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Are Online Estate Agents Any Good?

Property Saviour » Estate Agents » Are Online Estate Agents Any Good?

Who is better – an online or a High Street estate agent?  In this guide, we will explore the pros and cons to see who wins the battle of the most trusted agent.

Table of Contents

What is an online estate agent?

Online estate agents offer a ‘no frills’ service and portray to give you more options about various services on offer.  They claim to be flexible and offer 24-hour availability for call answering rather than a rigid 9am to 5pm High Street estate agency service.

However, their key selling point is the price.  The likes of Strike offer you a free way to sell your home online, and the likes of Purple Bricks offer to sell your home for a fixed fee – usually non-refundable and must be paid upfront.

This leaves you to conduct your own viewings – at your own leisure and to fit in potential buyers on evenings & weekends – when allegedly your typical High Street estate agent can’t match this service.

Not all homeowners are comfortable with conducting their own viewings.  What if you’ve paid the upfront fee to an online agent, and your house doesn’t sell?  You’ve lost the money.  Your typical High Street estate agent will normally charge to sell your home on a no sale, no fee basis – but is likely to sign you up for up to six months!

No wonder there’s so much confusion about who is better and why, with fixed fees starting at £595 for an online estate agent and High Street estate agents charging upwards of 1.25% plus VAT for selling your home.

Both High Street estate agent and online estate agents have their pros and cons.  The risk is that if you pick an incompetent estate agent from High Street, you could be stuck with them for several months, or you could pay upfront to an online estate agent with no guarantee of a sale.

Another consideration is your life goals.  How important is that you achieve a quick sale?  Is there a timeframe by when property must be sold or is your schedule flexible enough to allow the sale to take as long as it takes? 

Are online estate agents any better?
Online estate agents are known for charging upfront fees whether your home sells or not. Read their reviews before making up your mind.

Pros and Cons of online estate agents

There are several reasons why you may be looking to sell your home via an online estate agent.  

You may have enough of the traditional High Street estate agents and their expensive fees.  Or, possibly, you have read about the significant benefits of selling your property online.

Let's cover the pros first:

  • Localised knowledge.  You know the area well, and arguably, you know your home better than any estate agent, as you live there.
  • You can give a personalised viewing of the property, highlighting its key features whether you have installed USB sockets, a Bose sound system, or a superb German kitchen.
  • It creates a better experience for the buyer.  They are not in a pressurised environment and can relax.
  • You can ask better questions about the motivation of the buyer and their feedback.  Are they just looking now, or are they looking to commit?  Why have they chosen your house to view first?  This is far better than generic feedback from your estate agent that involves numbers such as ‘We had 1,000 clicks on Rightmove for your house, 30 viewings and zero offers.’

 Last but not least, the cons of using online estate agents include:

  1. Once you’ve paid upfront fees, you may find your online estate agent palms you off to a call centre as his/her interest dwindles.
  2. You’ll be left to do your own viewings and your own negotiations when it comes to haggling for the price of your home.
  3. If you get lucky, you’d have to do your own sales progression and chase buyer and their solicitors.
  4. There’s no process for qualifying your buyers to ensure they are ‘ready, willing and able to purchase’ your home. 
Best online estate agents
Before signing on the dotted line, check how long you are signing up for and what can you do if estate agent doesn't perform.

Cons of online estate agents

There are also several disadvantages to selling your home via an online estate agent that you should consider including:

Cost of selling your home

The biggest difference is in the fees that online estate agents charge.  On paper, their fees start from £500 upwards – but these must be paid in advance, usually with no guarantee of a sale.  You are expected to conduct your own viewings.

The advertised low fee will probably not cover the cost of professional photography, for sale boards, accompanied viewings and preparing floor plans.  You may find that some online estate agents will insist that you use their conveyancing service often at an inflated price with poor levels of service.  There may well be a penalty or a fine for not using their recommended solicitors.

High Street estate agents will charge you from 1.2% plus VAT.  Most sellers feel that the amount of work involved in selling a £500,000 home is just as much as a £100,000 home, yet the fees are FIVE TIMES as much.  However, this is likely to be on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis.  High street estate agents are known for their extensive contracts, and you must allow them a period of up to six months to market your home.  They may charge you a fee for withdrawing your property from the market.

Confusingly, some High Street estate agents now offer ‘online’ service as well, adapting their no-frills offers.

Relationship based service

While you can’t compare online estate agents with High Street agents, it is generally expected that a High Street agent will accompany any potential buyer for viewing and conduct basic checks to ensure that they are a timewaster.  With an online estate agent, you are expected to show everyone around.

