Self-serve in the residential sector

It isn’t particularly revelatory to suggest that there has been rampant disintermediation within the property sector over the last decade or so. In residential property as in so many other sectors, technological advances have put the ability to research a market directly into the hands of the consumer.

Between them property portals and online estate agents have truly disrupted the traditional model for buying a home. Recent HSBC research set the proportion of homebuyers who research their purchase online as high as 93%. In this new world, we can all be experts in whatever we choose. We’re all constantly window-shopping property, fascinated about unrealised changes to the value of our own home and desperate to know the asking prices of our neighbours’ properties.

Impacting the high street

As has become increasingly evident, this disruption has had a profound impact on the high street estate agent. 150 estate agent businesses shut up shop in 2017, and the share price movement of listed agencies over the last decade makes for depressing reading.

Consequently, it may seem to many that there is no place today for the property expert; for professional insight, prowess, reputations, connections. This is increasingly a self-serve industry; we do our own viewings, research our own options, fill in our own mortgage calculators. If everything is available online as a list of numbers and pictures, what value could the local property expert possibly offer that might justify their fee?

Is the online model here to stay?

But as rumours of Emoov’s troubles spread and the Purplebricks share price falls, there is a nagging question: are we coming full circle? When self-serve is the norm, the amateur is everything and professionalism becomes ever rarer, the value of properly articulated expertise and know-how may become ever more apparent. In property as in journalism, we have put into the hands of the consumer the opportunity to do the job for themselves. And, in property as in journalism, in doing so we are beginning to realise that the value we used to place on expertise may not have been misplaced after all.

Numbers are meaningless without their context: there is a stark difference between information and understanding, and without genuine expertise to help us understand the wealth of information available to us, the most astute consumer may still flounder. For research to have value you need to have confidence in its methodology, and ultimately you need to trust the person presenting it to you.

Effective Property Marketing in 2019

At Space and Time we value both up-to-the minute research and the sort of professional know-how that only a true expert can provide. This position is demonstrated in the line-up for our January property marketing event Effective Property Marketing in 2019. Alongside the latest in numbers from Hitwise and Mintel, we’re extremely proud to welcome industry stalwart Rupert Bates, Editorial Director of Showhouse Magazine.

To register for the event, please contact [email protected]