Last week a new TV show about estate agents aired on Channel Four. About a fortnight before that, there was a newspaper article about Britain’s most prolific seller of high value homes. In the Guardian of all places.
Over in the good old US of A, TV shows about estate agents are incredibly popular. It’s made stars out of the brokers who sell property for and to the super rich.
Million Dollar Listing, Selling Sunset and the like offer an impossibly glamorous glimpse inside the lives of high performing estate agents and the clients they serve. Of course, it’s consumed via the 21st centuries’ favourite mediums, reality TV and social media.
The British version? Well, it’s a little more British. Watching it, you might assume that the producers want it to be that way. That perhaps the audience might enjoy seeing a forlorn estate agent sitting in their second hand car, in the pouring rain, receiving the bad news that their buyer had committed elsewhere.
The newspaper article was actually pretty interesting. Especially hearing the divergent views on social media.
“Let me put it this way, I’ve never been on Instagram. I’ve never looked at it. My children use Instagram. I don’t even know how to use it, nor do I want to know how to use it.”
No punches pulled there, and like so many things in 2022, pretty polarising and binary.
I can’t really say I agree with the sentiment either. Everything in moderation. Social media isn’t the messiah, but it’s not a very naughty boy either.
In the States, a few of the top real estate brokers have personal social media followings of over a million. But here in the UK, where we can be a sceptical bunch, social media and estate agency haven’t always been easy bedfellows.
Some, like The Modern House, have amassed what by British standards are big numbers. About half a million people. But they’re a brand in their own right, and their content is driven exclusively by their clients' homes. And benevolence.
So instead of pictures of their staff, or posts about their achievements, you get beautifully curated properties filled with mid-century furniture, and where to find the best places to eat pasta in London. Which is a public service announcement if ever I saw one.
Although whether you’re the subject of a newspaper article, appearing in a TV show, posting on social media or writing a blog, you’re really vying for the same thing. Attention.
It’s a scarce commodity, and one which people are prepared to pay a lot of money for. If you’re in any doubt, commissioning a 30 second advert during the 2022 Super Bowl would have set you back six and a half million dollars.
“Attention is scarce because it doesn't scale. We can't do more than one thing at a time, and the number of organisations and ideas that are competing for our attention grows daily”
Another thing that’s scarce is trust.
The internet has given us more information than ever before. Part of that deal was that it was also meant to give us more transparency. So it would be easier to make decisions about who we could trust.
Which has worked pretty well in some instances. Like if you want to compare Meerkats, or decide where to eat based on a review written by someone who was having a bad day, and decided to take it out on whoever served them lunch.
But when it comes to more important decisions, this abundance of information can be confusing. Especially in an industry where there have been historically few barriers to entry.
And these barriers are getting even lower, almost to the point where they’re nonexistent. So now, no one needs to pay thousands of pounds to advertise their clients property in a glossy magazine. And some have been brave enough to ditch the duopoly of Zoopla and Rightmove altogether.
In estate agency, people have always trusted the big firms, because you don’t grow to that size, or operate for so long unless you’re doing something right. Probably a lot right. But now more and more agents are leaving the comfort of established companies and are forging their own path.
So knowing who you can actually trust is becoming harder and harder. We’re forced to make decisions based on things which haven’t changed for centuries. Like recommendations, first impressions and trial and error. It’s not quite the meritocracy that the internet promised us.
I don’t know if I have a solution. I’ve just been spending some time thinking about the problem.
I’ve been instructed to sell a pretty unique artists studio in Primrose Hill, with incredible volume and light.
I’m launching it next week, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek.
Things I’ve been inspired by this week
You can’t really talk about Super Bowl advertising and attention without thinking of Apple’s seminal advert from 1984.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it conveys a pretty compelling message. If you don’t want to follow the crowd, buy a Macintosh.
38 years later, they’re still selling us stuff we don’t need, but that’s really, really cool.