Using an online estate agent could save you thousands of pounds in estate agent fees. The services offered by online estate agents are quite similar to those offered by high street agents. At the moment, online estate agents only account for about 5% of property sales, but this is likely to increase.
Online agents and high street agents have some similarities
- Online estate agents are governed by the same regulations that cover high street estate agents. You can be assured that like high street agents, online estate agents must be members of one of the two redress schemes approved by the Office of Fair Trading – the Property Ombudsman or Ombudsman Services: Property.
- Like high street agents, most online agents will visit the property in order to value it and to take professional photos in order to market the property.
But there are a few significant differences:
- Fees: online agencies tend to have lower fees than those charged by high street agents but you often have to pay them upfront – whether or not the company manages to sell your property. However, some companies offer alternative payment options whereby you pay on completion or split the cost reducing the risk of wasting your money. Unlike High street estate agents, who usually charge commission, online estate agents generally charge fixed fees. For example, if you sold a property worth £200,000 using a high street estate agency that charged 1.5% commission you’d pay £3,000 in fees, whereas online estate agents typically charge a flat fee of between £400 and £1,500 which could significantly cut the costs of selling your property.
- Viewings: most high street estate agents will conduct viewings for you, but with an online agent the default option is that you do them yourself. For an added fee some online agents do however offer this service
- Communication: although someone will visit to take professional photographs and do floor plans, all other contact will be usually be via email or phone. Some online estate agents will assign you a personal account manager.
- Valuations: Although an online estate agent will visit your home to value it, just like a high street agent, you won’t necessarily get an agent with specific knowledge of the local market. That said, you don’t have to use the valuation provided by your online agent – you could always ask a local high street agent for a valuation and use that figure to inform the asking price you set with an online agent.
- Marketing: High street estate agents market your home until it sells or your contract comes to an end. In practice, the same is true of online estate agents, but always check the package you’ve chosen. Most offer 12 months as standard, although some only offer six months
- Vetting buyers: good high street agents will know whether potential buyers are quality applicants. All of the online estate agents we’ve spoken to say they take details of names, finances and whether potential buyers are already part of a chain. We’d recommend asking your agent exactly how this works – for example, Purplebricks uses a third party to ensure buyers are able to proceed with the purchase after the offer has been accepted.
- Flexibility: Online agents offer packages that can be tailored to your specific requirements and you can often track viewings and feedback online (although some high street agents offer this too). Generally, there is no contract period, which means you are free to instruct other estate agents if you wish.