You will be meeting up with potential buyers.  Whilst this is great. You may bump into an old friend or a work colleague who could haggle you for a discount!

You will invest a significant amount of your own time to conduct viewings, which may not lead to a sale.

If it is a small independent estate agency, they will probably assign you a member of staff to act as your point of call.   He/she will be the person who understands your property and your situation.  With an online estate agency, you’ll be put through to a call centre. You’ll speak to a different person every time who will be working from notes.  Your experience will feel non-personal.

Local knowledge

It is a fact that an established High Street estate agent will have much better knowledge of the local area than an online estate agent.  A High Street estate agent will have much better knowledge of the local property market buyer’s demands and possibly have people looking for a property in their desired locations. 

If they are RICS-qualified surveyors, then they will understand realistic valuations and are positioned to sell your home.  A local estate agent is also likely to have a relationship with the buyer and your solicitor to ensure the sale progresses smoothly. 

An online estate agent is not likely to have a relationship with solicitors, and therefore, the sale could be delayed.  Recently, several online estate agents have hired ex-High Street estate agents with job opportunities on an employed or self-employed basis – the appeal being that they earn a higher commission because they are self-employed.

Negotiating the best price for you

Saving money on estate agent fees is a false economy if your property isn’t being sold at the best price.  With an online estate agent, you are in charge of negotiations. 

Some owners love relishing the challenge if they are experienced in negotiations.  The reality is that this could be an uncomfortable experience for most sellers. 

You need to pitch it as you would like a fair price for your house, and what is the buyer prepared to pay for it?  There is a risk that you could be easily offended if you receive offers much less than what you were anticipating.  As online estate agents work on a fixed-fee basis, when it comes to price negotiations, you could end up accepting a lower offer.  Put simply, there’s no real incentive for a fixed-price online estate agent to get you the best deal.

While the difference in fees can seem substantial, in the bigger picture, an experienced negotiator at a local estate agent is worth their weight in gold.  The job of a skilful negotiator is to get you the best price because they are working for a percentage of the overall sale price; the more you get, the more they get paid.  It is in their best interests to get you a better price.

With a local estate agent, the negotiations will move faster as an experienced negotiator will understand the buyer’s motivation and your situation to try and negotiate the best deal that’s mutually beneficial to both parties.

Are online estate agents any good?
Both online and High Street estate agents have their pros and cons.

Is it better to use an online estate agent?

Online estate agents often charge you upfront fees and it is an advertising-only service and you are left to do your viewings and negotiate with any buyers.

Quite a few have gone bust due to ‘not making any profit’ and a few now offer a hybrid model such as conducting viewings and negotiating on your behalf but often for an additional fee.

You need to hire an estate agent who has sold MOST properties in your area and incentivise him/her to sell your home at the best price.  Cheap or free estate agents are just as good as trainee pilots or apprentice surgeons.

How to avoid estate agency fees when selling?

One thing is for sure: selling your property online does not give you certainty that the sale will go through if you are swapping a traditional High Street estate agent with an online estate agent.

It can become a boring and frustrating process if you have not sold your house after advertising it for 3 months.

If you need to sell your house fast, then you will require cash property buyers.  Property Saviour are true cash house buyers. We will be able to exchange contracts within 10 days or quicker.  Because we have cash funds available, we do not require a mortgage or a survey and therefore, we can quickly complete the purchase, allowing you to move with your life.

auction hammer

Property Saviour Price Promise

  • The price we’ll offer is the price that you will receive with no hidden deductions.
  • Be careful with ‘cash buyers’ who require a valuation needed for a mortgage or bridging loan.
  • These valuations or surveys result in delays and price reductions later on.
  • We are cash buyers.  There are no surveys.
  • We always provide proof of funds with every formal offer issued.

We'll Pay £1,500 Towards Your Legal Fees

  • No long exclusivity agreement to sign because we are the buyers.
  • You are welcome to use your own solicitor. 
  • If you don’t have one, we can ask our solicitors for recommendations.
  • We share our solicitor’s details and issue a Memorandum of Sale. 

Sell With Certainty & Speed

  • Our approach is transparent and ethical, which is why sellers trust us.
  • 100% Discretion guaranteed. 
  • If you have another buyer, you can put us in a contracts race to see who completes first.
  • Complete in 10 days or at a timescale that works for you.  You are in control.

Sell with certainty & speed

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