Our CEO Luke Loveridge sat down with Verona Frankish recently to get her views on challenges and opportunities with technology in today’s property market. 

Verona is an industry expert who has worked as Managing Director at disruptive Estate Agent Purplebricks, responsible for their mortgages, conveyancing and lettings businesses as well as at Mortgage Advice Bureau as Head of Business Development.

Luke: What challenges do you feel estate agents face today?

Verona:

So I think the most immediate challenge that all estate agents are facing is the lack of stock in the market, but of course that kind of ebbs and flows. It’s very much a seller’s market right now, and funding is actually better than ever with mortgage rates at record lows. But of course, that will change in the future.

I think if you look into the wider challenges, the biggest challenge today for estate agents is actually the growth of new models. There is more and more competition in the market for business. And of course, coupled with the lack of stock today, that’s a real challenge that they’re facing on a daily basis. In terms of the growth of new models, there’s a lot more technology at play, there’s a lot more self-employed models out there.

So it’s becoming more and more important to stand out as an agent. And the days of an estate agency and customers accepting that an estate agency was just ‘it is what it is’. We don’t really get great service and we pay ridiculous fees for that. Those are long gone and agents have really over the last few years with the disruptors entering the market, have really up-ed their game across the board. Those who are good are using technology to their benefit, but also providing brilliant service.

The other challenge that they face is that, of course, customers only move home typically on average once every seven years. So retaining clients for the longer term and generating referrals from those clients within that seven years and therefore establishing a longer relationship with an estate agency is a challenge.

And a lot of agents are attempting to do things in between those two milestones to build that relationship with the customer. But that still remains an opportunity, I would say, for agents to establish that longer term relationship because, of course, every single interaction with the customer, whether they want to buy today, next month, next year or in three years time, every opportunity, whether that’s physical or digital interaction, is really, really important.

So providing that service and engaging in a way that customers don’t just feel like a number is really, really important. So was there are challenges, there’s also opportunities within that.

 

Luke: Where do you see technology helping estate agents?

 

Verona:

Yeah, I mean, I’m a big believer that the customer experience is key. I’m all about the customer experience and enriching that in several ways and enabling consumers to engage how they choose with an agent is really, really important. Some people want a hands off approach, but they still want to be informed. They still want information and data to help their decision making, and they also want to access people at the right time within their journey.

So you may choose to be on the technology end of the spectrum, but I might be skewed towards the people interaction end of the spectrum. And I think it’s really important that agents provide that ability to flex up and down that scale dependent on what the customer need is. I think also technology is really important to provide greater transparency and provide the data when the customer requires the information that they need, but also make the experience much more efficient and seamless.

So I think there is opportunities for technology to really play in that space, to improve transparency, improve efficiency and make the customer journey much more intuitive than perhaps it has traditionally been.

But I also want to caveat that people are really, really key in estate agency and customers when entrusting their asset and their future to an agency, they will always choose the one where they engage with the people in the best way.

I think technology will be an enabler and it will support the journey. But I don’t think it’s going to ever really replace the importance of the people and the relationship with the customer.

 

Luke: Why did you join Propflo as an adviser?

 

Verona:

So I’ve been involved in property for over 20 years, either directly through working with Purplebricks or indirectly when I spent time at Mortgage Advice Bureau and in mortgages for 20 years interacting and engaging with estate agents all during that time. I’ve seen a lot of change in agency and in financial services also. Technology has been a big enabler for that change and a big driver for that change.

But I still believe that we’re only scratching the surface. I still feel that there’s lots more to do. And my quest to improve the customer experience, and it was really piqued when you approached me about what Propflo was trying to do. And I believe you have pulled together a small but perfectly formed team of people who feel really passionate about the things that I do, which is providing information and transparency and data to enable and simplify the process of buying or selling a property. And I was really intrigued about that, and I’m excited to be part of what will help, I believe, the customer experience in future.