The mainstream press have targeted estate agents in the past week, with The Times and The Spectator publishing articles aimed directed at the nerve centre of the UK estate agency industry.
Tory rag ‘The Spectator’ said, “If there was ever an industry crying out to be disrupted, it was estate agency…the entire estate-agency sector is a shrinking market…a new generation of online pretenders seems to be breaking through — while established agencies are beginning to look sickly.”
However, Spectator journalist Ross Clark said he does not buy into a winner takes all scenario regarding online vs traditional agents, “I wouldn’t be so sure about the fortunes of online agents.”
“Signs of a slowing market persuaded me to take my 150 per cent profit in Purplebricks shares a couple of months ago. I have retained my holding in Savills, the only other estate agency share I own, because its upmarket international profile puts it in a different space…Purplebricks has been a great boom-time business, but one that could fall flat on its face in leaner times.”
Time’s columnist Andrew Ellson doesn’t hold back either, “Estate agents are not professionals — they don’t have to do a day of training or pass a single exam before setting up shop. They have fewer qualifications than bricklayers. Sadly that doesn’t stop them from charging fees that would make a senior barrister blush.”
Ellson goes on, “quite why old-fashioned agents think they can stick to their ludicrous charging structure in the face of online competition is a mystery…in the absence of legislation, it’s down to all of us to shun them until they follow the rest of the high street into the 21st century.”
The journalist explains his disdain for the agents piqued over the past month when he was asked to sell two properties: “One London agent wanted £16,500 to sell a home it valued at £550,000. The agent said the property would sell easily, perhaps forgetting that this meant he would be doing very little to justify his gargantuan fee…the truth is the property won’t sell easily, particularly at that valuation, because the market is stagnating. An identical flat just yards away priced at £50,000 less hasn’t sold in months. The agent might have known this if he’d bothered to check Rightmove first.”
“However, that basic level of professionalism was too much for a man who appears to spend more time buckling up his Burberry jacket than researching the market.”
DMZ would point out that Times journalist Andrew Ellson wrote an article in April 2004 entitled ‘Final Move For Estate Agents?’ which claimed private sale sites (early stage online agents) would soon take over the market completely. Fast forward 13 years later and the online market has an estimated 5-7% market share. An impressive feat from a standing start, but hardly a final move.
Stereotyping an entire industry on personal, anecdotal evidence is irresponsible at best and outright dangerous at worst. We’re pretty sure Ellson would not want to be associated with the bevy of senior journalists who were arrested after hacking into hundreds of private voicemails, but they were ‘journalists’. So why attack a entire industry based on personal experience?
For more of Ellson’s unbiased, objective reporting – check out this most recent Twitter poll below.
Read The Spectator article in full here.
Read The Times article in full here (registration required).