Who is the most valuable person in your estate agency business?
The answer I would suggest, perhaps controversially, is none of the above. Without stock, agents would have nothing to sell to generate income and for this reason alone, I would argue that the humble lister has the most important role to play in an estate agency business.
This is especially true in today’s depressed market. With limited stock, fewer transactions and a flat investor market due to the impact of Stamp Duty changes, estate agency branches need an exceptional lister to see them through the hard times.
Fighting over the same people
The problem is that many estate agents recognise this and, consequently, traditional and hybrid agents alike are fighting over the same small pool of effective listers with two or three years’ experience. So, what can be done to attract and retain this talent?
For some estate agents it all boils down to money. In fact, Arun Estates, the largest independent estate agency in the south east of England, has recently increased pay across the board for all its employees, including listers. This will no doubt have the desired effect. As well as a competitive commission scheme and salaries, Arun offers its listers and managers a choice of aspirational cars from its fleet.
But tangible rewards aside, Arun Estates promotes itself as being a great company to work for, with good reason. It has won several industry awards including one for outstanding training and boasts a supportive senior management team all of whom have worked their way up through the ranks.
The company’s culture is such that it encourages employees to participate in as many charity events as possible, even going so far as to pay the entry fees. The family-run business says its vision is to “out-passion other agents to help customers achieve their dream move”. A strong believer in “growing their own”, the company offers staff a clearly defined career pathway, with opportunities for crossover, supported by the necessary training for every development stage.
And what of the fabulous, attention-grabbing incentives such as trips to exciting destinations like Dubai, New York and Iceland that were once so prevalent? These will always have a place but estate agency is essentially a commission-based business so they will only have a real impact on staff retention when offered alongside a competitive remuneration package.
Fast-growing hybrid estate agent Purplebricks offers its 500 self-employed ‘local property experts’ a stake in the business in the form of share options. It promises on-target earnings averaging £45,000 a year but claims many of its property professionals are enjoying an annual income of more than £95,000. Indeed, we are seeing a number of Rayner Personnel-placed candidates on course to earn upwards of £60,000pa.
Purplebricks guarantees its local property experts £2,000 per month income for the first three months after they undergo an initial ten-day training course. A recent Eye story suggests the company is as good as its word, with Purplebricks making up the shortfall in income in a new recruit’s first month during which they won just one instruction. Purplebricks is currently seeking to increase the number of its local property experts to 300 in the near future.
While so far Purplebricks has only had to compete with traditional agents for talent, with new hybrid competitor easyProperty set to launch its offering on 1 September, there will soon be another challenger fighting for experienced listers.
Listers can make or break a business
The role of lister is often under-appreciated. It is about more than knowing the local market and having a knack for valuing property. In our experience, the most successful listers are those who willing to be proactive and ‘feed themselves’. From talking to fellow parents at the school gates and knocking on the doors of properties listed with competitors, to traditional door drops and actively using social media to the full, a good lister will stop at nothing to find or create opportunities to win an instruction.
But all listers, however self-motivated, need to be supported. Now more than ever, estate agency employers need to invest in their marketing activity to generate leads. Use every channel possible, both online and offline, from Facebook and Instagram campaigns to open house days and a greater board presence. Consider investing in lead generation tools to ensure your lister’s diary is kept jam-packed or they will not only be bored but also not earning enough and therefore vulnerable to poaching.
In conclusion, my overarching message is to value your listers because if you don’t have stock to sell, you don’t have a business.