Online only… Can they be called ‘Estate Agents’?

Managing a few Estate Agency groups I get to see a lot of debates and opinions shared on varied industry topics. One of the popular discussions is to whether or not online estate agents, a growing popularity currently, should be classified as actual ‘Estate Agents’. As per usual, I will have no real opinion on this subject as I am not an estate agent myself, but below are some thoughts I have on the situation in hope that readers will share their ideas on the matter below.

It’s a very popular trend at present, online estate agents, many new names are entering the industry and those who’ve been around for a while have secured funding to build on their growth.

With the high street estate agency charging on average between 1.5 to 2% of the sale price of a property, the customer can end up paying £10,000’s in fees. Many consumers will begrudge the fact that they pay out so much money for so little amount of work, especially if the estate agent sells a property within hours of being instructed to do so. This I would say is a little naive on the part of the customer as their requirement is to sell and if the estate agency accomplishes that then it is job done regardless to time taken – Expertise to sell a property instantly may have taken that agency years of work and investment to place themselves in that position to do so.

Consumers are now being given a choice in online estate agents, one which for years many tried to crack, but many achieved no traction. Tepilo may have been around for some time, many would say they stuck at it during a very bleak period for the ‘sell your home privately’ option. Today we are seeing many newer names gain what is assumed, great traction in the business of selling and letting property exclusively online such as eMoov, Purplebricks (hybrid), HouseSimple, HouseNetwork among many others.

As the world of marketing changes constantly and the likes of mobile internet, social media, apps etc play a greater role in building brand awareness and connecting with customers, could we see a shift in the way the broad mass of the population of home owning consumers set about selling, buying and renting property? Without question, for many, buying and selling a property is the biggest financial decision they’ll ever make and the ability to visit your local high street and pop in to see your estate agency to talk to industry professionals is highly important, but today things seem to be moving faster and people appear to have less and less spare time, so are easy to use online agencies going to continue to close the gap on traditional estate agents?

When you consider other industries, I am not so sure similar thoughts are shared? Many varied sectors have both high street companies and those exclusively online… Yes, it takes beating going in to the travel agents locally with their coconut smelling environment and booking that dream holiday, but surely going online and booking the same package at a discounted price rates higher? Would you say a travel agent is one you find only on the high street, or if you book a holiday online have you done so with a travel agent also? Just because you don’t go walking around Asda to do your shopping yet you choose to order your food from them online, still points to the same thing, ie you are shopping at your chosen preferred supermarket? What is more important to the consumer, as it’s them who will ultimately decide the route the industry takes, the price they pay and service they get or if they are doing things face to face or virtual?

It has been some years since I purchased or sold a property, in fact the last time that happened was in France where we purchased and sold to people we knew, so I have no experience of current estate agents or online agents. I have no tie in with any high street or online agency, so my thoughts are from a neutral perspective. Please share below your thoughts:

Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking. Internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Social Media. Writes about UK property prices, housing, politics and affordable homes.

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