The best of both worlds: Consolidating on the High Street, expanding online

Online marketing alone is no substitute for traditional estate agency, says Karen Harrison, co-founder and director of Harrison James & Hardie

At our heart is a strong team culture that has always deliberately challenged stereotypical industry norms.

As such, the directors have always led from the front - showing not telling, giving help and support when needed. Each new employee in turn is given the right example so they understand how to help new staff to progress and to succeed.

Growing the company this way has ensured many former apprentices now occupy some of the most senior roles. In itself, the fact that we have only lost one person to another local estate agency in nearly two decades speaks volumes.

By instilling this sense of belonging and personal value we focus competitive energies into achieving the best results for all our clients whilst each person organically absorbs multiple layers of skill and knowledge. We work so well precisely because we are a consistent, highly skilled team with mutual goals.

As such, since we opened in June 2000, we have enjoyed a deserved reputation for friendly caring professionalism and outstanding results. Still the leading agency for the North Cotswolds today, our success is demonstrable above all else in our outstanding service standards. For example, we offer accompanied viewings until 7 pm during the week. We have a senior director as a branch manager at each office. Another senior manager is employed solely on sales progression. Each member of our staff works towards ARLA or NAEA membership with specialist training providers Gold Standard. We know what we are doing. And it works. 

Generally, estate agency is a very high turnover industry that regrettably now seems to be engaged increasingly in a race to the bottom. We still firmly believe, however, that proper agency cannot be reduced to a virtual window card and a For Sale Board.

Without the benefit and commitment of longevity and consistency of staff, without the provision of ongoing training, without the luxury of superlative local knowledge, without the commitment to outstanding service standards every day, clients will be left to flounder in this brave new world of online-only agency and no doubt things will get worse before they get better. 

We know that without the provision of experienced senior sales services - the hallmark of great independent agencies – things go wrong. Vendors are already beginning to discover the pitfalls of an essentially DIY proposition. The sluggish transaction time on national sales turnover is becoming an increasing problem throughout the housing market. Indeed, a backlash is on its way already. Some traditional agencies are now charging their clients additional fees to deal with issues that are routinely caused during sales progression when an online agency is involved somewhere in the chain.

These online marketing reps are not estate agents in the true sense of the word. Generally self-employed, as such they aren’t providing effective sales services. They are paid only small sums to acquire new instructions with no resources beyond the seductive power of massive national marketing campaigns. They must concentrate upon volume listing and whilst they might earn from viewings, with such huge geographical patches that isn’t a realistic proposition. They have no offices and no staff, therefore no proper ability to manage their existing stock except remotely. With no help and support from experienced colleagues around them they are indeed lacking in all the things they once took for granted – the luxury of time, someone to pick up the phone when they are out on appointments, easy access to years of local knowledge and skills, the benefit of longevity and depth of industry knowledge behind them, the comfort of experienced advice, the reassurance that they are making the right call for their clients at every stage of process.

We fully appreciate the lure of cheap up-front marketing but in responding to the challenge of online disrupters we are mindful first and foremost of our clients’ best interests. We are currently consolidating our teams into two high street offices specifically to give us more resources to expand online, investing into Cotswold Homes and Fine & Country as unique USPs that offer hugely effective marketing resources. These enable us not only to reach the widest possible number of potential buyers but also to provide superior affordable solutions to the upper quartile sector.

However, only by working closely together as a skilled team on every single transaction are we able to ensure the best possible outcome for every client. It is our belief that the pursuit of excellence has kept us at the top of our game and without compromising our renowned superlative service standards there is simply still no substitute for the cost of great people.

Karen Harrison is co-founder and director of Harrison James & Hardie. The company’s policy of continuous re-investment into the training and retention of local staff, combined with the use of new technologies and innovative marketing methods, has been at the heart of its success. To contact Karen call the Moreton in Marsh office on 01608 651000.