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Buying a home? Online Estate Agent or High Street?

There’s no doubting the increasing visibility of online estate agents these days; their selling point is seemingly reduced fees compared to the traditional high street estate agents, which scores well with buyers who’re already strapped for cash.

Online estate agents often quote fees ranging from between £300 to £1,800 which compares favourably to the standard 1 – 3% of the sale price which high street estate agents most often charge. So are high street estate agents are even worth paying extra for, particularly given that 9 out of 10 property searches from potential buyers are conducted online?

 

In fairness there are downsides to using an online estate agent as well, including if you are buying from someone selling who’s also using one: this article examines both sides of the argument.

 

Advantages

 

1 Lower fees

 

If you were looking to sell a property valued at £300,000, a high street estate agent would £7,200 if they were levying a 2% fee (£6,000 + VAT) whereas an online estate agent would charge you up to £1,800 (and one prominent online estate agent would charge £1,200 for a property in London).

 

The headline quote for an online estate agent is likely to be even cheaper than this, although the terms and conditions might or might not cut out certain services if you choose this option. Given the many expenses that always accompany a conveyancing process, it’s understandable that this kind of reduction in what you have to pay out is a draw for many.

 

2 You become the main marketer of your property

 

It’s not unknown for property sellers to criticise their high street estate agents for lacking knowledge about the dwelling or its local when marketing it and this carries over into viewings, where potential buyers can be put off when their reasonable questions aren’t answered effectively.

 

But when you use an online agent, you take control of the viewings and providing the information, depending on which agent you choose (some will arrange viewings as part of their fee).

 

There’s no doubt that this is a two-edged sword however; you’ll have to manage everything to do with viewing and marketing efficiently, something which might take its toll if you are holding down a full time job.

 

3 Security risk lowered

 

Naturally if you’re the only person who conducts viewings, there’s no security risk from having to give your house keys to someone else and there’s no possible issue with your contents insurance.

 

4 Convenience

 

It only takes a few clicks on the net to get your property registered with an online estate and your home is normally listed within around 48 hours, including on other linked portals such as Rightmove.

 

5 Wider range of selling methods to choose from

 

If you use an online estate agent for your marketing you might be able to include digital tours, online photos and much more. Additionally these can be created by you and not have to involve paying an estate agent employee to set these up. At most, and depending on which online estate agent you use, you’ll have to pay for the online estate agent to set these features up if that’s their policy.

 

Disadvantages

 

1 Verbal agreements become less reliable

 

When you use a high street estate agent to sell your home, you’ll normally only communicate with a buyer via your estate agent and solicitor and their solicitor in turn.

 

When you use an online estate agent, more often than not you’ll be communicating directly with potential buyers.

 

While some relish the greater increased simplicity of the latter, the fact is that estate agents and experienced conveyancing solicitors are much more aware of the need to formalise verbal agreements in a legally-sound written way.

 

You might think you’ve got a legally sound verbal agreement with the buyer, for example, about whether white goods are going to be left in a property as part of a sale – but depending on how or whether or not you correctly record this, you might struggle to prove the agreement in the event of a legal dispute.

 

High street estate agents are normally experienced in price negotiations and have considerable knowledge of a local housing market. They also have experience in steering these kind of negotiations to an agreeable conclusion.

 

If there’s just 2 of you negotiating, you might particularly want for sound advice about what is reasonable and legal – and what isn’t.

 

2 Services charged as extras

 

You only have to examine the way budget airline fares work to know that not infrequently, you’re attracted to using a business by what seems a low initial quote, but one which is actually just an estimate. Before too long, you realise that if you want any service that is anything more than an incredibly Spartan one, you’re going to have to pay extra/s for it, and these wonderful extras are gradually revealed if you carefully read the business’ terms and conditions.

 

The same can be the case for online estate agents’ charges. The basic charge for marketing your property for sale might be as low as £400, but if you require items like an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC – required by law before you can sell) or For Sale Board or floor plan, you’ll have to pay more for them.

 

Some people prefer the cost of a service to be truly fixed and the possibility that they’ll have to pay for a host of extra items stressing an already tight budget  – and particularly when they thought said extras were already included in the previous estimate – can put them off.

 

3 Want the cheapest prices on offer? You’ll have to pay upfront

 

If you’re wanting to get the lowest possible prices out of using an online estate agent, invariably you can only access these if you opt to pay upfront. One online estate agen, for example, advertises a £595 charge if you pay upfront but raises this to £695 if you pay on completion.

 

And you should always always always bear in mind the following – if you pay upfront, there’s no still guarantee that you’ll actually sell your house.

 

4 Your inexperience as a seller or buyer may be more exposed

 

You’ll normally lack knowledge of about buying and selling homes unless you’re already an industry professional, such as an estate agent, surveyor or mortgage broker. The fact is that if you employ an online estate agent to sell your home, you’ll have a professional who is conversant in these areas who is acting on your side.

 

If you use an online estate agent, in most cases, you’ll have to do all the research yourself and this is an area where ignorance might end up costing you money.

 

5 No No Sale No Fee warranty

 

A huge plus point in favour of high street estate agents is that they invariably offer you a no sale no fee guarantee if things don’t happen. This means that you can rest secure in the knowledge that should you be unable to sell your property under normal conditions, they’ll cover all the costs of marketing, valuing and registering your property for sale on their online property portals.

 

It’s fairly unknown to this point that online estate agents off this kind of guarantee and if they do, you’ll most likely have to pay considerably extra for their services.

 

Marcus Simpson

Editor

SAM Conveyancing