Advances in technology have opened the property market to innovation and new models, but will these alternatives to the traditional estate agent really change the game? Should high street agents fear these young pretenders?
The simple answer, is no.
While many of us share the same gripes about estate agents and the power they hold, there is no denying that they offer a valuable and effective service. The continued success of the high street agent in the face of digital competition is not surprising, as the comprehensive service offered by traditional agents cannot be recreated on a digital platform. This is not to say that online agencies do not provide a valuable and efficient service, simply that by nature they offer a different service to that of high street agents.
The majority of sellers want as much of the responsibility as possible taken off their hands. These homeowners have no interest in spending their time showing prospective buyers round their homes, marketing their property, negotiating offers and hammering out details in contracts. As a result, they are happy to pay the price to remove these inconveniences from their lives.
Here is the crux of the estate agents’ success – we will all pay for convenience.
There will always be a place for the traditional estate agent, no matter how many digital competitors step up to the plate. Some sellers simply prefer the face to face contact that high street agents offer, others will favour the lack of upfront costs, safe in the knowledge that if the agent fails to sell their home, they will not have to hand over a hefty commission.
The problem, however, is that this model is not right for everyone – different people and different properties have different needs. The lack of public education about the alternatives to the traditional estate agency model is shocking, and many home-owners, disenchanted with the major high street agents are unaware of their options.
Private sales websites, online estate agents and high street agents offer a broad spectrum of choice when it comes to selling a home. The first of these three is by far the cheapest option, but the seller will have to spend a decent chunk of time and effort to get through the sale without an agent representing them.
On the other end, a high street agent offers an all-encompassing service, but is by far the most expensive. Property is not one-size-fits-all, and people should have the means available to choose the method that works best for them. It essentially comes down to a trade-off between cost and convenience.
Surely it is time for a more open and transparent attitude in the property industry, once high street agents realise that they need not fear private sellers, perhaps the industry will truly work in the interests of the consumer.