One of the hottest topics at the moment is whether online estate agents are better than traditional high street agents. Over the past few years, online agents have grown exponentially in number. Yet, many homeowners are still sceptical about whether they can actually deliver on their marketing promises.
If you’re wondering whether online estate agents are everything they claim to be, we can offer you some expert advice. We’ll give you the lowdown on the pros and cons of using an online agent compared with using a high street agent to sell your home, and we’ll also examine the differences between the two. So, read on to discover our top tips.
In this article, you’ll find:
- Does using an online agent bring savings?
- Will I get best service from online estate agents or high street agents?
- Should I use local or national estate agents?
- Is an online agent accredited?
- What is a hybrid estate agent?
Will using an online estate agent save me money?
Many people take a rather slapdash approach to choosing an agent when selling their home. They may just opt for the first one they see or respond to an advert that they see when browsing social media.
However, this is a bad idea. You should be carrying out in-depth research and asking your estate agent plenty of questions before making a final decision. After all, choosing the company to market your home is just as important as choosing a mortgage lender, and you almost certainly put a lot of effort into selecting the right mortgage provider to meet your needs.
Most homeowners who are considering using online estate agents to sell their property ask whether they will be saving money by overlooking high street agents and choosing the online alternative instead.
There is certainly a major potential for a difference in fees when comparing high street estate agents and agents who operate online, but what does this actually mean when it comes to selling properties?
If you use an online estate agent to sell your home, they will usually offer you a one-off fixed fee arrangement with no share of the commission to pay.
However, you should be aware that you’ll need to pay this, even if your property doesn’t sell. Conversely, a high street agent will typically charge a percentage of 1 to 2% of the selling price on completion of the sale of your house.
It may seem as if homeowners have a straightforward decision ahead of them. After all, a lower fee has to be a good thing, right?
Well, not necessarily. In fact, cheaper doesn’t always mean better, and when it comes to property sales, you’ll probably get what you pay for. That’s why it’s so important to take a look more closely at the packages that you’re being offered and the terms of each agent’s contract before you select an agency to work on your behalf.
Read more: how much will it cost me to sell my house?
Your decision shouldn’t be solely based on fees and commission. It should be based on solid research, so you can be confident you can trust the agent that you finally choose.
A traditional estate agent with a high street office will likely work tirelessly on selling your home. They will have an in-depth knowledge of the local property market in your area and, as a local expert, they will be well-placed to target the right kind of buyers who are most likely to express an interest in arranging a viewing and buying your house.
It’s important to be aware that a traditional high street estate agent will be paid only after your property sale has gone through. Meanwhile, if you’re using an online estate agent, they may appear initially to be much cheaper, but they always take payment before any sales go through.
This gives them minimal incentive to leap into action on the sellers’ behalf. This represents a significant financial difference between online and high street agencies.
Agents online are paid their fees whether or not your property sells. In the case of sellers based in the London area, the loss could add up to thousands of pounds, or even more if you opt for an upgraded selling package.
It’s well-known that many online estate agents charge low headline prices as a way of attracting more sellers. Yet, the amount that the seller can end up paying is often very different.
The cost outlined in the advertising materials is usually only for a basic package. Yet, this lower fixed fee is far less than the actual cost that the agents actually receive after adding extra costs.
This includes extra fees for:
- Accompanied viewings
- Professional photography packages
- For sale signs
- Floor plans
- Listings on internet property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla
- Additional VAT
When all of these are added up, the cost to sell your house could be considerably more expensive than using a high street estate agent since usually their packages will include everything from viewings to professional photos.
In short, you may save little or nothing at all by opting for an online service.
Will I get the best service from online estate agents or high street agents?
When you’re examining the pros and cons of using online estate agents over a traditional high street agent, a major consideration to keep in mind is the quality of service you receive.
Many online agents are increasingly aware of how important sellers believe service quality to be. Therefore, they usually emphasise that you’ll be dealing with real people when selling your property. But that still doesn’t mean that the level of attention you’ll receive will compare with what traditional estate agents offer.
Online estate agents generally charge a lower fee since they do business at scale. You may possibly save money if you use an online agent, but you’re likely to feel as if you’re just a number.
On the other hand, choose to use their high street counterparts, and you could be putting yourself in the hands of property experts with extensive local knowledge of the market.
You will have an exclusive and dedicated agent who will build a relationship with you and offer you a one to one premium service so you can experience all of the advantages of being kept informed at all stages of the selling process.
There are some advantages of using online estate agents, especially if you use a large firm of online agents. You can often get hold of an agent online at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, either over the internet or by phone.
Tip: using a property app like Moovshack to manage the entire process can save you on headaches!
However, it’s important to note that the people you speak to won’t be local property experts. In fact, they won’t be estate agents at all. They’ll just be a call centre online agent and won’t have any in-depth knowledge of your situation or the ins and outs of negotiating a sale.
Not only that, but speaking to a call centre can be extremely frustrating, and if you want to get the best service as well as the best price, you might want to conduct your sales transaction face to face in a high street office rather than over a telephone line.
It’s fair to say that high street estate agents won’t be there at 3am, but when they’re in the office, they offer a personal level of service that far exceeds that offered by any online estate agent working in your local area to arrange viewings and drum up interest.
Should I use local or national estate agents?
Another element to consider when choosing between an online estate agent and high street agents is whether you want to use a local or national company.
Local high street agents will naturally have a better understanding of your area and how to negotiate a sale price that isn’t too expensive or too cheap.
If you use an online estate agent with national call centres, meanwhile, you take the risk that the agents may very well have no personal knowledge of the area in which your house is located at all.
They’ll be using valuations based solely on online information, and it could be completely out of date.
This can have serious financial ramifications since an incorrect valuation and asking price may cause you to lose a substantial sum or, alternatively, lead to your overvalued house sitting for extended periods of time on the market with no potential buyers coming forward for viewings or to make an offer.
Remember, even if no buyer is found for your home, you will still need to pay your online estate agents, so choosing a local agent could save you money in the long run.
Is an online estate agent accredited?
You may be surprised to learn that neither online agents nor high street agents have many barriers to opening a business.
As long as they haven’t been declared bankrupt or been banned in the past by the Office of Fair Trading, pretty much anyone can begin trading as traditional or online agents. It’s no wonder, then, that so many online agents have appeared virtually overnight.
If you’re considering using an online estate agency, it couldn’t be more important to conduct careful research and weigh up the pros and cons of going with this option.
Since there is very little regulation, this is often an issue for sellers who need to be confident that they’re choosing a reputable agent to put their property on the market.
It’s wise, therefore, to check out which online estate agents offer additional credibility in the form of voluntary accreditation with one of the formal bodies such as the National Association of Estate Agents or the Property Ombudsman.
These schemes ensure that the agent is held accountable to high standards that must be maintained, so one of our top tips is to look for this accreditation before choosing a company to go with.
What is a hybrid estate agent?
A hybrid agent offers the best of both worlds. Not only does it offer the convenience and personal service of physical premises, but it also offers a strong online presence.
With a well-designed website, people can register to sell a property, arrange viewings and book valuations. Some may operate on a fixed fee basis while others take their share of the commission, so checking out the packages on offer is imperative.
Nevertheless, it is well worth considering one of these hybrids since you can usually reap the benefits of convenience, extended contact hours, in-depth local knowledge and personal service all in one.
Now that you’re armed with all the information you need to choose the right estate agent to sell your home, you may need to change the company that you’re currently with.