In an era where digital innovation is reshaping every industry, the property letting sector stands at a crossroads. Traditional high street letting agents, once the cornerstone of the property market, are facing new challenges while holding on to old ways of working.
Digital letting agents like Letio are leading the charge in the transformation of property letting. To understand this shift, we sat down with Chris Ware, a Media and Communications Expert, for an insightful discussion.
Chris Ware is a media and communications maestro with 25 years of experience, renowned for his strategic role in the BBC’s ratings success against ITV and spearheading Apple’s iPhone launch in the UK in 2007. His notable achievements include leading Unilever’s Dove ‘Real Beauty’ and Persil’s ‘Dirt is Good’ campaigns, and guiding Audi in their global shift to electrification. Now focused on aiding SMEs, Chris excels in distilling complex concepts into simple, effective strategies, demonstrating his commitment to driving growth and innovation in the media landscape.
The high street agent: A tradition challenged
Ware begins by addressing a fundamental question: Why are traditional agents still prioritising high street presence? According to Ware, it comes down to a mix of client trust, a sense of security, and tradition. “For many, there’s comfort in the familiar,” Ware notes. However, he points out that this comfort comes at a cost, both financially and in terms of efficiency.
The psychology of trust and visibility
When asked about the role of trust in this dynamic, Ware delves deeper. “Property investments are seen as relatively low-risk,” he explains. “Therefore, landlords often prefer not to gamble with their assets.” This mindset can favour well-known high street names, perceived as a safer bet in worst-case scenarios like property damage or tenant issues.
The high street cost: A burden carried by the clients
Despite these perceived benefits, Ware highlights the inherent inefficiencies and unnecessary costs of high street agents. “The high street presence acts more as a constant advertisement, a mental reminder for landlords rather than a real value addition,” he says. This traditional approach, while offering visibility, often leads to higher service fees passed onto clients without a corresponding increase in value or service quality.
New agencies are challenging the old ways
Addressing how new players like Letio can challenge this narrative, Ware references Adam Morgan’s “Eating the big fish” strategies. “It’s about positioning as a disruptor, the ‘Next Generation’ against the outdated and expensive,” Ware suggests. He emphasizes the need for a solid strategy and service offering, not just a catchy tagline, to truly compete with established brands.
Understanding customer pain points
Ware also suggests a stronger focusing on customer pain points. “Highlighting the simplicity, transparency, speed, and cost-effectiveness of new models can really appeal to clients,” he says. This approach resonates with those frustrated by the traditional model’s inefficiencies and opaqueness.
Overcoming fear: The barrier to change
So why do people still use traditional agents despite acknowledging their limited value? Ware believes it’s largely due to fear. The decision often boils down to choosing between a potentially overpriced but familiar service and the daunting task of managing lettings independently. This fear is a significant barrier for innovation in the sector.
The digital shift: A future of possibilities
As for the future, Ware is optimistic but cautious. “The world is increasingly digital, and the lettings market is ripe for disruption,” he asserts. However, he warns against underestimating the impact of failed ventures like Purple Bricks, which have made some landlords wary of new models. “A smart communication strategy and gradual reputation building are key,” Ware advises.
Conclusion: A new era in property letting
This insightful interview with Chris Ware sheds light on the challenges and opportunities in the property letting industry. As digital platforms like Letio emerge, challenging traditional models, the question remains: Will the allure of innovation and efficiency overcome the inertia of tradition and fear? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain – the property letting landscape is evolving, and Letio is at the forefront of this change.