With online estate agents blowing up in popularity – largely because of how much cheaper they are compared to the traditional high-street agent – the question of whether to use one is becoming increasingly common among home-sellers.
So, should you use an online estate agent to sell your house? Let’s take a look at the details…
The short answer to the question (and the one that’s as useful as a chocolate teapot): It depends.
It really does depend! I’m sorry!
At this point, I’m going to assume you’re already aware of what and how an online estate agent is, specifically what the key differences are between a traditional high-street, and how incredibly popular they are becoming! If not, then you may want to take a look through my online estate agent guide before continuing, otherwise you may just find yourself drowning in confusion.
Ok, so for those of you already aware of the what and hows…
Online estate agents = Cheaper
The fact you’re even contemplating this decision tells me something crucial straight away, and that is, the prospect of massively reducing agent fees isn’t your only concern. You already know they’re cheaper, so now you’re actually considering the practicalities and consequences beyond the final bill.
But just in case you don’t, let me give you some quick hair-raising context, according to this article on the Telegraph, Lloyds Bank estimates that estate agents in London charge £10,402 on average, while the average online estate agent will charge a fixed fee of around £600. That’s FIXED; no hidden fees, and no ludicrous extra fees for things like using the bathroom facility in your local agent’s branch office!
If those figures have already got you salivating, and you’re already convinced (no one would blame you)…
Online agents and their pricing model
One of the main criticisms of the online agency model is that we have to pay an upfront fee, regardless of whether we sell our property or not. Traditional high-street agents only charge a fee, a substantially greater fee in comparison, once the property has been sold.
No doubt, that’s a pretty inspiring reason not to use an online agent, even if they are considerably cheaper.
Some online agents do offer No sale, no fee packages, however, they’re usually a lot more expensive than the upfront payment packages. In some cases, almost double. For example, at the time of writing this blog post, the online agent YOPA charges £839 for their upfront payment package, and £1495 for their ‘no sale, no fee’ package! That’s a massive difference in price.
So what does this all mean? There is a certain element of gambling when you use an online agent’s standard upfront payment packages, but the rewards can be plentiful- thousands of pounds.
If you’d feel safer using a “no sale, no fee” package, the rewards can still be plentiful. However, my advice is to do the maths first, because in some cases, depending on the value of the property and which online agent you choose, it can actually be cheaper to use a high-street agent, who provide a ‘no sale, no fee’ model as standard.
How much can I save exactly?
Ok, ok, ok, you want the exact numbers! I’m with ya’, I got your back…
So, moving along- there’s also another rather popular reason for using an online agent, and the reason isn’t particularly surprising. Rightly or wrongly so, many people simply don’t want to work with grease-ball estate agents. What can I say to that, other than, I get it? So if that’s your main incentive, knock yourself out.
But of course, there’s more to the riddle, right? There are so many more questions that need to be addressed before taking the plunge…
- Will I be able to sell my property as quickly an estate agent?
- I don’t know how to sell a house, what the hell do I do?
- What if I can’t sell my property?
- How much do I even sell my property for?
All valid concerns (so don’t worry, you’re not a total pussy), and here are my two cents…
Online Agent Vs High-street Agent
See, online estate agents will argue that high-street agents are dinosaurs; they’re the modern day equivalent of fax machines, pagers and chewing bubble gum. While the traditional high-street agents argue that online agents will NEVER be able to match the unparalleled personal one-to-one service and local experience they bring to the table.
The reality is, they can talk shit about one another until their blue in their stupid faces, because while there is a shed-load of pros and cons for both means of selling property- and both are valid and serve a purpose. But, the key difference is: they each offer different services for two different types of sellers, even though the result is ultimately the same.
Do you know why people don’t compare 4×4 Ranger Rovers with Porsche 911s, even though they’ll both take you from A to B? Because they cater for different audiences, and that’s exactly why online agents shouldn’t be compared with high-street agents. There’s enough business for all, so no one needs to kill anyone! However, for the purpose of trying to make this a well informed blog post, I will quickly skip through some of the main pros and cons between the two (some of the key points I’ve already covered, so please excuse the repetition)…
Advantages of using an online agent
- Butt-load cheaper than the traditional high-street agent, and you work on a one-off fixed fee.
- If you work with multiple high-street estate agents it would constitute as a “Joint Sole Agency” or “Multiple Agency” agreement and you would generally have to pay both parties regardless of who finds your buyer. Fortunately, that ghastly little condition doesn’t apply when you sell privately with an online agent- you’re free to use as many as your heart desires (although, there’s usually little point in using multiple online agents as long as your property is marketed on Rightmove and Zoopla).
- You are in the driving seat! Nothing gets lost in translation if you deal direct with the potential buyers. Heaven forbid, I’m not saying that estate agents twist the truth or forget vital pieces of information, almost as if it falls out of their head without thought. I’m just saying there is less chance of Chinese whispers with less people relaying information.
Advantages of using a high-street agent (i.e. disadvantages of using an online agent)
- As discussed, high-street agents generally always work on “pay on sale” pricing model, while online agents packages are mostly ruled by a “pay upfront” pricing model, which you pay regardless of whether you sell your property or not.
