Let's Hear It for the Website!
The world of estate agencies has changed dramatically with the huge leaps made by technology and today, more than 50% of potential buyers make their first searches online. Interestingly, between 60-80% of these initial searches are done on a mobile device such as a tablet or smart phone.
The estate agency websites that do well are those that have been really well designed and are truly user friendly. Google has introduced mobile first indexing which ensures that the website appears with the best results possible and in the fastest time on the screens of all devices – whatever their size.
Using a website to property hunt is perfect because the website is always open, day or night and every day of the week. The website can be accessed from anywhere in the world and this is a huge advantage to prospective buyers who are currently living some distance away or even abroad.
Property websites are really easy to use - providing the website is customer focused and the information is well laid out, concise and accurate. If the website is good then viewers are likely to stay on the site for longer. Prospective buyers need plenty of good, current local information about schools, shops, medical centres and other facilities.
The website has the bonus of being able to give a great selection of quality photographs to show the property in its setting, its exterior and of course, plenty of the interior. The well-known adage 'a picture is worth a thousand words' is fully understood by those estate agents offering 360º virtual tours of the property as this is an ideal way for buyers to get a feel for its character and whether its configuration will work for them and they can do this when they want, without travelling from their home to see the property, which can be costly in fuel and time.
Of course, the estate agency must ensure that as much relevant information as possible is uploaded about each property and this should include floor plans and the information shown on the energy performance certificate. Google maps and street plans are useful too. Good property websites of course, are kept continually updated about which properties have been sold and which are under offer.
The Estate Agency Window Must Be Best?
Certainly a good estate agency window does showcase the various properties that the company is dealing with and a collection of excellent photographs in the window will be both eye-catching and impressive. The estate agency window certainly offers 24 x7 viewing too as anyone can stop and have a browse as they walk their dog at two in the morning!
The window display is sadly really restricted and can only give the briefest of outlines about the property – usually the price, the number of bedrooms and whether it is double glazed!
Some estate agencies display several interior photographs too which is definitely a bonus. Especially for larger properties though, this just isn't enough information as the prospective buyer has simply so many questions generated by the photograph in the window and if the agency is closed, they must wait until it re-opens to contact the agent by telephone or to pop in.
Some agents offer interactive screens in the window itself but with the availability of a smartphone in nearly everyone’s pocket, their use is at best limited.
Can Personal Service Win?
Interestingly, although many buyers complete their initial searches online, a high proportion do like to have the personal service offered by an estate agency if they decide on a particular property. Buying a property is the single largest purchase for most people and they feel more confident if they can discuss things with a friendly local expert who can explain the procedure for purchasing the property and guide the buyer at every stage.
A really good estate agent knows the area well and can answer any additional questions. They can also find out about any building plans in the vicinity as well as any problems thrown up by the property search or information about any property chain that could impact the buyer and can competently liaise with solicitors.
At the end of the day, whilst the estate agency window remain important, a really good property website wins 'hand down' and whilst some buyers are happy to proceed with the purchase online, many others prefer dealing with a good traditional agency. The best news is that the popularity of property websites is ensuring that the best ones are continually striving forward and improving their service.