London 15th April, 2020: UK estate agents with bricks and mortar premises on the nation’s high streets have been hit particularly hard by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. They face a perfect storm of problems including closed premises; viewings cancelled or postponed indefinitely; purchases put on hold; a squeeze on mortgage terms; and a potential 60% drop in transactions (according to property portal Zoopla). Whilst estate agencies can furlough staff to cut costs they still need to be able to cover off a number of back office tasks such as dealing with buyer enquiries or liaising between buyers and sellers for properties that are sold, subject to contract, but that are currently trapped in limbo.
Potential respite comes in the form of a new service offered by Agent Online Services www.aolservices.co.uk, an outsourcing specialist that has been providing property professionals with a wide range of remote back office services for the past twelve years. The company is now offering estate agents a remote back office proposition for just £51 plus VAT per month per property. This includes answering all portal calls and emails from potential buyers (phones manned 24/7); arrangement of viewings as permitted (face to face or virtual); management of offers (in conjunction with the agent); sending out of heads of terms and progressing the sale to completion; and undertaking anti-money laundering checks. Agent Online Services can also handle ‘For Sale’ board erection and removal if required. For an additional £19 + VAT pm/pp the team will also list existing and new properties on all 3 portals (Rightmove, Zoopla and On The Market) meaning the agent can drop its existing portal relationships if it wants to.
Estate agents using this new service get to keep 100% of their completion fees when the sale goes through and can terminate the contract with just one month’s notice and no minimum term. Whilst the service provides estate agents with the opportunity to immediately cut the costs of their overheads, including existing portal licences (with their often onerous contract length); it is also extremely versatile and scalable with agents having the option to remain as involved as they want to be in relation to buyer enquiries. Maintaining a portal presence ensures the estate agent is always ‘open’ even if its premises are shut. As for post Covid-19, estate agents are free to return to their current business model or continue to use Agent Online Services with a bespoke package of services designed to fit the individual needs of each estate agency.
According to Dominic Toller, Managing Director of Agent Online Services, “My message to estate agents is that we are here and ready to help immediately. We have been providing estate agents with outsourced services for 12 years, we know the business back to front and can hit the ground running. Our services give you peace of mind that your brand is still active in the market whilst providing cost savings and the opportunity for you to work on the things your business needs to survive and thrive post Covid 19. There are many elements of the property sales cycle that really don’t require a local presence – which means that our clients can concentrate on the ones that do.”
About Agent Online Services
The Agent Online Services team started 12 years ago, originally as an asset manager, helping banks and receivers to market and sell repossessed or receivership stock. The group then branched into outsourcing with estate agents, housing associations, IFAs and banks, utilising its sophisticated, scalable cloud-based IT platform and expertise, combined with flexible call centre resource, to provide these companies and organisations with a raft of bespoke remote support services. Most often centralising certain parts of the sales process to both enhance the customer experience and reduce costs.
Moving forward, and looking to the market post Covid-19, Agent Online Services believes its scalable, cost-effective model will prove compelling to high street estate agents who have been compelled to review their business model and, in particular, the high fixed monthly costs they carry.
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