In this article, we'll offer a brief overview of how the shift online has changed the way the UK property market works and provide some top tips on taking advantage of new and emerging marketing avenues.
Gone are the days when a buyer might wander down their local high street to browse the windows of estate agents or peruse through the local paper's property listings to get a sense of what's on the market. Today, if you are serious about buying a property - your first port of call is usually your preferred online property search engine.
The internet is home to an abundance of data about properties, their location and their transaction history. The potential buyer can absorb all this information from the comfort of their own home, without picking up the phone or needing to leave the house until they have actually found a property they are seriously interested in pursuing.
Does this mean that the role of an estate agent has become obsolete?
In short, the answer is 'no'. Estate agents haven't become obsolete, but the field in which they are operating has shifted so drastically that they have to work much harder to demonstrate their worth to potential buyers and adapt the way they work to stand out and make enough noise to compete in the digital arena.
There is most certainly still a place for estate agents. An informed and experienced estate agent can provide a great deal of benefit to a seller, despite many questioning the need to pay estate agents fees. It is vital that estate agents are shouting about the added value that they can bring to the process, whether that be through their experience of selling a particular style of house or the access that a seller would have to the agent's qualified database of active buyers.
When marketing properties, some agents would argue that the likes of Rightmove, Prime Location, Zoopla and Findaproperty.com have actually done them a favour. Now when a potential buyer rings up to book a viewing, you can be confident that they are at the very least a warm lead. More often than not they have already absorbed all the details about the property online - they've seen the floor plans, they've scrutinised the street view and not stopped there. They've taken a virtual journey up and down the street to see how far it is to the local shop, town centre, school or motorway junction. They've had a sneaky look on Zoopla to see what the property was last sold for and gone on Google Earth to see a bird's eye view of the plot size and the neighbouring properties - taking note of who's extended and by how much. So, when a potential buyer arrives at a viewing, most of the hard work is done and in theory, it should be far easier for the agent to seal the deal.
But if the buyer already has all the answers, what exactly is the role of a property agent? And how can you offer them something that they haven't already obtained online?
Without a doubt, the most important thing that a property agent can bring to the party is added value and expertise. Estate agents aren't just selling houses anymore; the internet has gone a long way in doing that for them. What they are really looking for from their property agent is reassurance - reassurance that they are making the right decision. They need an agent who knows the area, has identified any potential issues with the property in advance and can put forward plausible solutions and, above all, has inside knowledge of the seller's state of mind, so that they can anticipate any issues that may need ironing out and pave the way for a smooth negotiation process and speedy completion.
Equally from the seller's point of view, they are looking for reassurance that their advisor will effectively market their property, understand its USPs and show them in the best possible light at all times to the right buyer. More than anything, when they time comes that they receive an offer for the property, the seller needs to be confident that the agent has their best interests at heart and will secure the best possible deal for all parties, regardless of their commission.
So, it is more important than ever for estate agents to keep up to speed with developments in online marketing. Key to this is understanding what sets you apart from your competition and positioning your team as experts in your field, so that when people search for issues related to property buying and selling online, your company can be found.
Sound daunting? It doesn't have to be. Here are a three pieces of advice that will help to increase your visibility online:
- Be easily accessible – A great deal of property searches are done on the move, so it is key that prospects are able to find you easily and more importantly navigate around your website quickly and efficiently using their smartphone. Therefore, it is worth investing in your website to ensure that it is responsively designed, mobile-friendly and presents your properties in the best possible light to potential buyers who may have stumbled across a property and are looking for additional information while on the go.
- Be Social –It's not enough just to set up pages on social media platforms and expect your target audiences to engage with you. Search for relevant communities and conversations being held online around property issues, particularly in the locations where you have extensive knowledge and can offer specific advice and tips.
Alongside posting details of properties that you are marketing, actively prompt conversations with home buyers and sellers, post useful statistics and information about the housing market and updates on the government's agenda for addressing the housing shortage in the UK. Use video content to provide answers to frequently asked questions via your YouTube channel. If it's interesting, easily digestible and above all relevant to your target audiences, you will see the tangible results in no time.
- Demonstrate your expertise – When a buyer or seller is ready to engage with an estate agent either to register or view a property, it is essential that you are visibly demonstrating your expertise online so that you stand out from the crowd. What sets you apart from your competition?
By highlighting your team's knowledge of the areas in which you work or the expertise you have in dealing with wider issues relating to property buying and selling, such as offering mortgage advice, property valuations, or general predictions on fluctuating house prices and even being up-front about how you structure your fees and what percentage you work to will give customers more faith in your ability to deliver, over a competitor that isn't demonstrating these skills in an equally open and transparent way.
Blogs, guides, FAQs, webinars, tipsheets and white papers posted on your website and promoted effectively through social media channels alongside well-placed articles in your target media will all help to increase your profile and, in turn, your credibility as a trusted and experienced property advisor.
How are you using digital channels to market your properties? We'd love to hear your success stories, so don't be a stranger and post your thoughts below.
We've also put together a free book to help residential developers get to grips with the basics of online marketing, so be sure to check it out today:
Images used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Alan Cleaver and 401(k) on Flickr.