Where’s your phone, right now? I bet that it’s not more than three feet from you; am I right? And there’s around a 50% chance that you’re even reading this post on your phone.
When I reach for my computer to search for something on the internet, around 50% of the time, that computer is my phone. That little rectangle of metal and wizadry, that stays with me all day, in my pocket, on my desk, it goes where I go. And like many of us, I’m completely lost without it.
That’s why it makes perfect sense to make sure that as an estate agent, your website is mobile-friendly. A site that loads well on a smartphone, with big buttons and simplified navigation will not only allow visitors to be able to access the information they’re looking for quickly and easily, but also sends out a very strong signal that you are a forward-thinking, innovative company.
But what about apps? There are several companies out there trying to convince you that as a 21st century estate agent, an app is absolutely vital to your business, and urge “Don’t get left behind!” For a very modest £30 a month on average, you too could have a fancy app that your customers can download for free, so you’re always only a few clicks away for them.
After all, as these app companies tell us, “the way your customers search for property is changing”. It is. It has. Home buyers use Rightmove, Zoopla and Primelocation on their phones around 50% of the time. It’s a massive change from just five years ago, when to browse properties, you were probably using a desktop.
But if you were searching for a home in say, Bristol, why would you visit 153 different agents’ sites to browse for property? You wouldn’t, of course, because the portals have made life super-easy for a buyer to browse a near-complete database of the properties in that area. As an agent, you just can’t compete with a Rightmove search on mobile, and why would you want to? They’ve spent millions getting it right, so that buyers can search for properties seamlessly on an iPhone, Android, tablet, or whatever their device of choice is.
So if an app isn’t for home buyers, what is it for?
It’s for agents. It’s for them to show off, to say “Look at how tech-savvy we are – we even have an app!” At best, it’s an indication that they want to be seen as innovative; at worst, it’s an indulgence: they want that badge of honour on their website that shows their customers – and their competitors – how cutting edge they are.
But these app companies are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist – making mobile property search easier for the home buyer or tenant. Rightmove already did that; so did Zoopla. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. You just need to be there.
And who is your ‘customer’, anyway? The buyer? Or the seller? If I offered you right now, 100 new purchasers, or 10 new vendors (or landlords) – which would you choose? Over the last year, I’ve asked this of countless groups of estate agents, and unfailingly, they say they need more vendors. There just aren’t enough to go around at the moment. Stock levels are low and agents are canvassing, targeting boards and over-valuing to win the instruction. It’s so 2007.
So if agents need more vendors, why do they want a purchaser-focused app?
Let’s ask the app companies. They say:
“Your own bespoke app will set you apart from other estate agents. Vendors will see a tech-savvy agent who uses every possible channel to market their property.”
Yes, vendors want their estate agent to work tirelessly on their behalf to sell their property, but do they need an app to convince them that they will do this? I think not. A mobile-responsive website will demonstrate this much more easily, simply and cheaply.
Apps can be fun; they can be useful. When I look at my iPhone, I see almost 100 apps, some of which I’ve never used, and some of which I use every day. None of them are estate agent apps. And I’m about to move home.
Maybe the app companies aren’t trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist; perhaps they are just trying to provide a solution to the wrong problem. Because the problem isn’t the customer’s, it’s the estate agent’s. Pay attention, app companies: agents need more vendors and landlords! Develop an app that solves that problem, and you’ll have agents queuing up to download it. Now there’s an idea……
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