The High Street’s Problem with Online Lettings – Told by a Former High Street Owner

renting online’s General Manager Jane Hill joins us again this month to reflect on her years as a high-street agency owner and discuss where the dislike for online agencies really comes from.

Like many High Street sticklers, I was initially sceptical and full of incredulity at the new influx of online agents during the late 2000s.

Shamefully, I jumped on the bandwagon of vitriol and spitefulness against them – without exception.

 The question I ask myself now is why did I – and why do many others still –  dislike the idea of online agents quite so much?

Read more: Online Letting Agents – What Are They And Should I Use One To Let Out My Property?

Fear of the unknown

Having pondered on this for some time, I came up with a very simple answer – FEAR!

The truth is that traditional high-street agents fear change. After owning a high street agency for 16 years – I definitely counted myself among them!

Online agencies certainly sparked a change in the industry; bringing it with it a fear of the unknown.

Having a new agent move into your territory was already bad enough. Immediately, the concerns would creep in: is there room for another one in an already overcrowded market? Will they be better and cheaper? Will they try to poach my exceptional team, or worse: steal my landlords and livelihood?

Read Jane’s first article: An Unlikely Story: My Switch from the High Street to Online Lettings.

Defending their shop fronts was already a high-street instinct; so when a completely new competitor emerged and turned the industry on its head, the hackles went up.

High street agents simply could not compete with the national reach, competitive pricing and digital innovation that online platforms had to offer – but what could they do about it?

Attack is the best form of defence

To defend their territory, traditional agents went for an approach of attack.

Online agencies were immediately branded as a cheap and unprofessional method of lettings. With costs being considerably lower that the typical percentage fees charged by the high street, it was assumed that low pricing meant a low-quality service.

The digital element was also a point of contention. High-street agents were still rifling through Rolodexes and printing paper contracts and the thought of removing these manual ‘essential’ elements was simply laughable.

Another misconception was that those setting up the online agencies had no clue about the lettings industry. It was assumed that these guys were ‘all the gear no idea’ amateurs that had the tech knowledge – but no expertise or experience in the property sector.

Dispelling the rumours

Unfortunately for the high street, these rumours were exactly that: rumours.

The reality is that online lettings platforms streamline the traditional lettings process. In doing so, landlords have the opportunity to save valuable time and money when looking to let.

The assumption that corners are cut to keep costs down is perfectly understandable. The staggering price difference between high-street and online was bound to raise suspicion, however, the truth is that affordability does not equate to a compromise on quality.

Don’t take our word for it are proof that it possible to provide a professional and comprehensive service for a fraction of the high street costs.

Instead of giving you a whole spiel, I’ll just let our landlords do the talking.

We’ve had a very good experience with our account manager Shannon so far. Proactive and very quick to react to get the whole process going. They have a platform that makes it easy to manage tenant inquiries and order additional services. A way more effective and cost-efficient option than traditional brick and mortar letting agent.

Jean Baptiste, Google Reviews

As a landlord of many years, one of the most frustrating things is looking for a letting agent that knows what they are doing and is willing to go the extra mile to help the landlord. At last I have found this in – they really care about getting it right.

Sally, Google Reviews

Find out how much money you could save using our free High Street Comparison Calculator.

As first time landlords we were quite anxious about the whole process, but has an excellent and friendly team and were very helpful throughout (we had many queries!). They were recommended by a friend who has been using their services for years and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others now. Plus you get to meet your prospective tenants and save on agency fees!

Juliana, Google Reviews

I have used for several years and have found them very helpful and very efficient. They created a new AST, collected the deposit and paid us all in less than a working day.

Brian, Google Reviews

A win-win situation

After working on the high street for over twenty years, I’ve felt the cynicism towards online lettings first-hand. Even after we sold our agency I continued to favour high-street agents and doubt their Proptech counterparts.

Now I know that my dislike stemmed from a combination of territorial defence, fear of the unknown and a plain lack of understanding.

I think if high-street agents took the time to learn how online models can be cost and time efficient, they would be impressed. Although – trust me when I say this – you’ll never get them to admit it!

Thinking of taking the leap from high-street to online? Book a call our Valuations Team or browse our fixed-fee rental plans.

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