July 18, 2019   |   Jack Taylor

Beware the lure of cheap online agents

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As Purplebricks, the biggest online estate agent, this month posting losses of £51m for the twelve months to April, we are urging caution if you’re considering using an online estate agent.

Our Residential Director Ian Bythell said “The fact that the largest online agent is sustaining loses as big as this must act as a warning sign to vendors”

Today, online estate agents account for less than 10% of the market, and there have been some major casualties along the way. Connells, one of the UK’s largest traditional agents, shut down its online unit Hatched two years after acquiring it. The end of last year saw online agent Emoov, which had merged with Tepilo and Urban.co.uk, collapse into administration, closely followed by HouseNetwork.

Ian went on to say “The online agencies do have some things right and they have understood the changing needs of customers in today’s tech savvy age. They expect to be able to do everything on their mobiles or laptops. Online agents have grasped this and incorporated that technology into their model.”

With a lot of the admin and work left to the seller to arrange, the time and inconvenience of using an online agent can soon become all too apparent for a lot of vendors. With most online systems, you may need to conduct the viewings yourself, carry out the negotiations and monitor the sale process from offer through to completion.

“What they haven’t understood is the process that people go through when selling or buying a home, the emotional attachment that comes with the process can far outweigh the budget in terms of importance. People crave an emotional attachment, someone who can hold their hand along the process, someone who can be a personal adviser and a voice of reason, and above all, the ability to speak to someone physically in an office-based environment.”

And whilst the people working on selling your home will be estate agents, they will not be local to you.

 “Local knowledge is one of the advantages of a traditional high street estate agent, we know what sells in your areas, what the pricing should be, and may know potential buyers looking for what you have to sell.” said Ian.

A recent study carried out by The Advisory, the UK’s dedicated independent consumer advice group for home sellers, stated that high street agents generate 64% more offers, 48% more viewings, as well as the fact that in 73% of property sales, the buyer paid 5% more. The Advisory study concluded that internet only agents are only as good as an ‘average’ high street agency, however if a high street agency works to a high standard, they will be able to provide the highest ‘walkaway figure’, accentuating the fact that the online strategy is inferior.

Ian added: “Petty have taken this into consideration ensuring that our strategy incorporates a hybrid of both a technological and emotional approach. Werealise the importance tech plays nowadays, but we also understand that you can’t commoditise personal service. It’s about making sure you get that balance right. Helping people move house is a complicated, emotional gauntlet that affects people’s lives. It needs the human touch, in person, to help people through what can often be a complicated and sometimes traumatic process and the fact we’ve been around for so long means perhaps we understand that better than most.”

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