Online vs offline seems to be a battle for the ages in the property industry. Around 10 years ago, a new threat emerged for the high street model, which really kicked into play in 2012/13 when Openrent, an online-only letting agent, entered the store.
Online-only agents flex their tech muscles 💪 promoting cheaper fixed fees for landlords, while high street agents claim that local area expertise can’t be beaten when it comes to finding tenants. Truth be told the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, with both models having pros and cons.
If you’re a high street agent, how do you compete with the pesky online model where running costs are lower, and technology takes a front seat? You certainly can’t ignore the digital elephant in the room, but there is still plenty of value to derive from the high street model. It’s your time to shine. ⭐️
Differences Between Online and High Street
High street and online agents share the same end goal, but the route to the destination differs. Online agents often cap their fees, offering a fixed rate that is below the average high street fees. Previously, landlords had to do their own references and rent collection, but many online agents now offer those services for an extra fee.
The main difference is the physical presence (or lack thereof) a letting negotiator. When using an online agent, landlords need to take a more hands-on approach, arranging and conducting viewings themselves. If you’re a landlord - and depending on your stance - arranging your own viewing is either welcome news or a total burden.
Landlords who want minimal contact with their tenants are far more likely to use a high street agent, where full management of a rental property is always on offer. Costs are higher, but landlords get total peace of mind knowing their investment property is being professionally looked after.
Online agents hold most of the cards when it comes to technological innovations and giving DIY landlords a platform to let their property, but high-street agents have a physical presence which is still arguably the most important aspect.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Online agents are often cheaper than their high street rivals, offering a flat rate fixed fee to landlords who want to use their service. Landlords also have more control over the lettings process, using the online platform to arrange viewings and adding extra services if necessary.
Cons: While most online agents offer tenant referencing and rent collection, there is still a DIY nature in using an online agent. If you are an overseas landlord, or someone with a property portfolio, having to do so much to source new tenants might not appeal. No access to a physical agent who markets the property also means losing out on local area expertise - something that could prove vital when it comes to selling renters on the benefits of an area.
Pros: High street agents are working on out in the field, which means they know the area well. The good agents are clued up and can relay useful information to renters looking for somewhere to live. Negotiators know about local transport, the best places to grab a bite, where the shopaholics can go, good parks and the best schools. They have their finger on the pulse in the local area.
Cons: Choosing a high street agent to let, collect the rent and professionally manage a property can be expensive. Landlords can pay as much as 15 percent for letting and management fees (final fee is often negotiable), and that’s not taking VAT into account. For accidental landlords, these high costs can be off-putting. There is also a stereotype that follows agents around which alludes to them not being transparent about their services - although the stigma is fading.
Online agents are generally cheaper than the high street, but don't have the same appeal for portfolio landlords - especially those from overseas. High-street agents are local area experts, but with the expertise comes a premium, which can often equate to month's worth of rent.
Keeping a Competitive Advantage in the Market
How do high street agents stop landlords fluttering their eyes in the direction of online agents? Embracing technology is a good place to start. You have to beat online-only agents at their own game, but there are ways to offer the best of both worlds.
Getting the Movebubble app is an excellent first step. Renters can search for properties, getting in touch with agents directly via the app, while landlords see which letting agents are at the top of their game and are featured on our landlords’ page. Imagine knowing that you’re the top agent in your app. 😎
Creating content that attracts landlords is another way of surging past the online competition. Whether through videos, blog posts or social media, it’s essential to keep landlords up to date with the latest insights and industry news.
As a high street agent you have a physical presence that online-only agents can’t compete with. Highlight that fact and use it to your advantage. Even though the world seems to be moving in the direction of automation with a focus on tech, there is still plenty of value in physical interactions. 👨💼
Many people still prefer to do business with actual human beings, which gives high street agents a distinct advantage if they play to their audience. More often than not a landlord prefers having a real-life person promoting, showing and actively working to let their property. People have busy lives - they don’t have time to arrange viewings themselves.
Content is key in the battle for high-streets to keep an upper hand. Having a physical presence alone isn't enough, and it's important to show value to your customers before they even think of instructing an agent.
New Age High Street Agents
Online-only agents shouldn’t be dismissed, and there is a market for them. But high street agents still have many assets on their side that can’t be replicated in the digital world. Using your local area expertise, with help from apps like Movebubble, keeping the online competition at arm's length is achievable. There is no substitute for local area expertise.
Want to get featured on our landlord page? Get in touch with us today to book a demo of the Movebubble Partner App!