4 tools every estate agent needs to grow their business

4 tools every estate agent needs to grow their business

With the current limited mobility that is imposed on everyone, it’s normal to see real estate portals like Rightmove and Zoopla become increasingly saturated and flooded with agencies and listings. This makes it harder for your agency to stand out. In order to build a lasting relationship with your customers it is important to provide them with the best experience possible. 

Why face being lost in a swarm of competition when you could be looking for new tools and resources that can help your business stand out. 

Below we’ve curated a list of 4 tools we believe every agent needs to stand out in the competitive real estate market. 

 

1 – XChange

Of course we had to talk about ourselves first,  XChange is a property trading platform allowing you to quickly match your applicants to relevant properties to close more deals. Simply input all the relevant information and let the matching process do the work for you. 

This gives your agency a competitive advantage, allowing you to maximize potential transactions and reducing lead wastage. It also enables you to broaden your horizon, that is, to be able to source properties outside your operating area, and realistically, enabling you to be able to close deals in all four corners of a city.

 

2 – HomeViews 

HomeViews offers you a centralised base of reviews, coming from residents and property experts. Having accurate and in depth information about a property is incredibly important to market your stock and highlight it above the rest, to make it stand out in a blur of properties. 

This is why HomeViews aims to provide you with the information, sharing relevant insight on residential developments. HomeViews also offers you opportunities to advertise your business and available properties, making you more visible to the public. The platform is free to read, leave or respond to reviews.

3 – Vaboo

Vaboo is a platform that enables you to entice your clients with benefits, allowing you to stand out. They create a tenant reward platform that gives access to exclusive offers, national discounts and regular prize draws to help agents build trust, stand out and collect insights.

Additionally, by keeping your tenants happy these tenants will eventually become buyers. This customer retention is crucial to help your agency increase brand loyalty. 

4 – CoreLogic

CoreLogic offers 3D virtual property conversions of your listings, allowing you to accurately translate your property to prospective clients, and give them a sense of immersion that’s completely virtual and distanced. 

The affordable 3D virtual tour is a better alternative to traditional photography that helps your properties shine and stand above the rest. 

In times where clients might not be as comfortable organising viewings, this tool builds the bridge between your property and your prospective clients, allowing them to experience the property in an immersive way, at any time from anywhere, in return boosting the engagement with your stock and your sales potential.

 

Whether we’re talking about our property matching platform, CoreLogic’s enhancement of your virtual ads or HomeViews’s database of free and insightful information, trying out these new tools could be your solution to overcome and overshine your competition. 

 

Now more than ever is the time to broaden your inventory of tools to help you on your journey to success in this market.

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My Real Estate Story: Toby

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To finish off our 2020 interviews, I spoke to Toby Albert-Corban. An innovator looking to bring some change to the industry. With an eye for design and a knack for digital marketing, Toby has made a distinct name for himself in the industry and on TikTok. Here is Toby’s story:

 

Could you tell me a little bit about how and why got into real estate?

I guess it started right after graduation from university in New York. I actually attended university in the States and spent almost a decade there, I just wasn’t too sure about what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be in an office all day and that I didn’t want to become some corporate guy.

A few friends were in real estate and just kind of put the idea in my head, “hey look, you probably might actually be good at this”. So when I returned to London, I applied to a few agencies. I dipped my toes into the industry and realized, oh, actually I kind of have a passion for this. Then I realised that I could create the life I wanted in real estate.

I’ve always had a strong interest in architecture and design and I realized, oh, it’s not just solely about the property. There’s different aesthetics to it, too, you know. The design and how you communicate the concepts is very important. I’m client focused, and I saw my client niche in the industry. I like to deal with people. And I guess that was when my passion started to build for the industry.

 

Well, what do you think is lacking?

Innovation and Quality service. I started focusing on my passion, and to provide the best service possible through value and innovation. The innovation came through marketing and providing a bespoke service.

 

How long have you been working in the real estate industry? And Corban Group is your company, correct?

Exactly. I started just about just over two years ago. I started in corporate High Street and then I worked for a quite well-known, well-established boutique firm. I just realized, look, this model was great, but how can I be a bit more personable in my appearance and become an independent agent when the opportunity arose.

