Mark Sandall, Joint Managing Director of Andrew Granger & Co explains why using an online estate agent may be a false economy.
We live in a world where pretty much any product or service can be bought online. Many people view the online marketplace as faster, cheaper and more efficient. However, this can sometimes mean sacrificing important areas such as customer service and face to face contact. This might not be crucial when buying a sofa, but your service requirements might change significantly when buying a house.
There’s no disputing that many online estate agents are cheaper with most charging a one off fee. When compared to traditional estate agent commissions (which typically vary between 0.75 to 3 per cent plus VAT of the selling price), the online option can be tempting. However, in addition to the online agent’s fixed fee there will often be additional costs for ‘extra’ services such as conducting viewings. There are also
several other compelling reasons for heading to the high street.
A high street estate agency taps into the specialist knowledge of its team who usually know their region really well. This enables the agent to calculate an accurate valuation that will achieve the best possible price for a vendor. An online estate agent rarely has the in-depth local expertise needed to do this.
When it comes to offers, many online agents offer the option for vendors to accept an offer via an app. While this may be convenient, not everyone will be comfortable making a decision of this magnitude without the support of an experienced professional. The personal advice of a knowledgeable agent whom may well have met both vendor and buyer is invaluable in the delicate negotiation process.
The general consensus among experts is that viewings are best left to agents. The process of both buying and selling a house can be an emotional one, so asking your estate agent to conduct viewings is an easy way to take any potential stress out of the situation. Also, even if you pay for an online agent’s viewing service, the fact that the agent in question may have further to travel over a larger area may mean it is not as easy to set up viewings.
Of course, every modern high street estate agent embraces the fact that most property searches begin on online portals such as Rightmove, which is why these are now a standard feature of high street agents’ marketing strategy. However, the power of word of mouth, local newspaper adverts and the estate agent’s window shouldn’t be underestimated. People still value the option of being able to see a property they like and physically going in to enquire about it then and there.
Selling a house can be time-consuming and is not without its complications. Online estate agents use call centres as points of contact, meaning that you are unlikely to speak to the same employee twice and the person who picks up the phone will need to read your notes before they can deal with your enquiry. On the other hand, a high street agent should be able to provide you with a named contact and even if that person is out of the office when you call or drop in, other employees should either be able to help you, or advise you when your contact will be able to get back to you.
So, while the short-term saving of a lower fixed fee can be enticing, choosing this option can come at the cost of sacrificing the professional expertise that will ultimately get you the best possible price for your property.