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Customer Story

A conversation with Auctioneera

Blog_Auctioneera_customer story

Auctioneera is a residential sales estate agency with offices in various locations throughout Ireland. The firm focuses on offering the best expertise, technology and service at an unrivalled price. Unlike other estate agencies, Auctioneera charges a low, fixed fee, versus a percentage-based commission. That means each seller keeps more from the ultimate sale price of a property. I recently spoke with Helen O’Keeffe, Director at Auctioneera, to learn why and how her company uses magicplan to enhance property listings.

When did you start your company?

I started Auctioneera with my colleague about four and a half years ago, after 12 months of development prior to launching.

And why did you start Auctioneera?

We started this company, at the outset, because of what my colleague experienced while helping his parents sell a property in Ireland. When he inquired about selling it, he learned that most estate agents sell on a commission basis: they get one-and-a-half percent of the sales price, or sometimes even two percent. He was appalled at that because, essentially, the agents are benefiting from how well the property sells. But there is no scale to the amount of work that goes into the selling process. A sale is based merely on whether or not people like the property, and if it suits their requirements, and so on.

Is that why the two of you created a fixed-fee model?

Yes. We charge a fixed fee of around 2000 euro to sell any property. It could be a one-bedroom apartment, or it could be a six-bedroom property that sells for one-and-a-half million euro. We still charge the same amount. That's our fixed-fee model. It’s a huge selling point, and the primary reason why people come to us.

We also work hard to ensure a great customer experience. That's why we have a huge focus on customer support. We want people to understand that, yes, you will be charged a lesser price with us – a fixed fee – but the service will be stellar. It will actually be a better experience than if you were to pay for a commission-based sale.

Did you and your colleague have previous experience in the real estate field?

No. Our backgrounds were purely in digital marketing. So, we set out to develop Auctioneera with no property experience.

But entering an industry like that with kind of a fresh outlook was probably a good thing, because we had to learn everything from the ground up. We had to look at how real estate is done. So, if someone wants to sell a property in Ireland, what do they do? They go to an estate agent. And what are the basic elements of bringing a property to market? Well, you need to take photographs of a property, you need to create a floor plan, ideally, and you need to have an estate agent. So, we broke down those parts and saw what we needed, and started to research from there. Also, with our background in digital marketing, we knew we wanted to bring an infusion of technology into real estate, which we felt was lacking in Ireland.

What is your role as a co-director?

I do a lot of everything really, to be honest. But primarily I do a lot of the content and marketing for the company. My background in is marketing and PR. That’s what I studied in college.

How many employees do you have?

We have six estate agents, 12 employees on our customer support team, plus one photographer, a description/content writer, and two web developers.

How many properties do you typically list on your website?

Currently, we are listing 151 properties. But that number changes on a daily basis because we list new properties every day.

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How do you attract customers?

We utilize digital marketing as our predominant way of gathering leads.

And when someone gets in touch with you about a property they want to sell, how does the whole process go from there?

At that point, we take their details, we log them into our software system, and we assign the property to one of our agents. Then we do a free valuation of the property. The estate agent visits the property, has a look around, and then delivers an 'advised market value of the property' to the seller. The seller then thinks about what to do. If they decide to go to market and use us as their estate agent, they engage us. Next, we have to send them what's called a letter of engagement. It's essentially a contract that lists the elements of sale: the terms and conditions and so on. They sign that contract, and from there we start the process of getting the property listed.

What does that involve?

The first thing is to set the photography/floor plan appointment. So, we will phone the seller to schedule that. And if they choose to have videography as well, we will plan to do that during the same appointment.

Sometimes sellers need a week or two to get their property ready for photography, as you can imagine. Some sellers take huge pride in staging their property for sale and they make it look absolutely amazing. Then our photographer goes there and takes photographs of the outside and every room inside. And if the seller has signed up for videography (they pay a little extra for that), our photographer will do a video walkthrough of the house. He will also develop a floor plan. He uses magicplan for that, and incorporates a Bluetooth laser measurer for 100% accuracy.

Then the photographer does his post-production. He exports the floor plan to his dashboard in our software system (and also uploads videography, if relevant). This triggers the system to send what we call a “job” to our description writer. That allows the writer to write a description for the property. Once the description is complete, the listing goes to the seller for approval. So, they get to look through the photographs and the floor plan, and they get to read the description. Then they can approve the listing or they can request amendments. But once they are fully happy, they click ‘APPROVE LISTING’ and we make that listing live on our website.

Would you ever trust a client to take pictures, instead of using your photographer?

No, to be honest, because professional photography is a part of our fee. The only time it might come up is if a seller is a photographer and says, "Look, I'll do it myself." That has happened only a handful of times. But most people are happy to leave it to our professional person. And, thankfully the photographer we have is very, very good. So, sellers are generally very happy with the results.

We actually view our photography service as a USP – a unique selling point. That’s because some estate agents in Ireland still take photographs of properties on their phones. We think it's ridiculous that anyone would showcase a property with images from a phone camera.

And your photographer also creates a floor plan with magicplan, in addition to taking photos. Correct?

Yes, both tasks.

How much time does your photographer need to take photographs and create a floor plan?

If it's a two-bedroom apartment, I would say 30 minutes to take photographs, and about the same amount of time for the floor plan. So, an hour total. For a three-bedroom apartment, just slightly more. But if it's a four- or five-bedroom detached house with gardens, it would probably take 45 minutes to an hour for the photographs, and maybe an hour for the floor plans.

Why did you decide to include a floor plan with each listing?

That's a really good question. Earlier, I was saying that we did a lot of research about how things were currently being done in estate agencies in Ireland. What we found was that, a lot of the time, estate agents were not providing each client with a floor plan. They were simply listing room measurements in property descriptions, but not actually including a floor plan. And, to be honest, that still happens. So, we wanted to present a better solution, where each seller can have photographs and a floor plan. That's really more tangible, because a simple list of room measurements is not user-friendly. There is nothing visual about it.

Are floor plans helpful to your description writer as well?

Yes, exactly. I would say it is borderline impossible to write a comprehensive description without a floor plan. But once you have the floor plan along with the photos, you can visualize everything. You can understand the layout of the property. And then you can confidently write an accurate description. When I trained our description writer, I would explain that it’s necessary to have the photography open in one tab, have the floor plan open in another tab, and then refer to both while writing a description.

Have you used magicplan since the beginning, when you launched your company?

Yes. I always like to do a lot of research about things first. So, I did a lot of reading before we launched, and  magicplan came up in various articles that explained its ease of use and how it offered a free option. That was fantastic news. And it consistently came up as recommended. So, we never used anything else. It was magicplan from the word go, literally.

What is your absolute favorite feature of magicplan?

The “Filler Room” feature. I think it's a joy to use. So, for example, let’s say you do a floor plan of a home’s living room, a floor plan of the kitchen, and a floor plan of a bathroom – all on the same floor. Then you can use the “Filler Room” feature to automatically add in a hallway. It's beautiful. I just love it!

If you had to sum up magicplan in just one word, what word would you choose?

Excellent is the word I would choose. It's just so intuitive and easy to use.


Thank you so much, Helen at Auctioneera!




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