A life unexamined…


A life unexamined, is a life not worth living…so said the Father of Western Philosophy, Socrates.

And I, for one, wholeheartedly agree with Soc The Greek. And so, the other day, I was examining my life. And more specifically my working life. As an estate agent. And a couple of things that struck me that don’t seem to have changed in the past decade or so were; A. the persistent negative public perception of our ilk and B. the success (or rather lack of it) of the Internet Based Agents (IBAs).

Estate agents have historically been viewed as lazy, feckless ne’er do wells, who do little, or nothing to earn their fee, whilst also being duplicitous and untrustworthy.

On the one hand you have the sharp-suited high street spivs who are as trustworthy as they are sartorially elegant, who deal houses as they would automotive insurance write-offs; and on the other, the public school “wonders”, short of chin and clue, who left Cirencester Agric Coll without a qualification, heading to Town to pursue a career and a “pretty girl”, before loping off back to the countryside to run Daddy’s farm and breed rosy-cheeked rustic cherubs….

The former devious, the latter thick.

In both cases the public perception is that all an agent does to earn his sizeable fee, is to whack the property on Rightmove, sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

And Once Upon a Time in Agency, that might well have been the case, and frankly in some organisations, it still is…

But, dear reader, the times, they are a changing…

Let me put this question to you; if that was all it took to sell a property in this country, why aren’t IBAs, such as Purple Bricks, more successful? The above would seem to largely fit their business model.

For all their hype, and the white noise of their mass media campaigns, why such a tiny market share? And after a decade in existence! You see, according to independent research, the total share of all online agencies dropped from a peak of 6.35% in September 2018 to just 4.8 per cent in February 2020*. And latest figures from June 2020 state that online agents’ market share has fallen almost 20% year on year** (while Rampton Baseley’s has gone up 80%….)

Why? (world’s most important word?)

Well, to answer this question we have to ask: what does an estate agent actually do for a living? The answer – sell their client’s property. This “property” being, in the vast majority of cases, the client’s most financially (and often emotionally) valuable asset – it’s their home man!

We are not talking about flogging trainers, or even cars, on the internet here. Yes, sure, a “local expert”, no offices, and an East Midlands call centre can do a fine job on that.

No, here we’re talking about million-pound plus assets in which people have lived, loved and laughed, and they are owned by intelligent grown-ups and are being sold to intelligent grown-ups. These switched on adults want switched on adults to handle the sale of their homes.

There are SO many complicated moving parts in a property transaction (47 last time I checked), and they all need handling with skill and judgement to execute the sale effectively – I could write you a long and boring list here of everything involved, but I won’t, because it will be long and boring.

Suffice it to say, it’s complicated. Complicated and emotional.

And it needs emotionally intelligent, and intellectually complicated people to do it.

And here’s the rub of it…

You see, the whole point of the tech revolution is at best to marginalise, and at worst eradicate transactional human input. And yes, this is fine for the sale of trainers and cars, but NOT for homes.

Don’t take my word for it, take that of the Great British Public. For over the past decade they have made this abundantly clear with their wallets, and their pecuniary disdain for the IBAs.

So, what is it that they lack? And why are they so cheap?

At this point I feel we must go back to our old friend Malcom Gladwell and his 10,000 hours that make an expert.

10,000 = 250 working weeks = 5 working years.

That’s a lot of time, and money (ca £375k), spent creating an “Agency Expert”.

Guess what is the average experience of a Rampton Baseley sales negotiator?

9.25 years (chuck in Directors and it’s 12.5).

Nine and a quarter years!…That’s 18,500 hours (and almost £700k) spent learning and training to produce an expert neg.

And that brings me, and rather neatly I thought, back to why IBAs have failed to break the market and have failed even further in times of crisis. And similarly, why Rampton Baseley dominate their market and are able to expand their Agency in the Time of Covid.

One word.


And you can’t buy that shit…(well you can actually, but it’s very expensive)

So sorry, it’s actually two words – Expertise and Money.

And the IBAs, don’t have the boots on the ground (just BOTs?). And if they do, they don’t have the  quality of boots, because they don’t spend the money.

So, to return to the Great Socrates, and another of his philosophical gemstones – “You pay peanuts mate, you get monkeys…”


(* The Advisory market consultancy – Estate Agent today. ** Ditto).