How digital has changed the way we buy houses…

how digital has changed the way we buy houses

 

As Beyoncé sang: “If you like it, you should have put an offer on it!”. Never has the housing market been more prevalent in the press than it is today. Well, OK, maybe she didn’t use those exact words; but with current reports showing there are eleven buyers for every property that comes available, time is not the friend of a potential buyer. In order to buy in the current climate, you need to be brave enough to offer at a lightning rate. I, myself a first time buyer, bought my flat off-plan before it had even been built and beat three other people who called the developers that day to buy my exact plot. So, what does this mean for the marketing departments at property companies? Surely, if demand outstrips supply you would think there would be a dramatic thinning of property company marketing departments. However, in my experience, it has been the complete opposite: smaller boutique developers are employing their first marketing managers and the huge residential juggernauts are dividing their marketing teams into specialist divisions usually seen in FMCG brands.

Historically, property was marketed through collateral-based methods: the first thing an estate agent did when a house was put up for sale was come and take pictures, which would then be put into a glossy document to be displayed in a shop window, mailed to prospective buyers, and featured in the property section of the local newspaper. These methods of marketing have a relatively long lead time, with large associated costs (a quick look at my local newspaper quotes £210 to advertise one property for a week). Another common route was a direct marketing campaign, with leaflets going through the doors of whole towns – hardly a very targeted audience considering the cost of the campaign.

Nowadays, collateral-based methods are still employed but they take a massive back seat to digital marketing. Speaking to several of my clients over the past week – who include the UK’s largest house builders and estate agents – marketing spend has been streamlined, but the marketing departments have been massively diversified in the digital sections. Whilst social media, CRM and SEO/PPC specialists have been common place in consumer brands for years, they are being more and more routinely incorporated into the departments of property companies. In this internet age, it has never been easier to look round your neighbour’s house or find out how much properties on your street are worth from the comfort of your own sofa. As properties have become more accessible online with virtual viewing, developers and estate agents have had to increase their savvy when marketing properties. Facebook and Google adverts have the lion’s share of the larger developers’ marketing budgets, whilst smaller developers have slick websites and an excellent SEO set up. These strategies used to be more commonly associated with online shopping, rather than buying houses!

One amazing example of this is Purple Bricks – a completely online, 24/7 estate agency. Since its flotation in 2015, share price has risen by 249.69%. There are several online property advertising sites that have been around for a good few years, but with Taylor Wimpey no longer advertising on Zoopla, and Persimmon coming off RightMove, in-house teams are finding the best route to market is often direct. Who knows what will happen next, property is usually the Average Joe’s most valuable asset, but I know if I had had the option to purchase my house with an online click I certainly would have…

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