The traditional place to go when selling a property is a physical estate agent shop front. But more recently, online estate agents have become a trend in the UK and these are – rightly or wrongly – referred to as ‘DIY agents’. PurpleBricks, a popular online estate agent, has become the third biggest estate agent in the country! Other examples of online estate agents include Rightmove and Zoopla. The attraction with these is that the one-off cost you pay to market your property is often less than a high street agent’s commision fee. However the one-off cost is often non-refundable, meaning that you will pay whether your home sells or not. With most high street agents, there is no upfront cost at all and unless the property sells, you do not pay a fee.
To help you decide which sales route is best for you, we have summarised each of the two options below:
|DIY agent||High street agent|
|How much does it cost?
|Online sellers pay an upfront payment for the marketing of the property which is often less than high street commission fees.||High street agents receive a commission upon sale of the property. For example, they might get 2% commission of the sale price.|
|Are there any upfront costs?
|Yes. With an online estate agent you pay a fixed one-off, upfront cost. (The downside to the upfront online fee is that it is payable regardless of whether the property actually sells or not.)||No. Commission fees are subject to completed sale of your property.|
|What are their opening hours?
|The internet is always open, therefore sellers can manage their sale as and when it is convenient. Many firms will offer the seller an online dashboard or portal.||A lot of high street agents are open Monday-Saturday 9-5pm, some are open later into the evenings and some are open seven days a week.|
|Will I receive face-face service?
|Not normally. Occasionally there is a call centre that can be accessed over the phone. Some online agents now also offer a face-to-face service but many do not.||Yes. High street agents offer a face-to-face service that can guide sellers from start to finish. On the high street you get access to an experienced agent who can build a rapport with you and learn everything about your property.|
|Who manages the process?
|You. An online estate agent cannot call a buyer’s lawyer during the negotiations stage which can slow down the process.||The agent. You benefit from the middleman service included with a high street agent, which can decrease stress and time taken to sell. Often high street agents will also have sales people in place to act as the ‘middleman’ after an offer is accepted. This includes mediating with the rest of the chain and any solicitors in between.|
|Can I use multiple agents?
|Yes. Generally, there is no contract period online, therefore you can instruct other estate agents if you wish. However fees may be incurred.||Yes but not always. Usually you cannot have more than one high street agent competing against each other to sell the same property and this may be included in a contract. They can however compete to win the contract to sell your property.|
|Who arranges the viewings?
|Usually you will have to conduct viewings yourself.||The high street agent.|
|Will I be protected against fraud?
|No, you will need to do a lot of this research yourself. You may have to manage and respond to buyer enquiries, arrange and conduct your own viewings, or negotiate with interested buyers to secure an offer.||Yes. A high street agent will ‘vet’ both parties and gain an insight into how serious the potential buyer is. High-street agents tend to check the financial background of prospective purchasers as well as details of their viewing history and invariably carry out accompanied viewings.|
|Does the agent have local knowledge?
|Probably not. According to a Which? study, online agents are often located in a call-centre away from the property they are selling.||Yes, high street branches are usually near to the properties they are selling. On average, less than two miles away in fact!|
Which is the best option for me to sell my home?
It comes down to whether or not you are willing to take the risk.
Online agents promise to save homeowners thousands of pounds compared to their high street counterparts. However, if the sale falls through, you could still end up paying, making this somewhat of a false economy. Some firms will allow you to pay on completion, however this is still non-negotiable and non-refundable.
Commission through high street agents can be expensive – sometimes amounting to thousands – depending on the price of your house and its location. However, with a high street sale, you only pay if the property sells. According to UK-wide estate agent, Haart, 78% of sellers would rather get a higher price for their property than pay a smaller fee. This may be wise given that commission payable to high-street agents is usually performance-related meaning the agent has a responsibility to ensure a sale is met.
What is more, with DIY agents there are additional costs which can build up. If you are listing your property online, you may have to pay extra for professional photos and to have a floor plan designed. Online agents may appear cheaper at first glance than they turn out to be. Keep an eye on your final cost to avoid paying more than you would with a traditional agent.
Many people like to meet their agent in person. This is important in terms of building a trusting relationship. You may be more comfortable dealing with a professional estate agent who you have spoken to. In addition, high street agents are aware of local market trends and pricing levels for the area, increasing the likelihood of you selling to the right person at the right time, for the right price.
Some online agents do now offer some face-to-face service. For example Purplebricks assigns all sellers registered on its system with a TrustPilot-rated local expert. Others offer an all-hours telephone service. But you are not guaranteed to speak with the same person and may be kept on hold for long periods of time.
Selling through an online agent, you will conduct viewings yourself (unless you have been assigned a regional sales representative). This could prove positive because it allows you to establish a relationship with potential buyers. On the other hand, high street agents generally ask questions of buyers that you may find uncomfortable – such as what they earn and what type of mortgage is required as well as carrying out money laundering checks.
Another consideration is that while the benefit of high street agents is the fact that they will manage viewings for you, this is restricted to their schedules. This means if someone wants to view out of hours, you will have to conduct the viewing yourself, or it may not happen.
Before you choose your agent, do your research and check reviews. Check the website or company and use comparison sites such as the HomeOwners Alliance to help evaluate your options and make sure you are getting the best service possible for the money you are paying. Read everything, including the small print. Fees will often drive a decision but the quality of the agent should be the deciding factor.
For more advice on buying, selling or renting property in South West London, visit our blog page.