Selling homes online, a new approach…

In yesterday’s post I raised the topic of an effective online home sales portal and its potential impact on traditional Australian residential agency. So far we’ve seen some attempts to crack the market (buymyplace.com.au, forsaleforlease.com.au/, buymyplace.com.au… etc.) all of those listed here taking the low-cost / no agent approach. But what if there was a model that incorporated the best of both? A combination of low-cost sales and management portal with a full service agency…

Here we take a paradigm shift on how we currently see two diametrically opposed approaches to selling online. In order to approach this I suggest the manner in which the transaction takes place be viewed differently, what if the agent was removed from the listing and negotiation aspects of the process and replaced with an online mechanism that processed new stock to market and coordinated and concluded purchase or letting?

Now before those in the industry cry heresy, let’s re-consider those shifts in other industries like retail and financial services. All consumer driven. Successful business models facilitate markets they don’t necessarily set out to create them. (Apple we are looking at you….)

So here’s some food for thought, what if I could say purchase a home by reviewing all the relevant stock on the market be directed to appropriate information and inspection arrangements to be overseen by an ‘on-the-ground’ agent whose role is limited to coordinating access and the distribution of information. Final negotiation and agreement is facilitated online with a transparent, safe method and a range of ancillary services (insurances, removalists) are made available to choose from.

As a seller going to market I choose from a selection of marketing options, complete all the necessary contractual requirements am advised of my ‘on-the-ground’ sales agent who will be responsible for coordinating inspections. Buyer feedback is then fed through in direct report including contract and building requests keeping me up to date of my sale or letting activity via online automation. Final negotiation is transparent and safe. At the conclusion of the sale my ‘on-the-ground’ agent takes care of the transfer of access while I choose from a range of ancillary services to enable the move.

So there you have it, a potential sale and management tool that combines elements of the existing models. So what’s stopping it from coming into play? Here are a couple of hurdles;

  • Consumer perception of an impersonal transaction.
  • Traditional agency and franchise reluctance to embrace change.
  • Larger online media vested interest.

Now the model suggested does step well outside the way agencies in Australia currently operate and there certainly doesn’t appear to be a franchise bold enough to move outside the confines of their existing business models. So where, or more importantly who will be the one to pursue something so ‘outside-the-box’? Any thoughts or feedback would be appreciated….

Can the Internet Kill Residential Agency Practice? – Part 1

Internet killed the agency star…

With an estimated 3 billion new users coming online in the next 7 years the sheer magnitude of numbers and its impact on what we could describe as the cornerstone for Australian residential property, traditional agency practice, can be hard to fathom. If we consider the impact already experienced by larger players in the retail and financial services sectors the outlook looks mixed. Whilst consumers have embraced openness and transparency in the online sphere smart business is identifying gaps in the transactional process. Can ‘bread and butter’ agency players handle the same change in consumer behaviour?

In this post, the first in a series, I’ll explore the case for an online selling portal, outline the pro’s and con’s and offer a prediction on the likely selling and management options in the very near future.

So what could be behind a shift for consumers to embrace an online home sales or management solution? Here are my suggestions;

  • Simplicity
  • Cost
  • Transparency
  • Control

And what might be the reasons not to choose an online sale or management option?

  • Untested method
  • Impersonal transaction
  • Security of transaction

It’s interesting to note we can begin to identify parallels between the fors and against that can go through the mind of home sellers and buyers that could have been very similar to those encountered by other financial service and insurance industries when they first considered a purely online service option, the likes of ubank, bankwest, ing direct, canstar, rabodirect, rams, easystreet (search for online savings account you might see a pattern forming here).

It was in 2001, pre-dotcom bust, small moves were being made by online financial services companies like David Koch’s My Money group to provide comparison sites that linked financial services to potential clients. Looking back on the evolution of these sites we can see the expansion of major financials into the arena taking a much more pro-active approach to online activity. Is it possible the major real estate franchises could take this step and evolve their current business model?

Certainly the world has changed since 2001 so it would be naive to think if two such significant industries, retail and financial services, can be impacted by consumer behaviour residential real estate practice won’t feel greater opportunity to offer a more significantly online based service to an increasing web educated buyer and seller population.

My humble prediction on the future of residential agency in a more digital age? A refinement in day-to-day operation pursuing economies of scale with a greater emphasis in online presence as opposed to on the ground community branches, a transactional model purely online without elimination of tangible inspection options backed up by a suite of options enhancing consumer choice.

Next time I’ll take a closer look at exploring the consumers’ choice of online agency of the future, in the meantime I appreciate your feedback….