A new website lets you conduct viewings as a part-time estate agent
The love of looking around other people’s homes is a very British obsession, one that has spawned a generation of television shows and made the careers of presenters such as Kirstie Allsopp and Sarah Beeny.
Now, however, you can be paid to nose around a property thanks to an unusual innovation from the sharing economy.
The app Viewber allows people to sign up as a stand-in for overstretched estate agents to conduct viewings on their behalf at antisocial times, such as evenings and weekends.
It is the brainchild of Ed Mead, the former executive director of the estate agency Douglas & Gordon, and the entrepreneur Marcus de Ferranti. It is proving popular among house-obsessed Britons and agents alike, with 2,200 viewbers joining in a year and about 30 new ones signing up every day.
The shared economy is usually associated with millennials looking for flexible work, but Viewber is particularly popular with older people — 60 per cent of viewbers are retired, but like the idea of a part-time job to keep them busy.
The rest are stay-at-home parents or local professionals available to work flexible hours.
It gives greater coverage for estate agents and flexibility for buyers, allowing more evening and weekend viewings
The trend echoes research by Barclays last month that indicated that a growing number of retired people continue to work after leaving full-time jobs. The over-65s are the fastest- growing group of entrepreneurs, with a 140 per cent increase in businesses in the past decade.
Working for Viewber won’t make you rich — you earn an average of £20 a viewing and they generally last less than half an hour. Mr Mead says that it is “a proper use of the sharing economy” because it won’t put any regular agents out of work and just provides a useful and convenient service for customers.
“It gives greater coverage for estate agents and flexibility for buyers, allowing more evening and weekend viewings. It’s a win-win, as well as being enormously fun for our viewbers.”
Online estate agents, which struggle to cover large areas, are keen users of the service, as are auction companies.
Mr Mead says that there have been 6,500 home viewings using Viewber over the past nine months.
To sign up go to viewber.co.uk giving your occupation, availability, the maximum distance you’re willing to travel to a property, a photograph of yourself and any property-related qualifications (although these are not a requirement).
Once there’s a viewing to do, Viewber will send an email to everyone in the catchment area, with the time and details, and the first one to reply gets the job. There will be a police-approved safe outside the property where you can collect the keys and you will have a set list of questions to ask a buyer — including whether they have anything to sell and how many properties they’ve seen.
Once you have finished the viewing you send a brief report on the prospective buyer by email to the estate agent via the Viewber website.
Louise Hammond, who used to be a buyer for a national department store, now works part-time as a viewber in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, combining it with a number of flexible roles, including one working at Citizens Advice.
“I’d never thought about doing anything like this before, but it’s fun,” she says. “I do lots of jobs and this is flexible and interesting. I wouldn’t take another full-time job, so this has particular appeal. It doesn’t take over your life.”
The majority of estate agents who use the service are in rural or provincial communities where their reach is more limited than in big cities. Particularly popular areas are the southwest, the southeast and the Wirral.