If a clothing shop runs out of clothes they can just order some more fairly easily. If a bakery runs out of bread they can just make some more fairly easily. It’s not that easy for estate agents. There’s always a limited supply of houses, and you can’t just make some more to satisfy demand.

While finding more stock is a perennial problem it’s particularly pressing right now. The recent buying frenzy has depleted stocks. Even if the market cools, which seems more than likely, finding stock could be an even bigger problem over the coming months.

Here we’ll run through some ideas for finding more stock to sell.

First, work your contacts

Every agency collects (or should collect) a large number of contacts over the course of a month. Whether it be from phone calls, walk ins, emails or leads from an automated valuation tool. In busy times there’s often not enough time to do much with these. However your contacts book really comes into its own when there’s a pressing need for new stock.

The obvious way to use a contacts book is to actually call people to ask if they want to sell. A more subtle way, to help keep in touch for a future sale, is to create a newsletter and ask if contacts want to receive it. Using a contacts book doesn’t need to be a hard sell though. Just contacting contacts to ask if they still want to keep in contact could well drum up a few leads for new stock.

Next, raise your profile

Potential new customers might never have needed an estate agent before. When they do they’ll immediately think of names with the highest profile in their area. If you’re well established in your area it’s easy to think that everybody must know about you. But you might be surprised to find that’s not necessarily the case.

Advertising for more houses to sell is an obvious way to try to get more stock. So look at what advertising you’re doing and at how it can be improved. Even something as simple as a new sign board design can help raise your profile, however.

But raising your profile is not necessarily about advertising. Other profile-raising activities include sponsoring local events or organisations, doing charity fundraises and offering market comment to local online and offline media.

Have an offer on fees (use with care!)

For any business, reducing your prices or having a ‘sale’ will generally increase sales volumes. Reducing your fees can not only win business from competitors including fixed fee and online ones but it could tempt those to sell who have not considered selling before, perhaps on the grounds of cost.

Reducing fees is a controversial idea of course. Long term it could risk margins and even encourage a price war. Possible solutions to this are to time limit your offer, or target it to particular types of property or areas only.

The notable thing about fee offers though is that, in times when there’s a lot of competition for stock, an offer could be much cheaper than trying to buy market share with advertising.

Turn buyers into sellers

It’s very easy to forget that buyers are also often sellers. When you get an enquiry for a property that’s for sale ask if the buyer has one to sell .... and would they like a valuation?

While agents may chase first time buyers and buyers who are proceedable with good reason – because it’s great for sales figures – these buyers invariably don’t add to your stock levels when other types of buyer can.

Target the landlord market

Things have become tougher for landlords over the last few years and so plenty are thinking of exiting the market and selling up. Ex-rental property can be a good source of chain-free stock.

To tap this market, don’t just assume that landlords will necessarily think of you if they decide to sell up. It’s a good idea to positively promote that you specialise in helping disenchanted landlords sell their buy to lets with specialist advice, valuations and to get the very best price.

Target those who are not in the market .... yet

People who have decided to sell their house are obviously the easiest source of stock. But remember that those who are just thinking about selling, curious, or who have not even thought about selling are potentially a much larger source.

How to target these people? You’ve probably seen Zoopla’s so-called Backtracking advertising campaign. One angle of this is to attract those who’ve never thought about selling by piquing their curiosity about how much their house could be worth. Could you do something similar to target those who have never thought of selling .... such as by offering them an accurate, individual market valuation?

Sell other things

Could you expand your agency services to selling other things like plots of land, garages, parking spaces, shops or small commercial property ..... depending on your interests and areas of expertise?

When there’s plenty of stock around many agents feel niche markets like these are not really worth the effort. But when standard residential stock is in short supply they become more valuable. Not only that, they help to raise your profile in the local market.

Expand into other areas

However hard you work to find more stock in your area there’s always going to be a finite supply within any given geographical area. Sometimes a better approach can be to expand out into other geographical areas .... to move the goalposts if you like.

Start by looking for gaps in the market – places that aren’t well served by estate agency branches. In recent years there’s been extensive new housebuilding in some areas while other areas have seen huge regeneration. Sometimes these areas don’t have much or any coverage from existing agents. Branch closure and consolidation of national chains has also left some areas poorly served.

The obvious way to expand into other areas might be to open an office there. But it needn’t be as difficult and costly as that. You can expand into other areas just by making it clear that you sell there, and targeting advertising and publicity in some new areas.

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