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.
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.