Just about everyone these days knows of someone who has sold their property via an online estate agency. And, as they grow in popularity, more people than ever before are using them.
Online vs High Street / Traditional Estate Agents
Certainly, with ‘headline figure’ low fees and masses of exposure – online estate agents seem like a fantastic option compared to the traditional high street estate agent. But, in choosing to opt for online estate agents vs high street estate agents, are these individuals and couples missing out on getting the best price for their property? Some property analysts seem to think so.
In this guide, we set out the pros and cons of online estate agents vs high street agents. If you’re currently swithering which type to go with to sell your home, then this guide can help make up your mind:
The pros of using an online agent
Lower fees. You’ll pay a fixed sum of money to use an online property service – anything from £300 to £1500, compared to 1% of the property’s price with a traditional estate agent. And yet, many online estate agents will give you a similar service to what you can expect from a traditional estate agent. They will come out and advise on what price you should sell at, take images to show the rooms at their best, and promote your property on all the big online property portals. Some even arrange viewings and are prepared to negotiate on your behalf.
The reason online estate agents can charge lower fees is because they don’t have any big rental property overheads and fewer staff wages to pay.
Flexibility. If you work during the day then it can be quite a hassle trying to get to your local estate agents in time before they close at 5pm. With an online estate agency though, you can check-in at any time. That means uploading photographs, arranging viewings etc whenever is convenient for you, whether that’s at night while you’re browsing in front of the TV or on the way back from your commute on the train.
Convenience. Call centres for online estate agents tend to be open in the evening and at the weekend. That means a human voice will be happy to answer any queries right away, should they arise – and which can be very reassuring. It is also another big reason why, in choosing between online estate agents vs high street equivalents, online often wins hands down in this respect.
More exposure. Property portals Rightmove and Zoopla have huge viewing figures and are the ‘go to’ sites for anyone looking for a home throughout the UK. If you’re only advertising in your local estate agents, then you won’t necessarily attract the attention of national buyers. So, in terms of whether you should go with online agents vs high street, it depends on whether your current property is big and expensive enough to attract people from all over. If so, it can be a good idea to opt for an online sale.
The potential cons of using an online agent
Upfront payments. Unlike with traditional estate agents when you pay commission when the house sells, with online estate agents you will often be asked to pay upfront. And you don’t get the payment back – even if the house doesn’t sell. Some online estate agents do offer ‘no sale, no fee’ packages but just like the same ‘no win, no fees’ court claims concept you will pay quite a lot of money when you do sell.
Hidden extras. Some online estate agents end up costing a fortune once they add on ‘hidden extras’ to the basic fee. This includes such additions as a premium listing (as opposed to standard), costs for advertising on Rightmove and other big property portals, and for professional photography. VAT isn’t usually mentioned in the headline figure either.
Not local. Online estate agents aren’t necessarily going to be local to your area. In fact, they pretty much won’t be. So, there won’t be a lot of local knowledge there to help sell your property. That means poor marketing and, in many instances, a missed opportunity to impress potential buyers. Having said though, some online estate agents are beginning to realise how much of a negative this is and are recruiting local people too (creating more of a hybrid model). At the same time, they are showing how much closer the two are becoming ie the gap between online vs traditional estate agents is narrowing.
Fewer sales. They may be growing in popularity, but online estate agents aren’t necessarily getting the sales, according to research from the HomeOwners Alliance. They found that as many as 90% of sellers were still opting for the traditional high street route when it comes to selling property.
Work. With an online estate agent, you may end up having to negotiate with buyers and deal with solicitors’ queries. You might also find yourself showing viewers around the property when you get home at night or at weekends.
Pushing a sale. Online estate agents are paid upfront so don’t necessarily feel incentivised to get the best price for your property say some property analysts (because their fee isn’t based on commission).
The pros of using a high street estate agent
Professional viewings. You know your traditional estate agents will do a sterling job when it comes to viewings. This is what they excel at – and it’s why you pay them so much in commission.
Personal touch. You’ll always be dealing with a human you can chat to (rather than speaking with a chatbot or emailing your questions etc). With a high street estate agent, you can simply pick up the phone and get an update on how your property is faring, straight away. That’s definitely a big plus when it comes to weighing up online vs traditional estate agents.
Local knowledge. Many people who work for high street estate agents are from that town or a nearby one. In other words, they have grown up in the area, or at least lived there quite some time and know what’s going on in the area (because, of course, they are interested in themselves too). It means they’ll be able to answer any potential buyers’ questions about the locality, such as good schools, parks and restaurants etc in the area, right away.
The potential cons of using a high street estate agent
Higher costs. The cost of selling via the high street will always be one of the big differences between online and offline property selling. And certainly, it can be thousands more to sell with a traditional estate agent if your house is worth more than £3,000 and the commission rate is 1.3%.
Shop hours. With many high street estate agents staying open from just 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and half day on a Saturday, it’s not always easy to get a hold of your estate agent, which can be very off-putting – especially when you consider how important moving house is. Not only that but for most people, buying a house is the biggest purchase they will ever make in their lives, so it’s not to be taken lightly and often involves the need for reassurance from your estate agent or solicitor.
Which is right for you?
Whether you should opt for an online vs traditional estate agents depends on many factors, such as if you feel confident showing people around, if you have the cash to pay a sum of money upfront, and if you work locally and can get the time off to sell.
Regardless of whatever route you choose to go down, though, just remember and do your research first, rather than just pop into the first high street estate agents or attractive-looking website that you find. Certainly, always check out the reviews from other sellers and buyers to get a flavour of the type of company you are dealing with.