Like most people I’m not a huge fan of estate agents, but like most people I’m also nosey and want to peek inside homes down my street.
This means that even though I am not in the market for a new home I find myself browsing estate agent websites more frequently than I perhaps should.
In general my snooping takes place on my mobile phone after I’ve spotted a ‘for sale’ sign while strolling to the tube, and as I don’t want to believe that I’m the only person in the world guilty of this behaviour I feel that mobile is an area that estate agents should be looking to exploit.
If someone sees a house up for sale or rent and wants to know more then it’s a good idea to allow them to access the details there and then, otherwise they may forget to look up the information when they finally get home or to work.
So, here are a few ways in which estate agents can use mobile to help sell their wares, as well as a look at which businesses are getting it right...
Build a mobile site
It’s a rather obvious point, but if you want house hunters to check property details while they’re out and about then you need a mobile site.
Many estate agents have mobile sites, including Hamptons and Foxtons, but Knight Frank and Savills are still behind the times despite being among the biggest agencies in the country.
Have a prominent search function
In London Foxtons is one of the most visible agencies, however its mobile homepage is quite disappointing. A large, yellow call to action (CTA) at the top of the homepage shows you what is most important to their business, even though mobile users would probably prefer to be presented with a decent search tool.
The search function is lower down the homepage and could easily be improved by making the text fields and buttons larger – just look at those tiny radio buttons for choosing between buying or renting a property...
In comparison, Hamptons’ homepage couldn’t be simpler. Whereabouts are you looking and are you buying or renting?
This makes it incredibly easy to find what you’re looking for, with necessary filters applied on the results page.
Simple search results
Search results should ideally include at least one image of the property, the price, location and number of bedrooms.
Foxtons ticks all these boxes, but I feel the number of bedrooms should be given more prominence as at the moment it falls below the mortgage calculator.
Strutt and Parker packs in a lot of information about the properties, though the colour scheme is awful.
Hamptons probably has one of the best results pages as it’s simple and uncluttered, while Douglas and Gordon also has a clean results page, complete with the square footage of each property and a handy click-to-call link.
Simple yet detailed property pages
Property pages appear to be a major challenge for estate agents as none of them is particularly user-friendly.
They tend to have far too much text, fiddly buttons, or tiny images. Foxtons probably has the best overall design, offering a concise description, bullet points of the key features, good sized images and plenty of other information.
The one minor issue is the lack of a click-to-call button to make it easy to arrange a viewing.
In comparison, Marsh & Parsons offers decent images and a good-sized floor plan but the text is far too small.
Make it easy to arrange a viewing
Ultimately agents don’t just want people checking property details online, they also want the visit to result in a property viewing with one of their agents. This means making it as simple as possible to get in touch with the agency.
Foxtons presents nice big ‘Arrange to view this property’ CTAs in its search results but if you click on it you are asked to login, which is a sure-fire way of repelling potential buyers.
It does also give the option of calling the office, but where’s the click-to-call button? The process could be made far simpler.
For example, Marsh & Parsons puts a big ‘Call us’ CTA on its property pages.
Text for details
Marsh & Parsons has a text number on its property boards that allows you to receive local property details by text message.
If you text ‘Marsh’ to 84840 the agency then sends you a hyperlink to a webpage that details all the properties available for sale or rent in your local area.
It’s a really neat feature and delivers useful information quickly and without forcing people to speak to an agent or register their details.
QR codes are almost as much-maligned as estate agents themselves, yet I feel that the property industry could really stand to benefit from using the pixelated little squares.
For example, they could be placed on ‘for sale’ signs to allow people to instantly access the property details.
I’ve yet to see anyone implement this technology, however London agency Currell has QR codes in its shop windows next to each property advert.
This means people can easily access property details while browsing the window display and without having to enter the agency.
Currell also avoids the cardinal sin of linking to a desktop site, but instead links directly to a mobile optimised property page.
The pages themselves could do with a bit of tweaking to make them easier to read and navigate, but on the plus side Currell does include a huge number of excellent images for each property.
Put a phone number on ‘for sale’ signs
Pretty much all estate agents do this already as standard, but it’s still worth flagging up as it means that house hunters can quickly contact the agency for more details.
The problem is that often agents aren’t willing to give out details until they’ve registered the buyer’s personal details, which then means they’re opening themselves up to a barrage of spam calls and emails.
And obviously we snoops who have no intention of buying a home don’t want to reveal ourselves by actually speaking to an agent...