Future Mapping.

Masanori Kanda, the author who created “Future Mapping”, introduced a concept I believe to be very significant when it comes to planning.

His idea is that when focussing on yourself or your own business, vision and creativity narrows, whereas if you plan for someone else, including an imaginary entity, this opens up many more possibilities. With this methodology in mind, I’ve created my presentation for the EA Masters on 12th October based on an imaginary new entrant to estate agency.

This business has reasonable but not unlimited resources and has spent several months assessing the current models in the UK and also Australia and the US. In addition, the startup has critiqued the various proptech and other new services available to carefully select a blend that will deliver the new proposition, (as opposed to how they might fix issues with current models).

Above all, the new business has researched the consumer exhaustively and studied how they behave in their selection of all services. And so, as a taster for my presentation, here’s an overview of some of the topics I’ll be covering in my presentation on the future for estate agency.

1. Principles are forever. The reasons people move home will continue. Student, cohabitation/marriage, children, more children, job, investment, divorce, downsizing, retirement, death and financial. Each life stage has the same fundamental requirement for every customer – to find the best property for their circumstances and budget.

2. An agent is desirable. I doubt many reading this remembers the days before the “service economy”. Most of us have lived our whole lives having others do things for us as opposed to our grandparents, maybe great-grandparents generations, when DIY was the norm. But the ways in which we expect service to be delivered has changed and continues to change and the overall quality of service expected is far higher than even a decade ago. So the good news is there’s a role for an agent to act for the seller, buyer, landlord and tenant, but I’m afraid the traditional service isn’t nearly good enough.

3. People, not property (part one). When I set up my first marketing business I collected advertising examples from all ages and geographies to act as stimuli for future thinking. I recall a campaign for B.O.A.C., (the forerunner of British Airways), that boasted how many hours each of their pilots had, on average, flown a plane. “Of 640 B.O.A.C. pilots, 100 have flown 1,000,000 miles, eleven have doubled that, and one has flown more than 3,000,000 miles – equal to 120 times around the world.” I think today it’s a given that a pilot can fly an aircraft safely, likewise that an agent should be able to sell, let or find a property. Instead, what people want is either a cheap, “no frills” service or a highly personal experience. The first will increasingly be delivered by technology, the second by trusted advisors who use the technology on their clients’ behalf and add their own “something extra” to the mix.

4. People, not property (part two). Geography, property type and even price range are no longer the only ways to segment markets. Instead customers will be courted by profile. This means an agent will work with people of a certain type, typically defined by their service level preference and preparedness to pay. With air travel, the same BA flight typically has four cabins – Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First. All the passengers have the same levels of safety, pilot experience, aircraft maintenance, air traffic control, turbulence, etc. But some customers will pay 2x, 3x, 5x 10x the basic price for extras, often quite marginal ones. The same is true for legal services, accounting, hairdressing, medical care, indeed most services. And that includes estate agency. New services such as specialist property concierge company, ‘Just Move In’, will take the customer moving experience to another level as standard. Today’s “wows” will be tomorrow’s normal.

5. Wisdom still counts. People will pay a premium for an expert. Traditionally, many of the best agents had years of experience in a small area. Some will argue this is still the only way but I believe they’re wrong. The quality of the data available is catching up with the quantity. Firms such as LandInsight, Dataloft, Active Pipe and Brief Your Market have taken data analysis to another level. CRM providers such as Reapit and Dezrez now have hundreds of thousands if not millions of transactions across the whole country available to analyse and assess for future trends. And then there’s Rightmove, whose ability to forecast the market is quite incredible. Of course, it’s the interpretation of the data that yields the insights and ideas but increasingly this can be done by relatively inexperienced people armed with the right tech. I’ve seen case studies where AI computers can analyse cancer scans more accurately than the most experienced specialist medical teams. Likewise, AI powered computers have trumped many lawyers when reviewing complex contracts. It’s only a matter of time before the AI computer is better than an average agent in assessing property values. But, where an agent is still relevant, or can be, is in how this data translates to an individual customer and their circumstances and I’ll be sharing some examples of how this can be done on 12th October.

6. The new mantra is “Systems, Systems, Systems”. Location, location, location is no longer the main business driver – it’s systems. And these are nearly always better delivered by tech than by relying on people alone. Over half of all the web enquiries we made as part of the mystery shop for the Best Estate Agent Guide Awards went unanswered after 24 hours. And if that stat is concerning then wait till you learn some of the others regarding phone calls. The days of seeking to recruit A* allrounders are over – indeed they have been for years. The industry doesn’t pay enough to attract sufficient A* talent which means that we have to enable the average person to deliver an A* experience. Also, the financial model for many areas doesn’t allow an agent to employ people who are often under-utilised as there’s so many peaks and troughs. In essence, outsourcing of specialist services will become the norm. Firms such as Moneypenny will provide the reception and first impression. They, Yomdel and others will deliver this on the web. Viewber will be the agents principle viewing service. Business services will also be delivered better by partners than in-house. Estate Agency will be as much about the partners you choose as the people you employ.

7. New methods. Private treaty may prevail but the modern method of auction, as pioneered by IAM Sold and SDL Auctions, will become much more common. This though is just the vanguard for many new ways of selling and letting. As the financial services industry recovers, so new and innovative products will emerge to enable new customer profiles to buy, rent and invest.

8. It’s about them, not you. Yes a company’s background, values and past performance are of interest to some customers. But considerably less so than their own problems and opportunities. 80%+ of all marketing should focus on the customer. Of course, this will include property marketing, which will soar to even higher levels of quality presentation. And whilst digital will dominate, with VR and AR rapidly becoming affordable for all, the traditional mediums such as print will still have their place. The highest quality Ravensworth brochure, previously only used for the £1million+ properties may well become the standard for those more modestly priced.

At the EA Masters I’ll map out further the future of estate agency as I see it. And my conclusion will be that the industry is as exciting to be in as ever before. But it’s considerably different than a decade ago and is undergoing further dramatic change that will see some agents thrive and others disappear. I’ll be joined on stage by seven world-class speakers and eight industry leaders & legends in perhaps the most formidable line up ever seen at an industry event. In addition, over 50 companies, including those mentioned here, will be showcasing their latest products and services… each has something new and different to reveal to our audience. Tickets are limited and will sell out, our events have done for 15 years, so please, if you want to come to the biggest estate agency event of the year, book here now.

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