Home » Business » Digital Transformation » Estate agents should embrace technology to navigate the first-time buyer rush
At the beginning of January, it was reported that the government will subsidise the large-scale construction of houses for first-time buyers (FTBs) between the ages of 23 and 40. With development expected to begin this year, the government predicts over 200,000 properties will be constructed in total, providing younger demographics with unprecedented access to the property ladder.
Commencement of the scheme represents a colossal shift in the UK property industry. Recent statistics have demonstrated the decline of house purchases among younger demographics, caused by increasing house and rental prices. In 2014, fewer than one in ten 16 – 24 year olds owned homes, and only 35.8 percent of 25 – 34 year olds qualified as home owners. Naturally, the property market has fallen out of touch with the needs of young FTBs. However, estate agents must prioritise adapting to such needs if they are to successfully navigate the first-time buyer rush. Estate agents should take the following steps in order to stay ahead in a highly competitive market:
1. Estate agents should recognise that FTBs are likely to find the buying process daunting, as it signifies not only a substantial financial investment, but also a huge personal commitment. Considering this, FTBs are likely to rely on the estate agent’s expert knowledge of the market and buying process in order to make a well-informed decision. Supporting this, research from Dezrez found that 85 percent of UK home buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 would prefer to have a personal agent to manage the buying process, thus enabling a more personalised service that caters for the specific needs of the buyer. There are software systems available on the market that allow for estate agents to build bespoke workflows to allow for this customised service.
2. Estate agents should recognise the value of time as a resource to FTBs, with large quantities of younger demographics juggling an on-the-go lifestyle between hectic professional, social, and personal calendars. Somewhat paradoxically, this means estate agents should strive to conduct the buying process quickly and efficiently, while still providing a thorough and personalised level of service. The report supports this stipulation, noting that 78 percent of UK house buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 years olds value speed of communications with estate agents over all other things Possibly, moving forward with a system that can auto email/text a FTB when there is an update rather than the need for a call.
3. In order to meet the conflicting demands of personalisation and efficiency, it is imperative for estate agents to modernise, and accept the invaluable part that digital technology can play in the buying process. While historically estate agents have been reluctant to accept technological advancement, viewing its influence as more disruptive than innovative, 67 percent of respondents stated that estate agents are not using technology to its full potential, and 44 percent strongly agreed that estate agents need to adopt and embrace technology in order to survive. We can already see that tech-savvy agents are beginning to realise that by putting the needs of the customer before the needs of the business, technology can actually boost customer satisfaction and provide them with an additional revenue stream.
4. Perhaps most demonstrative of this point is the potential of cloud software. Currently in its early stages, the implementation of cloud software in the property market means agents can populate digital brochures for young consumers using a tablet or mobile phone on-the-go, at any time of the day. Widespread investment in cloud capabilities will not only give agents quick and convenient 24/7 access, but will also provide greater opportunities for agents to cross-reference the needs of customers against the properties available on the database, providing a truly personalised service.
5. In order to effectively reach and connect with FTBs on a more personal level, agents must also be willing to engage with the preferred communicative channel of younger demographics: social media. In taking this step, agents should realise that social media mismanagement can actually hinder rather than help. Therefore, agents planning to undertake a social media project should do so with the intention of using the channel to its full potential, and creating a meaningful connection with younger demographics.
To this effect, estate agents should strive for quality over quantity, and aim to be the best they possibly can on one or two channels, as opposed to taking the scattergun approach and engaging with all social media platforms. By focusing on a couple of relevant platforms, agents can ensure they post frequent content which is relevant to FTBs, and is consistent to the style and tone of previous content. The chosen channels may differ depending on the agent in question, but it’s generally recommended that agents engage with Facebook and Twitter as these are the platforms which have the largest audiences of potential customers.
6. Finally, by linking property portfolios with other relevant applications, estate agents can leverage the ability of digital technology to enhance a service without adding financial expenses. For an estate agent, this could mean providing in-site access to Google Maps / Street View, providing a wish list function for user property preferences, and enabling subscriptions for regular email notifications of relevant properties.
By linking their services to relevant applications, estate agents can facilitate a more thorough and personalised service, granting consumers access to a greater depth of contextual information on their prospective choices. Not only does this work to quell the nerves of a first property investment, but it also facilitates a more efficient buying process, wherein consumers can effectively filter the most relevant properties for them, prior to scheduling physical viewings.
By embracing the technology that is available to them, estate agents can provide a more efficient customer service, and the capacity for greater responsiveness and personalisation. With the right solutions, estate agents will ensure they remain connected and are able to meet the technological demands of younger demographics, preparing themselves for the imminent first-time buyer rush.