By Michael Bruce, CEO of Purplebricks.com
It has long been the case that many estate agents just fall into the industry. Usually it is very early in people’s career, their first or second job. They start as a junior negotiator and work their way through the ranks, typically very quickly. Estate Agents earn a decent income for their age and skills as a direct comparison to other industries and many are believed to have a work hard, play hard ethos.
Having personally followed this trend, I know full well that there is often a choice - burn out and leave the industry, work harder to meet growing demands or venture out on your own. The work hard, play hard lifestyle sometimes doesn’t permit excellent people to start their own business, as well as personal lifestyle choices or circumstances standing in the way. So what are the options? Is there widespread flexibility? Can your lifestyle change and still remain an estate agent?
From 30th June, the law has changed meaning that any employee will have the right to ask their employer to change their working patterns. The only requirement is that the worker must have worked with their employer for at least 26 weeks – if so, they can then make one ‘flexibility request’ per year and the employer has a legal duty to consider it.
Nearly half of British men want to work flexible hours according to a recent survey by Jobsite, and 75 per cent of all 25-34 year olds would like to request flexible working if they were given the opportunity to do so. Are Estate Agents ready and, more importantly, willing?
The days where customers have to travel to the high street and go into the office of every estate agent in the street to see what is on the market have well and truly gone. The large majority now goes online to Rightmove or Zoopla. I estimate that much less than 1% of all estate agency activity results from customers visiting an office. As a result, there is no need for a high street office anymore. The rest of the role can be carried out face-to-face with the customer or from home provided you have a laptop, mobile telephone and email. These are all the necessary tools to get your customers property to the market. Saying that, will we see a big change? In my opinion, no.
I very much doubt that the leaders of estate agents will be able to bring themselves to depart from a long outdated tradition. Perhaps it is an expensive security blanket. Perhaps it is just the way things used to be. Nevertheless, I believe that there will be a strong, albeit unnecessary pressure, to avoid, if not ignore, the rights and entitlements of their employees to change their working patterns. They will not be permitted to work from home. The estate agents will not change the way they do things to make it more convenient and cost effective for their customers and their employees. Solidarity at all costs.
The world is changing. People are changing. Ways of doing things and how we do them are changing. At Purplebricks we have made those changes. We are fully compliant with the new legal provisions and have made it our goal to offer all our people the flexibility never before seen in the industry. We concentrate our time on the customer, not fighting our way through traffic to get to an office where nobody visits. The time for change is here. Solidarity on this front would be so much better for the customer, our employees and the industry. Will the day ever come?