Anyone who wants to know how new technology and new media can change the world of residential property should have a word with Lucy Morton.
She is perhaps the UK's best known lettings agent, sits on two strategic bodies trying to raise lettings standards, and runs W A Ellis, a rental business dealing in properties in London's exclusive Knightsbridge area. But it is what she has done behind the scenes that is impressive.
Firstly, she operates a near 24/7 communications service with landlords and tenants alike. "They text, e-mail and call, and we respond in kind. They know that thanks to new technology it's easy to be in constant communication. If there's an emergency they don't wait until the next working day or working week begins" she says.
Secondly, she is shifting her marketing and advertising from press to the internet and social media. "Even the Sunday Times doesn't bring in the clientele that it used to. These days, online marketing and portals produce the best results" explains Lucy.
Thirdly, and most radically, she has effectively stopped traditional forms of public relations (she hitherto employed high-cost PR consultants) and now uses social media such as Twitter to spread her company's brand.
She relies on professional property analysts to write her company's online newsletter and ensure W A Ellis has a cutting-edge image – far more than most of its competitors.
It is, perhaps, easy for a small company (W A Ellis employs 45 people) to modernise like this; it is undoubtedly harder for a large corporate.
But I sense that one day all residential agents, sales and lettings, will work this way.
Bring it on.
- The author is a property correspondent for The Observe