Technology the word on the street

Talk­ing win­dows and Twit­ter are the new tools of the trade for es­tate and let­tings agents. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

BACK in the 1970s when house “par­tic­u­lars” were still be­ing typed up and the only way to view a prop­erty was in per­son, es­tate agents would’ve been amazed at the prospect of in­ter­net tours and text alerts.

Now, a few decades on and they are blasé about new technology. It takes a lot to ex­cite them, but the lat­est gizmo is arous­ing much in­ter­est.

The first in­ter­ac­tive talk­ing win­dow in the re­gion has just been in­stalled at the new Ed­dis­ons es­tate agency in Hors­forth, Leeds.

Part of Ed­dis­ons win­dow will fea­ture a touch screen from where you can ac­cess their web­site, prop­er­ties for sale and even book view­ings, while lis­ten­ing to a run­ning com­men­tary.

Se­ri­ous house­hunters – and no doubt a few late night drinkers – won’t be able to re­sist hav­ing a play, which is ex­actly what Gra­ham Bates is bank­ing on.

Gra­ham, a di­rec­tor at Ed­dis­ons, says: “It’s our first high street branch in a key lo­ca­tion and we wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent, though not just for the sake of it.

“I looked at what was in the mar­ket and found this. It’s fun but it’s in­for­ma­tive.

“Some agents have a TV in the win­dow but this is a big step up from that. It’s ac­tu­ally part of the win­dow it­self and it is in­ter­ac­tive. It even has a key­board and au­dio pads, so when some­one ac­ti­vates it, it starts talk­ing.

“There’s a spe­cial film on the glaz­ing that cre­ates a 60in screen and the technology uses back pro­jec­tion linked to a PC.”

While it is un­doubt­edly gim- micky, it is also a good sales tool, says Gra­ham. “If you’re pass­ing by and you see a house in the win­dow dis­play that you like and it’s eight o’clock at night you can look it up and reg­is­ter your in­ter­est. It means we’re open 365 days a year.”

Ed­dis­ons will also be us­ing con­ven­tional high-tech aides such as Right­move and their web­site. They are also plan­ning to send out text alerts and are look­ing at iPhone apps.

“We’ve looked at what works and what doesn’t. We aren’t keen on video tours for most prop­er­ties be­cause when you’re pre­sent­ing a prop­erty you don’t show it warts and all,” says Gra­ham. “You show it at its best, which is why we are in­vest­ing in re­ally good, pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy for all our prop­er­ties.”

Over at web-based let­ting agency Flats in Leeds, new technology is be­ing used to great ef­fect to rent homes.

The web­site has won awards for be­ing stylish, in­no­va­tive and easy-to-use. But di­rec­tor Jor­dan Yo­rath has used his youth and knowl­edge of so­cial net­work­ing to boost the Flats in Leeds brand and drive more traf­fic to the com­pany web­site.

“We are on Face­book and our prop­er­ties come up on peo­ple’s news feeds, we use Twit­ter and we put video tours of the prop­er­ties on You Tube,” he says.

“It’s re­ally helped the web­site. We’re up to 15,000 hits a month and it has boosted the brand and helps with search en­gine op­ti­mi­sa­tion for the web­site, so we are higher in the Google rank­ings.”

His so­cial net­work­ing has also trans­lated into busi­ness.

“Some­one from Canada found us on You Tube and they want to move to Leeds and rent a place, which is amaz­ing,” says Jor­dan.

But those who are sell­ing and buy­ing need the hu­man touch and a lot of hand-hold­ing, says Gra­ham Bates.

It’s why he be­lieves that es­tate agen­cies need a high street pres­ence and why the tra­di­tional tech­niques are just as im­por­tant as the gadgets and go­ings on in cy­berspace.

“The foot­fall into es­tate agen­cies has fallen and would-be buy­ers do a lot of their search­ing on the prop­erty por­tals like Right­move and Zoopla, es­tate agency web­sites and through spe­cial­ist pub­li­ca­tions like the York­shire Post Prop­erty Post. They might book a view­ing but it will prob­a­bly be over the phone, so you may never see them.

“Yet hav­ing a phys­i­cal pres­ence is im­por­tant be­cause it gives sell­ers a feel­ing of se­cu­rity.

“They are our cus­tomers and we are deal­ing with their biggest as­set so know­ing they can walk in and talk to some­one face-to-face gives them some com­fort.

“What they still want is good, old-fash­ioned cus­tomer ser­vice.”

TALK­ING POINT: Paul Wil­son of Ed­dis­ons tests out the talk­ing shop win­dow in Hors­forth, Leeds.

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