I knew there was a different way to provide the service. It doesn’t have to be solely underneath a high street company or brand. There is the potential opportunity for you to be your own agent and have the opportunity to grow. When I realized that was possible, I knew that I could brand myself and could provide a good, if not better service than a lot of the companies that are out there. I was happy that the opportunity arose, and I was happy that I was able to take it then.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about Corban Group?

We are a full-service agency that helps people buy or sell property. We provide a bespoke service by ensuring that we’re able to adhere to our client’s needs. We’re not a one model fits all kind of agency. We make sure that we’re providing the customer with exactly what they need, no matter what the requirements.  

 

With this tailored approach, have you faced any difficulties getting customers onboard? I would think a lot of landlords go after either cheaper fees or they go after the bigger names. How has that experience been for you?

You know, it’s been good, to say the least, and of people would think, oh, it’s probably challenging to go about it the way I’m going about it. But the thing is I lead with value. So when I’m going to appointments, I make it clear that I’m here to provide a service and the best service possible. It’s all about providing value and getting the best results.

If my client doesn’t see that or understand that, then they’re not the right fit. We work hard and we have successfully been finding the clients that understand my value.

 

How did your agency have to adapt or how did you guys have to adapt to meet those changes and to kind of survive during these changes?

The one thing that we decided to do once the first lockdown was initiated was to really innovate. And what was a successful for me was innovation within marketing. So video was huge for us. We created a YouTube account. We created a Tik Tok, which was extremely successful. We managed to build up to almost one hundred thousand followers. With multiple videos which reached millions of views and actually went viral.

And that was a big eye-opener for us because we actually got business from the success of our social model. An exclusive campaign to market the remaining units in their development. We realised that we had to innovate and social media was the spearhead for us. And due to social media, we’ve been able to reach millions of people.

 

And then where are you looking to take Corban group in the New Year?

So in a new year, I think our goal is really growth. It’s to really expand our reach, whether that’s online or with a physical presence.

What is the one thing that you think agents or agencies need to change to be able to adapt to the New Year?

I think now that we’re in the digital age, especially due to COVID we’ve been forced to change the way we’ve been working. But then we’ve realized that we can actually work in different ways now. We no longer need a physical office.

I would say that people need to build themselves digitally online as well, and they need to build their brands. I think that things have really changed. You have to be open minded and build more an authentic presence online.

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My Real Estate Story: Sai

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I got a chance to speak with Sai a property consultant with Harding Green. Originally with a background in fashion, Sai found his calling in Real Estate 10 years ago. We spoke about the changing industry, how the self-employed model is different and how now more than ever we must make all of our customers a top priority (not just the sellers). Here is his story:

 

How did you get into real estate and why?

It happened by chance. I technically have a mechanical engineering degree but I was working in fashion. This was all back home in India. Due to various personal circumstances my family moved to London 10 years ago. Fashion industry was struggling as the high street was dying with hundreds of store closures. My in-laws were in property business and they said, why don’t you come and try it? And so that’s how I started. I was a junior letting negotiator trainee and I think one of my first deals was 90 pounds a week in West London.

Through that journey, I’ve now evolved. From that I moved into lettings and then into sales. Now I’ve become a Self employed property consultant. And I am a consultant for Harding Green.

How has your experience with that been? Going from working at a corporate agency to a self-employed model, how has that been?

So initially, everything has its challenges. Working in a corporate environment you are running on a predetermined track.  All you have to do is run on that track as fast as you can, and try  put together as many transactions along the way from January to December, right? You have your targets, get your day-to-day targets, weekly targets, so coming from that and moving into a self-employed model was hard because you need to direct your path. Once you’re set up all by yourself, what you want to do it’s on you, your back is against the wall. And all you have to do is figure it out how you want to make this work, because you don’t have that safety net of a basic salary – it is now purely commission-based. Giving you that automatic drive to perform.

So Harding Green, in primarily is an estate agency with a fantastic shopfront. But it works with a broker model, which gives people like me with experience in London and country an opportunity to work for ourselves. The platform gives you extensive support to be able to take the risks and to be successful not as high street agent but a property consultant.

The experience has been great. It’s a journey started three years ago and I joined them about two years ago. I am proud be part of the flagship office and we’ve seen some phenomenal transactions. We’ve got some amazing people working together. Encouraging each other to succeed. The support system is, I think, what is going to differentiate between all of the other broker models. At Harding Green it is a partnership.

