Online estate agents vs high street estate agents

Should I use an online estate agent to sell my home?

When thinking of selling your house, one of the first questions you may be asking is: should I use one of the new online estate agents? Are they as good as traditional high street estate agents?

Of course, there are pros and cons to each option, so it’s worth taking the time to work out what is the best service to suit you. There’s no right or wrong answer, so go with what you feel most comfortable with!

To mangle a certain well-known phrase when it comes to selling your home, what you need is information, information, information.  It’s the building blocks (excuse the pun) of your decision. So we are here to help you.

This article will explain:

–          Key things to think about when choosing which type of agent to hire

–          What online estate agents offer and the benefits of choosing an online agent

–          Choosing your online agent – your checklist

Your personal situation

First, let’s talk a little bit about you and your personal situation. People sell homes for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you’re growing your family and need to move to get more space. Perhaps you’ve decided to downsize to save money. Maybe you’re relocating for work.

Whatever your reason for selling your property, it can be useful to think about your role as the seller. Is this the first time you are selling a property and want to know more about the process? Or are you a seasoned pro wondering if you should switch to an online estate agent to save money? Are you someone who wants to be really involved in the sale process? Or happy to trust the estate agent to do it all for you? Have you sought advice or recommendations from family and friends?

How do I choose which type of estate agent to hire?

1.       What’s more important to you: a cheaper service, or trying to ensure you get a higher price for your  property? High street estate agents get paid commission based on the sale price, so are motivated to get that higher price for you.

2.       How quickly do you need to sell? You might be surprised to hear that online estate agents are often quicker at selling.

3.       Are you willing to do property viewings yourself and do you have time during the day and evenings to do these? It’s usually up to you to show potential buyers around if you use an online estate agent.

4.       Is your property quirky or have any unusual features that might need some explaining? This type of property might be more suited to a traditional, high street agent, that can sell the features.

5.       How good are you at selling and negotiating? Be honest with yourself about how comfortable you are with this part of the process. If you find it too tough, then it’s probably money well spent to get an expert to do it for you.

Online estate agents: how are they different from high street estate agents?

Online estate agents are a relatively new addition to the housing market. As suggested by their name, online-only estate agents operate only online. They don’t have offices on the high street, nor do they have agents on the ground. Instead, they provide their services via  websites and call centres.

Now there are a range of established providers and what they offer has evolved over the past few years. From the basic (where you do most of the work yourself) to the premium (where they provide negotiators, liaising with conveyancers, and local property experts). The fees incurred will be higher, but you may think it’s worth it, if you are time poor and want to have the hassle taken out of the process.

Who are the main online estate agents?

NameCostWhen do you pay?
Doorsteps£99 / £199 / £599 (depending on package)
House Simple£995 – pay on completionOnly if you sell
Purplebricks£899 (£1,399 in London
and surrounding areas)
(unless you also use their conveyancing service,
in which case you can pay after 10 months, or on completion – whichever happens first)
Settled£499 + a remainder fee personalised to your home (quote provided when you sign-up)£499 is upfront, remainder fee is upon completion
Yopa£839 Yopa Bundle
(£1,399 in some London postcodes)

£1,999 Core Bundle
(£2,999 in some London postcodes)

£2,299 Premium Bundle
(£3,399 in some London postcodes)
Yopa Bundle – pay upfront or pay monthly

Core Bundle – only if you sell

Premium Bundle – only if you sell

Price savings, but beware of the extras

The most attractive feature of online agencies is their price.  Basic packages start in the hundreds of pounds rather than the thousands that a traditional, high-street agent is likely to charge.

We’ll give you a quick example:

A high-street estate agent will charge you between 1% and 3% of the sale price (the average in 2018 was 1.42%). On a £250,000 flat, that 1.42% would mean you would pay fees of £3,550.

Online estate agents charge anywhere from £99 to £3,399 flat fee.

Beware, however, just like when you buy a budget airline ticket, you’ll need to check what your basic package covers. To make sure it includes everything you need (see our handy checklist below). Don’t be sucked into buying unnecessary “extras”. These can push up the total price you pay quickly, so be a bit careful.

What’s included in your package?

Some of the cheaper agents will do an online valuation (using data that’s available online), rather than get a local property expert to value your property.

Even if you opt to go with an online agent, we would recommend getting at least 3 valuations (a mix of online estate agents and high street estate agents) before you decide who to hire.

And remember, you don’t have to go with their opinion – you can also do your own research of recent sold prices in your area.

Does your package include professional photographs and floor plans as standard? We would not advise trying to do your own photographs or floor plans (unless you are a photographer!). It is worth paying extra to get these done professionally.

All of the online estate agents give you access to a booking system that lets you book appointments with potential buyers for viewings. But if you want an agent to conduct those viewings for you, that often costs extra. You can usually save a few hundred pounds if you do viewings yourself. But you need to be comfortable showing people around your house and have the time to do it.

You don’t want to use an online agency that only advertises your property on their own website. They’ll never get enough traffic for you to sell it! You need to make sure that your package includes a listing on the main property portals, Zoopla and Rightmove.

We don’t recommend paying extra for “Premium” listings on those sites. Only if you’re in a real hurry to sell your place.

Sometimes, old skool rules! 

We think that a ‘For Sale’ sign is still really useful. A lot of people who are looking to move want to stay in the same area, so a sign is still a great way to find buyers. But they are not always included in basic packages, so double check yours.

Some, but not all online estate agencies will vet your buyers, so that they only show the property to people who are in a real position to buy it.  

Your communication with the agency can often be remote, through web chats or phone calls. Make sure you’re comfortable with the level of contact and support you get for your fee.

Wrap-up thoughts

To conclude, there are online estate agencies who have built a solid and reassuring presence on the market in the last 5 years or so. They are covered by the same regulations as high street estate agents.

Or you may decide that nothing counts more than the experience of a local estate agent, which comes from knowing the housing market innately and which can offer a personal service when selling your most valuable asset.

We hope this has been helpful. If you’ve used an online estate agent and would like to share your experience, let us know in the comments below.

Online estate agent vs high street - Lifetise
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