Online estate agents – good or bad?
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: all those tempting adverts promising that if you buy or sell online with them, they could save you thousands of pounds. So, should you abandon your living, breathing local estate agent (AKA me) and only sell your property via an online agent?
The obvious answer
Eye catchingly low fees are an obvious lure. With most high street agents charging in the region of 1.5% of the sale price, compared to online package deals of between £400 (or less) to £1,000, the online arena is tempting. I’m not going to deny it. But before you sign up, you do need to look a little deeper. What are the real (and sometimes hidden costs) and what exactly do you get (or not get) for your money?
The real online costs
Before you sign on the dotted line, check what essential extras you will have to pay for. Do you need to pay for photography and a floor plan? Who’s going to organise the Energy Performance Certificate? Who will do the viewings and if it’s you, what’s that going to cost you in lost earnings or holiday time? Will you be responsible for any negotiations and are you tied into any particular services (such as conveyancing)?
Once you’ve done these checks, don’t forget the small print. Is there a cancellation fee? What happens if your property doesn’t sell? And are you tied in for a particular period of time? These little details can catch you out and be expensive.
In short, make absolutely sure you know the full costs and time involved and the precise terms of any contract. And bear in mind that on the whole, online agents are actually just “listing agents” and not “sales agents” and that’s because they get their money to list a property for sale and not to sell it!
Your property’s valuation
Online valuation tools are great. They give you an instant guide to what your property is worth which enables you to plan your move. They can be quite accurate (the EweMove one is very easy to use) although some are better than others. But they are often just a guide and they fall down when you don’t also have the benefit of a local agent, who has local knowledge and experience.
The housing market will always be a competitive arena, with prices often varying dramatically from one end of a street to another! Start with your online guide and then take advice from someone who knows your area and market. Or you could find that you either price yourself out of the game or sell for an undervalue.
But surely everyone searches online?
Yes, most searches begin online. Even high street estate agencies have an online presence these days (unless they are complete dinosaurs in which case you might want to give them a miss). Certainly, at EweMove we take advantage of all the online portals and we pride ourselves on our in-depth marketing details, to make sure your property gets maximum exposure. The difference is, with us you get all the perks of an online agent but with the added bonus of me, an experienced agent with good local knowledge.
Whether or not you want or can take time off work to conduct viewings, you almost certainly want genuinely interested parties coming to view. Or in other words, what you don’t want is high numbers of viewers generated by an online platform, most of whom can’t afford or aren’t actually interested in your kind of property.
Most estate agents like me (but you do need to check) will do some sort of viewer qualification, sounding them out first and only showing around those who are genuine buyers for your type of home.
So, you’ve got a potential buyer and then what? Some online agents won’t get involved in the negotiations leaving that up to you. But, what if they do? Where’s the incentive (if they’re not paid on percentage commission) to do all that they can to get you the best possible price? And even if your online agent offers you a commission based package, they still may not have the local knowledge and expertise to negotiate effectively.
The hybrid estate agent
Hybrid agents offer the best of both worlds. Well, I would say that wouldn’t I, but actually, I do what I do because I genuinely believe in it.
We provide a premium and all inclusive service, taking advantage of technology but still providing the human touch. Our service includes professional quality photography, 2D and 3D floor plans, an interactive website and our phones are manned 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
We also advertise on all the main online property portals and everything we do is designed to achieve the very best price for the property. What’s more, we have a no sale, no fee policy, there’s no minimum contract and no cancellation fee.
I know my area well and have a list of prospective buyers. I’m also an experienced negotiator and I proactively manage all my sales right up to the day of completion.
And that brings me to after the sale
One in three sales still fall through during the after sales process and that can be a costly and upsetting experience. Will an online agent proactively manage and progress your sale, chasing when needed and ensuring everything is ready when it should be? Or will that be left to you?
So, who’s the right estate agent for you?
I’m not going to do a hard sell. You must choose the right option for you, whether that’s online, high street or the hybrid estate agency model. But what I do recommend is that you take a little time to understand exactly what you do and don’t get for your money and from your agent.
Flashy headlines and adverts promising savings are one thing, the reality can be quite another. Selling through an online agent may look like it’s going to save you lots of money but it can be a false economy. In fact, I regularly get a significantly better sale price for a property then that which had been achieved by an online agent. On one occasion I managed to negotiate a 17% higher figure. That was £32,000 and whilst I cannot of course guarantee such a figure, it certainly puts the lure of the low fee into perspective.
Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking
He’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.
Multi award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.