How many brokers are there with Harding Green?

We are about 10-12 brokers. We have grown quite substantially in the last year and a half.

I like that you refer to yourselves as broker or property consultants. It goes beyond the current relationship we have with estate agents.

Because the market has changed so much the competition levels changed as well. I think the bottom line is the consumer. People are realizing that when you get plugged into a corporate system, you have 10 people from different departments trying to sell you something. So the agency is back to how it originally started as a small, independent way where you go to someone’s office, meet them, and they are your one point of contact. That is what the consumers want. That bespoke service, unfortunately, no matter how hard a corporate entity would try, can’t deliver. And I think the market is moving for more and more service driven products. That is what we offer.

 

If you were to give one piece of advice to other self-employed agents, what would that be?

It’s important to identify the support they’re going to get from whichever model they chose to collaborate with. I think you need to really evaluate how you’re going to sustain yourself, not only for the first six months, but for the year without having a basic pay. Anyone looking to do this, must have their family’s support and their partner’s support. You know tensions can flare up on the personal side, because right now, sometimes I work seven days a week. I’m even available to my client even on a Sunday if they need me. And that’s what makes us unique.

Unfortunately under the corporate structure there’ve been so many times over the past, I’ve missed my kids school plays, Christmas carols etc or family get-togethers, often disappointing my family. I was expected clock in the hours at my desk Whereas now with the consultant broker model, I control my time and my availability, but at the same time I’m available for my kids. I’m able to take them to their clubs and most importantly be there for them.

You need to be very regimented in your time and keep that focus and discipline. Main thing for me is a support system both personally, and in terms of professionally. And then of course having that discipline to be able to say that this is my target and stick to it.

Going back to the support element of the model that comes with Harding Green, having that on-ground staff really does help. We have a coordinator and we have weekly catch ups. We discuss everyone’s weeks and share any information that may be useful, which can help our service level. We only take on people who are driven and who have the same kind of synchronicity with that of the business. At the end of the day, we all are ambassadors of the brand and that’s what people buy into.

What is the one thing that you yourself are looking forward to?

Winning and managing instructions. With this model I get to choose who I work with. So, for example, when I was working as a team at a corporate, we were managing between 80 to 85 different clients or properties, there is no way that you can provide them with the same level of service across the board. Whereas right now, I tend to work with a handful. So literally about five or more. They get my time every day available to these five people. So for them, it’s a no brainer because the service level that I offer is unparalleled to any corporate agency. Of course, there is no doubt that the brand name always helps them win instructions.

As soon as a customer signs up with me, they get all of the network that I’ve built up over the last 10 years at their disposal. So they send me a WhatsApp after 7:00 PM in the evening saying, well, I need something done and I’m able to immediately respond to them and tell them what I can do for them. Or what’s the best way to do it.

Compare that to a high street agent who shuts at 7pm and usually don’t get a response until next day as most of the see it as a day job. Service levels need grow even more and we have the power to do so.

Everyone is realizing that we have to do things differently to provide better service for the customer, because at the end of the day, the customer is not just the seller, they are a buyer, a tenant or most importantly going to refer me to their friends and family.

What is the one thing do you think is going to change for agencies in 2021?

Well, it’s going to be quite hard, we are coming out of the pandemic. hopefully the vaccinations process will improve and borders will open again for our overseas clients to visit and transact. We are ready for them!

I think the market will stabilise as we come out of the EU. At the moment when you put a transaction together, you might have sleepy solicitors, you might have other factors that slow you down. So, I think the industry is not going to change dramatically over the next year, but I think we personally have to be super proactive.

We need to be on our toes. We need to make sure the channel of communication between all the parties involved is absolutely open. Making sure we only work with people that are qualified, to have verified solicitors on your books, having a good mortgage broker on your books. You need people who are as driven as you are.

So what I would tell the agents or brokers entering or in the industry right now is to have your confidence level high.  This reflects on how the client sees you. At the end of the day, people remember you for who you are and not who you work for. So take pride in everything that you do.

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My Real Estate Story: Lonee

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Meet Lonnée Hamilton, an American broker who made the move to the UK four years ago and has made a name for herself once here. Starting with Keller Williams UK to learn the ropes to the UK property industry before going Independent, she started London Realty International out of a desire to provide a high level of customer service and integrity to her clients.

