn’t see their property appearing but puzzlingly I could see the property fine. Unfortunately what happened is that this particular portal had a technical issue and as soon as this was found out I was on the phone to them daily to resolve it. I am sure we have all been there where something has gone wrong that is out of your control and unfortunately in this case it ended up taking a week to resolve. Fortunately by this time the client understood the situation but I felt sympathetic to the disadvantages this had caused them. During this time I received a call from my client to say that all is fine as they have tenanted the property by the current tenants staying on for a further 3 months. I of course was happy for them but felt in this instance it was not right to accept payment where clearly their property had not been advertised to our usual high standards and they had not received the service they had paid for. I refunded their payment in full as a gesture of good will which they were a little reluctant to take but I know the importance of doing the right thing, of which they continue to be a loyal and valued customer to date. So now I have a blemish of one refund which was not requested of but I felt needed to happen.

What’s the common experience of someone using your service?

The only way to really understand what our customers are experiencing of our service is by constant communication. So what do we know? The large majority of our clients sell or rent their properties through our different services and for the small amount that don’t we still have glowing reports! Our clients find that we are open and honest about the way in which we promote our properties with regular updates and continuous feedback from viewings.
Hearing how our clients view and see our service such as your team has great customer service and are highly motivated in selling or renting properties, whilst going that extra mile as nothing is too much to ask and tasks are done very efficiently fills me with a huge sense of pride. No estate agent sells every property they have on their books it simply does not work like that. Whether you achieve the sale, rent your property or haven’t found that buyer at that time it seems that our client’s experience of our service is always a positive one. They feel certain that we have done everything to help achieve what they set out to do, It’s not just about selling or renting a property it’s also about achieving our clients aim. Why do they want to sell? How much do they need to achieve? What sort of tenant are our landlords looking for? What is the ideal rent? If we don’t achieve this for our clients then we question why and what could we do better so we can learn and improve our service moving forward. Always ensuring that our clients know we have tried everything and are therefore happy to use us again in the future.
Not many businesses do this but I think it is important to not just highlight your successes but also what you do if things don’t go to plan. We offer that to our clients as our aim is not always just to sell or rent their properties but also to build long lasting relationships so that we can always be there for our existing or former clients no matter the outcome.

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