Should you use an online agent?

Over the last 15 to 20 years, the internet has gained a massive foothold in the estate agency business. From early beginnings solely producing digital listings of the properties on the books of a bricks and mortar estate agent, to today’s industry where online only agents vie for your attention with the longer established traditional estate agents. Opinions are very much divided on which is the best way to go if you are intending to sell a property.

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The latest figures from Zoopla show that 1 in 5 properties in the UK is listed with an online estate agent, which is higher than previously thought. Just under 10% of properties are sold through online agencies, according to the survey which was carried out towards the end of 2019, suggesting that many people who list their properties with traditional estate agencies also go online.

In this article, we will take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of online estate agents, allowing you to weigh up the options and choose the best approach for you.

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Lower cost option

Generally speaking, it is likely for a person to get the best conveyancing quotes from an online estate agent. Traditional estate agents typically charge anything from 1.5% to 4% of the value of the sale, which means a house which sells for £300,000 will end up costing a seller over £4,500 in fees.

Compare this with around £400 for an online estate agent for a comprehensive package, you can see why many people are turning to digital estate agents in order to find the best conveyancing quotes.

Other advantages of an online estate agent

The top draw for people choosing to instruct an online estate agent is the massive reduction in fees, but there are other advantages that people are finding.

First off, the always on nature of the internet means that an online estate agency will be open for business at all times. As with any website, it will be available for people to view 24/7, no matter where they are in the world.

The advantage of an online estate agent here is that the enquiries will be dealt with at times even when a branch of an estate agent may be closed.

An online estate agent tends to put the vendor in charge of the process. The agency takes more of a secondary support role, putting your house on the market, organising any viewings and negotiating the deal. You would be responsible for being the face of the property, showing the home to anyone who wishes to view.

Disadvantages of an online agency

The downsides to online estate agents include the amount of tasks that fall to the vendor which would ordinarily be taken care of by a traditional estate agent. Most online estate agents will expect the vendor to conduct viewings, and monitor the entire process from start to finish. It is wise to consider your lifestyle and the amount of time you are able to dedicated to this before signing up to an online agent.

Local knowledge

Bricks and mortar estate agents will, generally speaking, have an abundance of local knowledge, having worked in and around the area for many years in most cases. This local knowledge provides a great insight into what local buyers want and how best to market a property successfully.

Online estate agencies do not have this local presence, instead relying on data on previous house sales in order to set an asking price rather than any actual local knowledge.

As a traditional estate agent’s commission is generally directly linked to the final sale price of a property, there is a fairly strong incentive for agents to work on getting you the best price for your property from a buyer. Online estate agents tend to work for a flat fee so are not as invested in getting the best price.

Things to look out for

In order to ensure that you are working with the best online estate agent, you need to consider the following aspects. First off, and perhaps most importantly, where will your property be listed? You should at a minimum expect your property to be listed on the major portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla. You should also be clear on services the online agent provides as standard, and anything extra which may be chargeable.

As with any other company you would consider how long they have been established, and whether they are members of the estate agency trade bodies.