Using an online agent to sell your home can save you hundreds or thousands of pounds. But can you trust them to handle your most important financial transaction? We take a look at the pros and cons of online estate agents to help you decide
Why should I use an online estate agent?
Without doubt the biggest advantage of online agents is the savings you can make. High street agents typically charge around 1.5% of the price achieved. Even if you do get 1.5% this means you will pay £4,500 if you sell your home for £300,000. This seems extortionate compared to fees charged by online agents. Basic packages normally start at around £400, but even for the more expensive services you will struggle to pay much more than £1,000.
Can I trust online estate agents?
There is no law stopping you or me from setting up as an estate agent tomorrow – on the high street or online. So how do you ever know they are legitimate?
All agents must be a member of one of three grievance bodies who can pursue your claims should things go wrong: the Property Ombudsman, the Ombudsman Services Property and as of 2014 the Property Redress Scheme. However, their powers are limited so don’t make the mistake of taking it as a stamp of approval.
How will people find my property?
Like high street estate agents, online agents use Zoopla, Rightmove and other property portals to market your property. So while people won’t find your photo in a high street agents’ window as they go for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon, serious buyers will regularly check the portals. You will want to look at the different agents’ marketing packages. “For Sale” boards are also offered by online agents.
Will I need to conduct viewings?
In most cases, yes. Different online agents have different packages. Some agents will arrange and conduct viewings at an additional cost. Most will arrange the viewings for you and keep you updated by phone or on a dedicated online site just for you. While a few will just pass on the contact details of potential buyers.
If you work full time an open day where all potential buyers view the property in one day might be a good option.
How will an online agent value my home?
As online agents operate from nationwide call centres they may have more limited local knowledge, so valuing your house is often done using online data. That’s fine as a guide but you really need people with local knowledge to help you set the right price for your house. This is easily overcome by asking three local high street agents to value your home before deciding whether to opt to go on-line. See our guide on selling your home for the right price
Will the online agent negotiate a final deal with my buyers?
Most online agents will take offers, discuss them with you and negotiate the price for you, while others will leave it up to you. Don’t want to haggle? Then choose an online agent who will do it for you. Before deciding, take a look out our free guide on negotiating the right price
Will they really care about my sale if they don’t get commission?
Arguably, online estate agents do not have the same commission based incentive as a high street agent to get you (and them) the highest price possible, whereas high street agents will apply their experience and skills to do so. That’s assuming your high street agent knows what they are doing, of course. To counter this view, online agents usually offer a commission based package.
Will the photos be professional?
Yes. A quick look on Zoopla or Rightmove and you will be able to see the quality of photo used by the online agents you are considering. And just with high street agents you can opt for additional virtual tours and 360 degree photos.
Is an online agent right for me?
- You have time and don’t mind conducting the viewings
- You like to feel like you’re in charge of the process of selling your home
- You think you are better placed to sell your home
- You don’t want to pay thousands to an estate agent when it feels like Zoopla and Rightmove do most of the sales work