Here’s her story: 

Could you tell me a little bit about how you got started in real estate? I know that you got started in the US?

That’s correct. So, my mother is an agent in the US. The system in the US is very different. My experience here is that I don’t see a lot of women estate agents. I mean, there are some, but I don’t see a lot here and you know that includes older women as well. My mother had been in the business some 30 years in the States as a real estate agent. She wanted me to join her, but I was busy developing my own career and I really didn’t want to get involved with the business at that point in my life. I really wasn’t that interested. Ultimately, she got me and my sister involved and we had a family estate agency. We worked under Sotheby’s international in Pasadena, California, a suburb Los Angeles. And that’s how I got started.

How long have you been in the industry?

I would say seven years overall, but I’ve been in the UK for four of those seven.

What was your biggest surprise when you moved to the UK with the way that the market ran?

When I first encountered, the estate agency market in the UK, it was as a tenant. I had just moved here because my husband’s job transferred him here. He moved with an expat package, and we had a relocation agency helping us, but being an estate agent myself I decided that I wanted to look on my own. The relocation agency was moving a little bit slowly and I really did not understand why they couldn’t find me a property. It was very confusing to me that there was no MLS (multiple listing service). And then I also had to deal with 10 different agents who were showing me flats. I wasn’t sure why they were showing me things I didn’t ask for.

I didn’t understand the system at all. And after that was over, I thought I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone through this.  I’ve come to discover, that most Americans who are new here go through the same thing. I’m very involved with the American community. I’m on the board of the American Women’s Club of London, for example. It’s pretty common that Americans new to London think that they can call an agent and that agent is working on their behalf. They don’t really understand that that is the landlord’s agent or the vendor’s agent.

I would say that was the biggest difference for me when I first came.

You’ve been here for four years, um, how has the market, you know, I guess grown on you, have there been a lot of changes?

The other thing that was different here was just the very idea of being an independent agent. In the States, for example, my mother having had a very long career, she had a circle, a sphere, what do they call it? Your sphere of influence. You had a network of people that knew her through her various community activities, friends, and that kind of thing, who would follow her when she worked with many different brokerages. They would just follow her from brokerage to brokerage because they were interested in her.

Here, it’s more about, or it traditionally has been more about, the corporates, or the name of the agency as opposed to the individual agents. But what I’m seeing though is that is changing. I first started here with Keller Williams. I’m seeing that model is definitely growing.

Why do you feel there is a lack of women in the industry?
You know, I can’t speak knowledgeably about it because I’m not a native, but I just think it’s been traditionally a young man’s game, in a way. I think it’s also the way the job is set up and you’re forced to focus on volumes. They want people to run around, you know? It’s like most corporate jobs, in that overall there are more men than women.

I think there might be more women in the industry with the rise of the independent agent. It’s sometimes challenging for women to rise up in corporate structures. There are glass ceilings, for sure. For me personally, at this age, I don’t want to put myself in the job market, being a woman of colour of a certain age. Plus COVID has changed a lot of things. I’d rather work on my own.

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

I can’t wait to be done with COVID. I think that the effects on the economy are going to be far-reaching.  I don’t know how it’s going to affect the property industry, because there are just so many unknowns. I would love to get clarity on what’s going to happen. Hopefully, the government can get the vaccine rolled out and stabilise the situation.

If there is one thing that you think that agencies need to change to, really grow and be better, next year, what would that be?

Grow and be better? That’s an interesting question. There are a lot of agencies that are really great. I think overall we all need to be focused on customer service. That is the number one priority. Communication, I think is really key. I think that people that work with me like that I communicate with them on the regular, and I find that, people are pretty understanding if there are challenges in the market, like the global pandemic. I would think increased communication will help ensure a better customer service.

I think the problem is a lot of the agents are just super busy and maybe the agencies right now are stretched a little bit. But what I’m offering is a kind of a high touch, personalised service. For me, I have to keep my numbers lower. Of course, the right amount of customer service to my clients is the most important thing to maintain.  

The challenge is finding that balance between automating and outsourcing certain parts of the process, because you start getting higher revenues per month, reach greater targets per quarter, all of that. But then at what cost? But that’s always the small business owner’s dilemma: how much control to maintain and how much to let go of.

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