The decline in the high street has been evident over the past two decades. Remnants of huge commercial units that were once filled with long-term high street stalwarts like Woolworths and C&A are now occupied by pound stores and temporary pop-up outfits.
Similarly, whereas large towns and cities often had an estate agency district packed with ceiling to floor windows full of glossy advertisements for property, they are now dwindling in number and the windows are looking slightly more sparse.
According to the property management firm, Apropos, the full extent of high street estate agency closures is fairly severe, with the equivalent to nine closing each week since 2010.
Unsurprisingly, these statistics have been attributed to the meteoric rise of online agencies and increasing rents.
Great Britain has suffered 4,528 estate agency closures in this time; 355 in Scotland and 3,903 in England and Wales.
Simon Bath, CEO of When You Move, said: “Although the use of online estate agencies is increasing and potential homebuyers are using these services as a starting point for their home search, for the most important transaction of their lives, people still value human contact highly. Therefore, property professionals operating within bricks and mortar establishments need to ensure they are delivering a consumer-focused service that cannot be replaced by online services offered. To ensure this is done, offering the best of both worlds to the new generation of homebuyers, who are so used to the convenience digitalisation brings, is the way forward in my opinion. The process of purchasing a home needs to be streamlined, transparent and efficient. As it stands, the home buying process is outdated, consisting of wet signatures and lengthy paper trails. This needs to be addressed for the prosperity of the UK property market.”
David Alexander, founder of property management firm Apropos, said: “The shift online in the property market has been relentless and generationally there has been a major move by customers under 40 who run their lives through their phones, tablets and computers. [They] would never now consider going into an estate agent for information and they are the future, so the market must shift to cater for this group.
“The estate agency sector must ensure it operates excellent online offering coupled with outstanding personal service. Clients will still want ‘the meet and greet’ personal experience but backed up by an online portal which answers all their questions and fulfils all their needs.
“Given that the property investment market has changed dramatically over the last few years letting agents must think smarter and act more efficiently to provide clients with a cost effective, pro-active, legal and financial offering to ensure the customer can access all services in one place. The professional, large scale investor will remain, but we will undoubtedly continue to see a thinning out of smaller ‘amateur’ landlords as letting becomes costlier and more complex.
“Agents should see this as an opportunity to shine. The best will survive if they adapt to the changing market and we shouldn’t be afraid of this.”
As Brexit continues to have a strangle hold on the property market and people remain reluctant to purchase current stock or place their houses on the market, it seems as these figures could deteriorate before they improve.
Has the declining bricks and mortar agent had an impact on the conveyancing sector? How will things develop in the future?