Online Estate Agents – Friend or Foe?

With many high street estate agents charging exorbitant fee’s could enlisting the services of an online agent now be a more viable option? 

Perhaps it’s just me, with the industry I work in, but in recent years it feels as though there are new agencies starting up everywhere you go!  When I was a child there was three, perhaps four agents for people to choose from.  None were online as the internet hadn’t been invented yet, but that’s another story. 

These days, there appears to be a new agent opening their high street or virtual door every other day!  This is of course is FANTASTIC news for my business, but with so many options available, where does Mr & Mrs Joe Public begin when deciding which agent to hire?

I would like to take an overall look at what is becoming an online revolution for this once small industry.

Is the sky the limit?

Estate Agents and Letting Agencies are amongst the fastest growing businesses in the UK today.

With billionaires such as Sir Stelios Haji ioannou opting in on the game, you have to wonder how fierce will the competition become?  Reported by Forbes to have a net worth of $1.47b in March of this year and having raised a mere £10m to fund his latest online business venture, the Lettings market could be in for a real shock this time next year.

Sir Stelios isn’t the only one planning on dominating the market.  A ‘little company’ called uPad have also reportedly planned a multi-million pound budget for their advertising campaign. 

If you think the competition is fierce now, just wait to see what is going to happen in 2017!

The obvious advantages of using an online agent:

It’s no secret that to attract new business online agents will cost you less.

Selling your home with an online agent can literally save you hundreds, and in most cases even thousands of pounds in fees.  When high street agents are charging on average anything up to 1.5% to sell your home, is it any wonder home owners are looking for an alternative.

The same goes for letting agents, the difference in cost can be phenomenal.

For the majority of people I think its safe to say their home or property to let is amongst their most expensive of possessions.  Therefore, whilst the initial savings of an online agent is an attractive benefit, its worth digging a little deeper before making the decision of which agent to choose.   

What should a customer look out for?

When it comes to selling our family home or renting out a property, there is long list of questions I would ask before hiring an agent.

Valuation:

Rather than simply looking up what other properties in the street sold for, you want your home valued by an experienced professional.  Someone who is familiar with the local area and understands what buyers are likely to pay for your property.  If you decide to go with an online agent, I would recommend you choose one who is based within your area.  An agent based in Manchester for example, is unlikely to travel to value a property in Edinburgh, far less be experienced with selling homes in that area. Hire local!

Furthermore, provided you are not being charged for the valuation, I would strongly recommend booking three local agents to value your home before you sign on the dotted line.  Try to see things from a buyers point of view and take on board what each agent suggests to improve the appeal of your home.  If you are told the front garden does not have kerb appeal, get your gardening gloves on and get it sorted.  Remember, whatever you are advised will be to help increase the overall appeal – and offer made on your property.

Commission:

The majority of online estate agents will offer a ‘Fixed Fee’ to sell your home.  My concern there would be, will there be enough of an incentive for them to push for a higher price?  To combat this issue, why not suggest an incentive if a particular price is achieved?  The situation then becomes more of a ‘win-win’ than a gamble if you are in any way concerned.

Marketing fees:

High street estate agents and online agents will use mostly the same property portals to market your property.  Serious buyers and those looking to rent are most likely to go online before visiting their local estate agents.  Everything these days is online.  The property video and floor plans for the home are easily available, the council tax bands, you name it, its all there to hand. 

However, it would be advisable to check there are no ‘hidden charges’ amongst your fees.  Double check your marketing includes ‘For Sale’ or letting boards and not just the cost of the property video etc. 

Viewings:

If you opt for an online agent, double check what happens with viewings.  If you are comfortable dealing with the viewings yourself, great, but what happens if you are unavailable and someone is interested in the property? 

Many online agents will outsource viewings to a ‘local property expert’ if they do not offer to provide this service themselves.  It is essential that if the viewer asks a question, a prompt, and correct answer is provided. 

Alternatively, if your property is for sale and you do not want to deal with several viewings, you could opt for an ‘Open Day’.  Provided your agent can arrange for a suitable number of serious buyers to view your property on the same day, you could very well have an offer on the table within 24 hours. A nice solution, if circumstances go in your favour.

Viewings are an essential aspect of the sale or rental of any property. So for those who are looking to rent the property out, don’t forget to ask your lettings agent about their viewings policy.

For those intending to rent out a property rather than sell, again there are a few key points to take into consideration.

Itinerary and inspections:

Be sure to confirm exactly what is involved in producing an itinerary of your property.  Many agents now offer a video of the property to be produced prior to any tenant moving in.  This is particularly handy if you are renting out a larger property that will be occupied by a family with young children who are not yet ‘house trained’!

Routine inspections should be agreed with both your agent and the tenant in order to ensure your property is being well looked after.  This is also a good opportunity for the agent to report back to you with any potential maintenance issues.  A tenant is more likely to continue renting from you if you are being proactive about replacing carpets, white goods, blinds etc whenever required.

Entry and exit fees:

Ask about entry and exit fees for letting your property as this could be another unexpected bill.

Two Glasgow based online agents:

I was interested to hear exactly what some of our new and modern online agents had to say about the evolving world of property sales and lettings.  Just why should someone choose to sell or rent their home with an online agent:

Barry Walker & Stuart Wylie, Directors of Walker Wylie Estate Agents:

‘The concept of Walker Wylie was born out of our experience working as Area Directors for Scotland’s leading independent Estate Agency. We understand the advantages of both the high street and online offerings, hence our confidence in offering a combination of the two as Glasgow’s first true Hybrid Estate Agency.

We have worked hard to ensure our business model is not mistaken with online agents who simply offer a means of listing your home on the leading website portals. This approach fails to acknowledge the importance of experienced local knowledge in ensuring you receive the correct marketing advice. The professionalism and guidance provided by an experienced valuer will ensure you remain ahead of the curve.

With the art of estate agency clearly changing, we are focused on providing an exclusively sales service combining the key aspects of online and high street estate agency within our unique Hybrid business model.  

Walker Wylie… providing local knowledge, experience and credibility to online estate agency.’

Paul Cowden, Director of Oakmonts Lettings Agency:

‘In terms of the Estate Agency & Lettings industry, long gone are the days when house buyers, landlords and would-be tenants would merely take a stroll along to their local High Street estate agency.

Using an online estate or lettings agency does not mean that the consumer has to do more of the work to sell their house or find a tenant. Most reputable online agencies will do all of the hard work for you, such as taking photos, arranging advertising, hosting viewings and carrying out reference/credit checks on prospective buyers and tenants.  With regard to lettings, many also offer highly competitive rates for ongoing property management on behalf of landlords.  They may be online, but they are never remote and most offer an ‘around the clock’ personal service.  Online agencies are most definitely not the DIY option. Oakmonts can offer significant cost savings to the consumer, allied with a more tailored and much more personal service. A viable alternative to the standard High Street agent.’

Encouraging words from experienced agents.  However, when all is said and done, only time will tell which way the public will jump.  Let us know which you prefer, online or high street?

Get in touch

Always focus on quality!

Working with Property Developers and Estate Agents throughout the UK and abroad.

To discuss: Myself and the team are always happy to help in any way that we can, so contact us today, it will be the best contact you ever made!

Written By Carol Faichney, Partner, Development Finance Solutions & Clear Vision Media.

Visit:  developmentfinancesolutions.co.uk / clearvisionmedia.co.uk for further information on our full range of products and services.

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