The End of Bad Estate Agency – BestAgent’s Secret Master Plan
Background: My name is Charlie Lamdin, the founder and sole owner of BestAgent. I have been working as a supplier to the UK residential property industry (estate and lettings agents) since 1999. At some point almost every major EA brand and hundreds of smaller brands have been clients. I have learned more about how estate agency operates than anyone who’s never been an agent. My mission has always been to solve the problem that makes moving so unnecessarily unpleasant for both movers and agents. Both sides have the same end goal: for the move to happen. When two sides both want the same thing, there exists the potential for an improvement.
Or at least that’s what I naïvely thought when I set out to solve this problem. What I’ve uncovered is the industry’s dirty secret: the murky truth behind the reason for ever-worsening exploitation of movers, estate agency employees and the thousands of small, owner-managed estate agency businesses across the country. The answer: shareholder and investor interests almost always out-rank staff and customer interests. This means the most powerful companies in the industry set the rules of how the game is played and everyone else has no choice but to play along. BestAgent will change that, or fail.
Let me be clear: I want to permanently dismantle the current, toxic power structure in the industry which has led to ever-worsening experiences for home movers and the good people working in agency. Below is the (not so) secret plan.
The BestAgent Vision
Hardly anyone understands the importance of the role estate agents play in people’s lives. It’s one of the most critical, life-changing (better or worse) services you will ever use, whether you realise it or not.
People don’t know how to find trustworthy agents.
BestAgent has been built to enable the emergence of a self-regulating, home-focused residential property marketplace where better agents prosper and dishonest conduct fails.
Or in simpler terms, BestAgent has been built to make moving home easier, fairer and better for everyone.
Plan: Neutralise the current control structure
Moving home in the UK has been too painful for too long, for everyone involved, especially movers and agents. And as time passes it keeps getting even worse. Something has got to change.
The plan is simple, but the execution of it will be anything but.
Step 1: Stop the noise. Neutralise the bewildering, confusing torrent of estate agency brand marketing guff, social media spamming and lead generation exercises. Help intelligent homeowners make a better informed choice of agent at the personal level. This is what “Find Your Agent” already does.
Step 2: De-game the home advertising space by creating a self-regulating marketplace where all homes are advertised free of charge. Fake or out of date listings can be instantly removed by agents or movers on a trust basis, (repeat abusers get barred). Leads are transparently-priced, pay per lead, where all agents pay the same rate regardless of size. Gradually deploy features that further improve the chances of committed movers finding the best agents to work with. No-show or dishonest applicants also get flagged by agents and potentially banned.
Step 3: Deploy the remaining 6 functions (see diagram below) which further enhance and promote the outstanding individuals in the industry, wherever they may work (for example, think of a great employee agent with a terrible boss. This person should thrive despite their poor employer). Deploy the functions which makes it harder for one-sided, zero-sum game ‘proptech’ products to prosper, at the expense of movers and agents. Eliminate disingenuous lead-gen tech completely by rendering it useless.
Strategy: Focus on forward-thinking movers and agents
The barrier to innovation is the people who don’t want change. While participation in BestAgent is open to all agents and movers, it’s specifically designed to appeal to more forward-thinking people. These people understand from other industries how the intelligent use of new technology works for those who embrace it. Remember when the iPhone, then Uber and Airbnb first appeared? Early adopters jumped at it and had years of the benefits while the mass market mocked and ignored them, before finally adopting it themselves.
Who’s going to keep paying more for less, when these firms delivered the opposite?
The luddites, that’s who. We have to ensure the luddites don’t kill this opportunity. (Many people I love are luddites. I have nothing against them, but they must be avoided lest they destroy new tech with cries of “It’s rubbish!” because they don’t know how to use it.)
The only losers will be the protectionists who will squeal loudly when BestAgent gets traction (prepare for the BestAgent-hater agents), as it will be a threat to their entire operating method, a bit like cars must have been to the horse-and-carriage industry. They can participate, but only on the same terms as everyone else. They can no longer dictate their own terms. Movers deserve better. Being tricked into signing a sole agency contract with bad, backwards-looking agents will no longer be acceptable. Those days are now numbered.
Objective: The better, fairer future everyone deserves
The property market’s biggest problem is the control exercised by a small number of large organisations, primarily for their benefit, at the expense of everyone else. This is unacceptable for hard working, lower income people need to move house. The move is often forced on them for reasons beyond their control, and they end up being chewed up and spat out by the lack of integrity displayed by many estate agents who prioritise their own income over the real needs of their customers.
Movers need good agents, even if they don’t realise it. A poor choice of agent ends up hurting people’s life chances. An intelligent choice of agent for the right reasons can turbo-charge a customer’s life chances. It’s that important, literally life-changing.
There are many good people working in agency who are expected by their employers to use bad practices. They don’t like it, they don’t want to do it, but they have to if they want to earn a living. One of our hopes is that these people will find better jobs with better employers who don’t use bad practices. A major part of BestAgent has already been built specifically to facilitate this, which will allow individual agents to build a professional profile and take it with them when they change employer or start out on their own.
No one (who’s not a psychopath) feels good about making money at the expense of others. But everyone feels good making money because they helped someone. This is the future I believe most people want, as has already happened in other industries.
The intelligent application of technology has the potential to eliminate, or at least radically reduce, the instances of dishonest conduct and exploitation of others, with the lazy justification that “it’s just business.”
All of which should go some way to explaining why I have no investors. I have failed to find any venture capitalists who actually practice putting the enhancement of others’ lives ahead of their profit-making. They are almost all, zombie-like, completely focused on spreadsheets and ROI. While they love the buzz words of social impact, they don’t live it. Which is why I have bootstrapped this venture on my own for the last 7 years (to the tune of c. £5m so far, including deferred rewards).
If I can get enough agents who operate with integrity to join BestAgent to get it to a starting point where the first consumers who use it get a better experience than they would otherwise, it will be downhill from there, and a happier future ahead for all.
Better-than-the-rest agent? Join BestAgent. Here bestagent.co.uk/agents