At first glance, using an online estate agent to sell your property could potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of pounds, but is that really the case? And, more to the point, can you trust an online company to deal with such an important financial transaction?
On face value, the biggest advantage of using an online agent is the savings you can potentially make on the fees. High street agents typically charge a fee of around 1.5%-2% of the purchase price achieved. When compared to the fees charged by online agents this seems like a significant difference but a traditional high street estate agent works for the vendor on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis. With online agents you often have to pay up-front. That means that if the agent fails to sell your property you have lost that money. You might think the deferred payment option that many online agents offer would be a way round that but beware, you will have to pay this usually at the 10 or 12 month point whether you have sold or not. And these pay later deals often involve you signing up to a credit or loan agreement with a third party organisation so the agent can ensure they get their money back. Over the last few years it has become increasingly common for vendors to try the online route first, fail and then come go to a high street agent, so they ended up paying more than if they had instructed a traditional agent in the first place.
Possibly even more important than fees is the issue of trust. There is no law stopping anyone from setting up as an estate agent on the high street or online, although the latter is significantly less costly. Having an expert on hand to guide you through the selling process and ensure a positive end result is the best way to keep stress to a minimum.
When choosing an agent, don’t forget that buyers generally prefer dealing with individuals who take the time to understand their requirements and show them properties that meet their needs, rather than impersonal call centres who have little or no knowledge of the local area or their particular requirements. A good local agent will also ‘qualify’ buyers to ensure they don’t waste your time or theirs by showing your property to someone who can’t afford it or isn’t in a position to proceed with the purchase. They are also likely to have a ‘hot list’ of applicants looking for a property like yours who are in a position to proceed with the purchase.
High street agents also win when it comes to viewings, as these will be conducted by an experienced agent and you won’t need to be present yourself. Good agents are highly effective sales professionals who will actively ‘sell’ your property. In a buoyant market where demand outstrips supply, this might not be such an important issue, but in a slower market your property needs to be proactively marketed so that it stands out. Viewings are a key opportunity for your agent to point out the many benefits of your property, promote the local area, discuss current market conditions and set the tone for any negotiations ahead. If you use an online agent, you will have to show your property to multiple unqualified buyers yourself which will be incredibly time consuming. Once offers start coming in, a reputable high street agent will carefully gauge the demand for your property and advise you of different strategies, such as best and final offers, sealed bids, etc. in order to help you achieve the optimum price. Without a professional advisor, you could potentially lose out on thousands.
Once a property goes under offer, any local agent worth their salt will work incredibly hard to ensure that the chain doesn’t collapse and the sale completes. Very often it’s transactions without an agent that create problems. It’s a serious oversight to assume that when an offer is accepted the hard work is over. A good agent acts as the middleman between the buyer, seller and their solicitors to progress chase and ensure everything happens at the right time.
In summary, if you want to achieve the best possible price for your property within your preferred timescale, it generally pays to work with a local high street agent with an excellent reputation in the area. However, if you don’t mind conducting the viewings yourself, you’re not tied to a particular timescale and you are willing to accept a less-than-guaranteed outcome, an online agent could be the best route for you but we’re sure you know which we’d advise!