A leading industry insider writes about the future of New Homes agency in the UK.
The full English
It’s fair to say that the property industry isn’t the quickest to embrace change. Let’s not forget, it wasn’t long ago that developers were wedded to using watercolours to illustrate their homes. It’s hardly a surprise then that the majority of new homes agents still offer the same service to developers that they did 20 years ago.
Some agents promise a full service to their clients but what exactly does “full” service actually mean? Talk is cheap and so if you dig a little deeper it’s clear that most agents actually offer a “half full” service at best. It’s like going to your favourite eatery and paying for a full English breakfast only to be given a solitary piece of toast. I’d feel more than a little short-changed and it’s the same in new homes agency.
It’s like going to your favourite eatery and paying for a full English breakfast only to be given a solitary piece of toast.
Of course “full” is a relative word and it’s often mis-used. The demands of consumers and developers are in a constant state of flux and so the service being offered must change and evolve accordingly. What is clear to me is that New Homes is a specialist and fast paced business. It doesn’t stand still and so if an agent does nothing then it’ll go backwards. Haslams is the standout agent here and certainly sets a clear benchmark for how to define a true “full service”. If you are promised the full English at Haslams then that is what you will get!
The rise of the Martini agent: any time, any place, anywhere
Gone are the days of relying on mass targeting and broadcast media. This is the age of big data and respecting the identity of the individual. We live in a 24 hour global market, where customers may be in different time zones and they want to engage over different media and channels using numerous devices. Old school thinking and a one-size–fits-all approach just doesn’t work.
A dedicated new homes sales function with local knowledge is critical but that’s not enough. Marketing, media and market intelligence are all required to complete the full agency package. Alison Deakin, CALA’s Sales & Marketing Director, explains:
“Haslams is about more than just sales for us. The agency also has a key role to play in our marketing mix, and their experienced in-house marketing team create and implement really targeted and innovative campaigns.
Strategically we also view Haslams as a media channel, as the variety of media they manage and control puts our developments in front of tens of thousands of potential customers who we otherwise couldn’t reach.
Whilst they continue to send viewings direct to site, it’s the added value behind-the-scenes media and marketing expertise that helps us raise awareness of our developments and gets our message in front of a much wider audience.”
Of course online is a critical part of the mix but bricks and mortar are important too. To put this into perspective over 1,000,000 people walk past Haslams’ office every month and so their window displays put developments in front of people that would otherwise not see them. And what an office it is.
Stephen Conway, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Galliard Homes (the largest privately owned developer in London) has seen thousands of offices in his time but acknowledges that:
“Haslams’ offices are undoubtedly some of the best anywhere in the UK.”
This has certainly not been down to luck but rather it’s about a near religious focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience and this, coupled with significant investment, has culminated in what is likely to be the very best environment to showcase any new homes development.
Shaken. Not Stirred
It’s textbook that any product or service proposition needs to be constantly reviewed and refined. Customers’ wants and needs change all the time and so any customer-facing business needs to listen to their customers and change with the times. Mike Shearn, Haslams’ COO, explains:
“Many of our clients understand this: especially those that genuinely want to understand and engage with their customers. Gone are the days when developers measure an agent purely on the number of viewings and sales they generate. I’m not saying that sales are not critical; we have generated over 45% of sales across 18 new homes sites so far this year, which is c.50%+ above the performance of our competitors. However, it’s also about the added value that others just don’t offer: the invaluable customer insights; the competitor analysis; and of course sales and marketing strategy: all of which give our clients a competitive advantage.”
So is this the beginning of the end for the one-trick-pony sales agent? In short: probably not as some developers will only ever focus on sales. However, there is rightly a focus on value for money that agents offer and so they should be challenged. Remember the full English? Would you not challenge the waitress if she only gave you toast!
What should be on the menu?
A New Homes agent of any significant size should be adding a lot more value than cost. They have to justify their fee and not just through sales but also through the whole sales and marketing mix.
The benchmark in terms of added value has to be Haslams. They have been around for over 180 years but today they are still changing the perceptions of what a new homes agency is. Interestingly for an agency this old it continues to look to the future: no longer seeing itself as a traditional sales agency. In fact it is anything but a traditional agent. To name but a few it is a sales and marketing consultancy; a media buyer; a media owner; a creative agency; a market intelligence agency; a project manager; an investment analyst; a landmark venue; and the owner of one of the most powerful market research databases.
Melissa Hughes, Marketing Manager, explains:
“This is what makes Haslams different. I don’t know of any other agency in The UK that offers anything like the value we do. On top of the very best sales performance in our area of operation, our clients get so much more. For example, the media that we own gets developments in front of millions of people every week. People pay lots of money for that kind of coverage but we include it within our fee. Our service is already incredibly compelling but we have some amazing things in the pipeline that will make it even better.”
The latest service to be added to the Haslams portfolio is media owner, having just secured an exclusive 5-year contract to advertise on nine prominent new digital billboards on the major arteries in and out of Reading. Some billboards span four lanes of town centre traffic and they are collectively passed by 400,000 vehicles each way, every day.
If you come anywhere near Reading over the next five years then expect to see Haslams and their new homes developments!