As someone who has been through more ups and downs in the housing market over the past three decades than I care to remember, I thought I would share some thoughts for those who may be experiencing this for the first time.
I recognise there’s nothing more worrying than when the housing market teeters on a precipice, fuelled by events you are powerless to do anything about. That includes decisions made by the government, Bank of England and lenders, plus conveyancing staff shortages – along with global issues including the energy crisis and war in Ukraine.
It’s being exacerbated by the media with sensational reporting about what might or might not happen to the housing market.
Well, guess what. Unsurprisingly, these things become self-perpetuating. When buyers start bandying around newspaper reports citing a potential 10 to 15% fall in prices and asking for price reductions, you know that price reductions will inevitably follow, even though there’s still a high level of demand for property.
So I have some key pointers that I hope will help you to weather the storm, because there’s no doubt we are in for a rocky ride.
+ Review how much your leads are costing
Firstly, take a deep dive into your data and work out where you’re getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to lead generation. At Spicerhaart, we’re in a fortunate position of having a lot of data from our teams nationwide. Once you’ve established what works best for you, consider investing more in that technique. Personally, I would avoid people selling leads and create your own using all the marketing platforms available.
We’ve established that our cheapest leads by far are coming in through organic Search Engine Optimisation, particularly on Google and linked to the Google My Business knowledge panel and Google Reviews, as well as through content marketing such as blogs and videos.
We’ve always encouraged our customers to leave Google Reviews rather than on other review sites, recognising this plays a valuable part in keeping us high in search engine rankings. Our ambition is to receive as many 5-star reviews as possible, incentivising our teams to give the best customer service possible.
Next, look at the cost of your leads from the main portals. Our data shows that, for us, there is one that outperforms the others in terms of cost per valuation lead – and that’s On The Market. I’m not just saying that because we have a close relationship with OTM, but because the valuation leads cost us almost half the other portals. The quality of the leads is better too.
Finally, look at the cost of valuations coming in through Pay Per Click. Google Ads are expensive, costing us almost as much as the most expensive portal that we’re on per valuation. While you’re looking, see what Purplebricks are doing in your area. There’s a good chance they’re throwing money at Google Ads in your neck of the woods in a bid to outbid everyone and gain market share. Foxtons are doing the same, too, in London. It’s a dangerous game to play as it’s a bottomless pit.
We also put money into social media advertising, particularly Facebook, through our Flink system and that also performs well. So my advice is to find what works best for you cost-wise in terms of generating leads and give those areas an extra push.
+ Get brilliant on the basics
It goes without saying that delivering a great service to customers is paramount. Right now, it means being extra helpful, identifying their pain points and determining what you can do for them. Understand their motivation to sell, determine what they can afford, particularly if they’re downsizing, advise them with upfront and honest views.
It also means hitting the phones and keeping in touch. Think of it as a contact sport! Some people think that sending a message via text or Whatsapp is sufficient, but that’s not the right way to build a relationship. The helpful agents are the ones that will win through. You need to shout about your success stories.
For the last 12 years, we’ve been order takers but it’s no longer the case. You need to be active with buyers as it’s now flipped to become a buyers’ market. Don’t overvalue properties. Instead, get ahead of the curve and get things sold in January before the market goes down any further.
This is where the high street agents win hands down over the online agents, particularly in a tough market. I’ve questioned enough times whether the likes of Purplebricks, Yopa and Strike will survive when the market is depressed. If they continue to burn through money, it will be a disaster when there’s far less money coming in.
+ Live within your means
It really is going to be survival of the fittest. You can’t afford to be carrying a lot of costs, and that really does entail living within your means.
If you’ve not lived through this kind of market before, my advice is don’t overspend, don’t over employ. Watch out for bad debt. Cash is king so don’t spend on what’s not necessary.
Asking people not to waste electricity and to turn the lights off always sounds like a good plan but getting people to enact it is another thing. However, it’s imperative that people aren’t wasting energy, in all senses of the word.
Anyone who runs a business will recognise it can be extremely challenging at a time like this but thankfully these things are cyclical and what goes down will definitely come up again at some point in the future. Until then, we all need to stay strong.
+ Please can I encourage you to share your own tips in the comments so that we can support each other across the sector.
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