- You’ll have a professional agent doing the viewings and negotiating for you.
- Unless you’ve sold a property privately before, you may actually slowdown the process of selling a property due to ignorance and naivety. Estate agents sell properties every day, so they know the process inside and out.
So, should you use an online agent to sell? Are they any good?
In my opinion, it really boils down to whether or not you can be bothered to (which includes taking into consideration the potential savings). That’s really it!.
High-street agents are better suited for those that want to sit back and let someone else do the monkey-work for a premium. Of course, it’s an expensive King-of-all-Kong monkey’s you’ll be shelling out for. Online Estate Agents are better suited for those that don’t mind rolling up their sleeves, and doing the following for the sake of saving a small fortune…
- Gathering all the relevant details of the property (e.g. room measurements, high-res, well-taken photography etc.)
- Entering said property details into the website of an online agent
- Organising a legally obligatory Energy Performance certificate. Most online agents will let you easily purchase one via their website, so this is really nothing to be concerned about.
- Processing enquiries
- Managing and taking viewings
- Dealing directly with the buyer
In my opinion, the arranging and managing of the viewings is the real significant and differentiating factor. In any case, if you’re willing to do all of the above, plus a bit of admin work, and if…
- You are good with people
- Open to entertaining and tolerating weird people
- Aren’t totally repulsive in regards to hygiene, appearance and persona
- Relatively sensible and organised
- Equipped with common sense
… then, cool, this online estate agency gig might be just for you!
But before making a final decision, if you haven’t done so already, you may wish to find out how much your local agent would charge to sell your property, which will then allow you to calculate the price difference between an online agent. You can then decide whether or not the total saving is worth the time and effort required to manage the tasks in the list above. If you discover you’ll effectively save/earn (depends on which way your googly eyes look at it) £2k, you may think it’s a no-bloody-brain…
Hybrid online agents
I want to step on a rumour quickly, because it might make all the difference to your final decision.
There is a common misconception about online estate agents, about how they leave the poor vendors to fend for themselves once they’ve handed over their dosh. That’s really not true.
I mean, if you use an online agent, it does mean you’re opting to do a lot of the leg-work. That’s kind of the deal! However, it’s not the only option available. In come “Online Hybrid Estate Agents”
A hybrid agent has essentially taken bites out off the online agency model and bites off the high-street model. So what’s the end result? You will generally get everything which an online-only agent provides, but with one notable extra: a dedicated local agent. Yes! You’re provided with a local agent which will work with you until completion! They will support you personally and be with you every step of the way; all your questions, concerns and support will be addressed by your local new-best-friend.
So there are options for a more “supported” online agent experience. Needless to say, a Hybrid agent will bump up the price from the regular online agent package (approx £200 more), but still a buttload cheaper than the high-street alternative.
How much is my property worth?
I’ve noticed that many of those toying around with the idea of using an online agent get bogged down with trivial concerns that really shouldn’t create any barriers of concern. Because, firstly, you can ALWAYS contact your online agent for guidance when in need, and they should steer you in the right direction. And secondly, selling a home genuinely isn’t a complex process, at least not for the vendor. The aspects that are complicated, like the legal junk, is handled by the Conveyance Solicitors.
So what’s my point? Well, the whole issue of “How much should I sell my property for?” is one of those questions that people see as a complication, when it’s really not.
The quickest way to gain a relatively sensible figure is by looking on Rightmove and/or Zoopla to find similar properties in your area for sale. Perhaps the most accurate means is by using an Hybrid agent like YOPA, because they will send a local agent over to your gaff to do a full on autopsy, just like a high-street agent.
Be warned though, many of the regular online agents (i.e. those that aren’t hybrid) will valuate your property based on current and recent house-selling statistics from the comfort of their own office, which is based a gazillion miles away. Those valuations aren’t always accurate. So it’s always a good idea to pull your resources together and get a few valuations. If that means contacting a local agent to step into your premises to conduct a formal valuation, even though you have no intentions of using their services, then so be it. I don’t think that would be totally unreasonable… err… or would it? I suppose it depends on your morals and/or the size of your cahoonas.
On a final note, I do want to clarify that a valuation is just that, a valuation. Similarly with using a high-street agent, you can always set your own selling price, even if it’s woefully optimistic and defies reality.
Will I be able to sell my property as quickly an estate agent?
In my opinion, there’s no reason why you can’t sell it just as quickly.
But let me rephrase the question so it’s more pertinent: will I get the same amount of enquiries as a regular high-street estate agent?
Generally speaking, you should, and then it will be up to YOU to convert the sale. 90% of home-buyers research properties online, specifically from websites like Rightmove and Zoopla, and that’s exactly where most high-street agents source their enquiries from. It’s not even worth using an online agent that won’t market your property on Rightmove and Zoopla, so on that basis, you should get the same amount of leads through from those websites.
So, what are your thoughts? Can you be bothered to use an online estate agent, or not?