Today’s blog is a bit of a long one but stick with it as I think it’s worth it! It’s a very relevant and slightly controversial topic – online estate agents vs traditional estate agents.
It’s no secret that selling your house can be costly and so the lure of the cheap online estate agents could be appealing. Most people that turn to an online estate agent do so to save on the usual agency fees involved when selling a property. You’re probably thinking that it sounds like a considerably cheaper option and that you’ll save thousands… won’t you?
Well to be frank, yes! The question is this; does this low cost option really work out best when selling your home? Are the savings worth it? And does cheap really mean better? We thought it was about time we weighed up the pros and cons of using an online estate agent vs the traditional estate agent.
Against – as you pay your fees upfront rather than the traditional ‘no sale, no fee’ estate agent model, where’s the incentive for an online agent to get you the best price and sell it as quick as possible? I’ll spend hundreds of pounds on every new property we take on with absolutely no guarantee that we’ll sell it (although we normally do!), so there’s a huge incentive for us to a) get you the highest price and b) make sure your home sells.
For – you could pay anywhere between £100 to £1000 + VAT fixed fee when advertising using an online service, compared to the average agent charge of 1% + VAT of the selling price (based on Bishop’s Stortford). Depending on the value of your home this could mean a big saving if you do sell your property.
Against – you’ll need plenty of time to devote to selling your own property. Don’t be fooled in to thinking that the online agent is a cheap alternative to the traditional agent – they provide a totally different level of service. The online agent’s role is simply to advertise your property on the main portals (Rightmove, Zoopla, etc.) and that’s pretty much the extent of their service. With most online agents (unless you pay extra) this normally means; doing all your own viewings, writing your own advert description, dealing with offers, chasing solicitors, handing over on moving day, and the list goes on. I don’t know about you but I certainly wouldn’t have the time.
For – advertising online can be effective if you have an ‘easy’ property to sell. The Bishop’s Stortford market is currently very buoyant at the lower end of the market as there are currently plenty of buyers looking for properties under £300,000. So you’ll probably have no trouble finding a buyer when using an online agent if your property is particularly desirable.
Against – you may sell your home for less. Having an experienced sales person to undertake the negotiations for you can be invaluable. An estate agent who really knows the local market inside out and who’ll have already built up a relationship with potential buyers is able to make sure your home sells for what it’s worth. Not to mention that when using an online agent you pay your fees upfront and there’s no guarantee you’ll even sell it.
For – you’ll be listed on the main online property portals, Rightmove and Zoopla. Most buyers ARE found through one of the big two portals and that’s a fact. The majority of buyers simply aren’t spending hours traipsing up and down the high street visiting estate agents so your property would be advertised where most buyers are looking.
Against – you’ll alienate a huge number of potential buyers by only advertising online. By sticking to just one marketing method your home may not sell as quickly and you may not get the best price. As much as the online portals are driving the highest number of buyers to my door, I am still getting on a weekly basis, a good % of calls from the newspaper and other advertising I do. The older generation and even some of the younger generation are still using the local newspaper to search for properties and they won’t even see yours if it’s just online. Particularly as our local newspapers in Bishop’s Stortford and Harlow have such a strong readership, why miss out on all those extra buyers?
For – you have control over your advertising. As you’re selling your property yourself, you’ll be able to update your advert and amend your price at any time, also getting regular updates on your Rightmove and Zoopla statistics to see how your property is performing. Although really a good estate agent should be giving you regular updates like this anyway.
Against – you’ll have to do all the viewings yourself. It doesn’t matter how good a sales person you may be, it’s true that many buyers feel more comfortable viewing a property when shown it by the estate agent rather than the owner. We get better results when doing accompanied viewings because generally buyers are far more open to asking questions and giving brutally honest feedback. This means we can overcome their objections and make sure they get all the information they need to make their decision there and then. Not to mention the fact that a good estate agent (like us) would spend the time getting to know your property and have a plan as to how to present your home best to potential buyers, saving you the time and hassle.
For – they’re often open longer hours. Lots of online estate agents will have call centres that are open 7 days per week and in the evening, plus you’re able to check the progress of your sale online. Some estate agents (though not us) still close at 5pm and are not open on Sundays so this could be a benefit.
Against – ultimately, paying less means you get less. As a business that prides itself on offering a truly personal service which makes moving home a less stressful process, we can’t help but feel this is something home sellers miss out on when using an online agent. How much do you hate phoning a call centre? Long queues, numerous options to press and then a person on the end of the phone who doesn’t know you from Adam, the online estate agency model simply encourages the ‘call centre culture’ that people in this country love to hate. Having someone you get along well with, who keeps you up to date, who you can always get hold of, is proactive in finding buyers and who is constantly on the case to make sure your sale doesn’t fall apart is invaluable when selling your home. Not to mention all the extra services a good estate agent can provide like home staging services (presenting your home in the best way to increase its value).
Why is it then that a small proportion of home owners have decided to try an online agent?
I think it has something to do with the fact that the general public have lost faith in the traditional estate agent. Most people feel that your average estate agent doesn’t provide a level of service which justifies the fees they pay.
Yet few appreciate the hard work and financial contribution a good estate agent makes when selling your home. A good estate agent can be instrumental in getting you the best price, helping you sell your home quicker and making your move a less stressful experience. So maybe it’s not about ditching the traditional estate agent but instead choosing the RIGHT agent to sell your home. One who offers the level of service you expect and who will go the extra mile to get you the best price when you sell. If your agent went above and beyond, sold your home for more than the asking price, sold it quickly and went out of their way to provide an outstanding service then wouldn’t the fees be worth every penny?
All in all, I don’t think that the online estate agent is going to replace the traditional one but simply going to force them to ‘up their game’ – not a bad thing in my opinion! I am not denying that online agents CAN on occasion work well for the right property but remember – cheaper is not always better.