If you are thinking of selling a property, your first thought is probably to use one of the traditional high street estate agents.
After all, that’s what people do, right? However, there are a number of benefits of online estate agents that might just change your thinking.
Historically, properties were advertised for sale by an estate agent with premises on a local high street. Buyers would visit the various different agents and check the local newspaper to try and find the property of their dreams.
Today, the internet has changed everything. With property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla, people no longer contact every estate agent to check properties for sale.
Instead, with one simple search, they can find all the properties available in their chosen area, day or night. This has led to the invention of the ‘online estate agent’.
When we sold our last home, we decided to use an online estate agent and we weren’t disappointed. This article is based on what we learned from doing so…
Benefits Of Online Estate Agents
An online estate agent does not have offices on every high street, instead, they conduct most of their activities online. And, that means they don’t have to restrict themselves to a small geographical area and instead, spread out on a national scale.
All of this leads to some significant benefits of online estate agents that we are about to reveal to you now.
1) Save Money
It’s significantly cheaper to use online estate agents. Most high street agents will charge you a percentage of your property sale price. This will typically be around 1.5%, which, on a property priced at £250,000, works out to be a fee of £3,750.
The main issue with this ‘percentage of sale’ pricing model is that property prices have risen dramatically over the past few decades, yet, the percentage fee charges have been slow to fall. This means high street agents are charging much more for doing the same, or arguably less (thanks to the internet), work.
The cost-benefits include that they tend to charge a fixed-fee, rather than a percentage of the sale. That fee is fixed for everyone, so you won’t pay more just because your property has a higher value.
With the average cost of a selling through an online agent coming in at around £800, you could save thousands by using an online estate agent.
We certainly did. Our previous home sold for £470,000 and we had several high street estate agents offering to sell it for between 1-1.5%. That would have meant a final estate agent bill of between £4,700 and £7,050.
Instead, we opted to use Yopa and paid £2,500 for a no sale, no fee package that was comparable to a high street agent service. So, we saved around £2,200-£4,550 just by using an online estate agent.
It’s worth noting, there was no difference between the valuations of the high street agents and online agents either, so we don’t feel we would have sold our property for more by using a more expensive agent.
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2) List Your Property For Sale Faster
One major bugbear of people who choose to use traditional high street agents is the amount of time it takes to make any progress. Getting your property live can seem to take forever.
First, there is the valuation, then they return to take photos and create a floorplan (often performed by different people). Finally, your listing goes live, but not before various marketing brochures and information have been produced.
Online estate agents have been know to get properties on the market within 24 hours of conducting a valuation
This is because they sometimes conduct the valuation, take photographs, and create the floorplans all on the same visit. Because they only list your property online, they don’t need to waste time creating marketing brochures for your property.
In our experience, things weren’t done quite as quickly as that but the online agent did get our property on the market within a few days. Whereas the high street estate agents we spoke to were saying it would take them a couple of weeks to arrange everything.
3) More Control Over Your Property Listing
With traditional high street agents, if you notice a mistake on your property listing, you’ll have to call the estate agent and ask them to change it.
This is a problem if you spot the mistake at 5:10pm on a Saturday as you’ll have to wait until the estate agents re-open on Monday morning before you can call. Even then, you could be waiting days for someone to actually make the change required.
On the other hand, most online estate agents often give you direct control over your advert. You can submit changes, change photos and even change your asking price online at any time. This puts the control back in your hands.
No more waiting for the estate agents to open, no more chasing them to make the changes you asked for days ago. You can do it all at the click of a button. Plus, if you need help, online agents often keep their support centres open until late into the evening, 7 days a week.
While we didn’t have the luxury of being able to make changes to our listing directly ourselves, we found our online agent was very open to suggestions and often responded to our messages on weekends and evenings, long after a normal estate agent would be ‘closed’.
4) Viewings On Your Terms
If you have previously sold a property through a traditional high street estate agent, you may have felt under pressure when it comes to viewings. They’ll often ask you to perform viewings yourself out of their normal office hours. And, sometimes, they’ll want to perform viewings themselves at times that do not suit you.
This has been overcome by online estate agents since most will allow you to set your own ‘viewings schedule’. This is basically a calendar that allows you to specify the exact days and times you can accept viewings.
When a prospective buyer wants to book a viewing, they will only be able to choose from the slots you have made available in your schedule.
This ultimately allows you to fit selling your property around your own busy lifestyle. No more feeling under pressure to accept a viewing at short notice. Online agents let viewings happen on your own terms.
We found this very useful. When we sold our last home, we were commuting to work by bike. This meant that when we got home, we needed to have a shower before we could do a viewing.
Because our online agent allowed us to put in the times we could accept viewings, we never had to worry about not being ready in time.
Plus, we could do it all through the online system – simply choosing to accept viewing requests or propose a new time. This was extremely convenient for us.
Because viewings can be arranged online 24/7, prospective buyers reap the benefits of online estate agents too.
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5) Communicate Directly With Buyers
Another common complaint about traditional high street agents is that, once a sale is progressing, the seller spends half their time chasing the estate agent for updates on the progression of the sale.
This is because most high street agents prefer you not to have direct contact with your buyers, forcing all communication to go through a middleman – them.
Online agents help to significantly speed up the process by giving you the ability to talk with your buyers directly. You’ll still get a dedicated agent to help keep you up to date and keep your sale on track, but, if you wish, you can also ask your buyers questions (or answer their questions) yourself.
This often leads to a quicker, smoother, and less stressful sale! For us, it was definitely a great thing. Even at the viewing stage.
Our online estate agent had a system where we could communicate with a potential buyer as soon as they booked a viewing. We used this a lot to find out about the buyer’s situation.
By knowing a bit more about the buyer, we could customise their viewing a little. For instance, when we knew the prospective buyer had kids, we made sure to emphasise the large garden.
When we knew they had already sold their own property, we emphasised how keen we were to move and how we already had a solicitor lined up so we could move quickly once we accepted an offer.
We also found that if we initiated communication with someone wanting to view our house, they were more likely to actually turn up. Unfortunately, we had some who didn’t, which was a little frustrating but is very common no matter which estate agent you use.
Disadvantages Of Online Estate Agents
As you can see, there are a number of benefits of online estate agents that make using one very appealing indeed. These benefits are some of the reasons that they are predicted to account for 50% of properties on the market by 2020.
However, there are also some disadvantages of online estate agents you should be aware of. For instance, a previous common practice of online agents is to offer a low headline price, but make it a condition that you use their conveyancing service as part of the deal. If you don’t, they’ll usually add on a few hundred pounds.
Whilst hidden costs are never nice, you are still likely to save thousands by using an online agent even if you don’t take their conveyancing service, but it’s worth checking the terms, so you know what you’re agreeing to.
It’s also worth pointing out that in our experience, this is a tactic that few online agents still use. Most have got rid of this but a few still do use it.
Most online estate agents will require their lowest advertised fee to be paid regardless of whether they sell your property or not.
This is different to high street agents who usually work on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis. However, most online agents now offer ‘no sale, no fee’ option, albeit at a slightly higher price.
Whereas most high street agents will conduct viewings on your property as part of the price, online agents tend to charge extra (if they offer it at all). Typically, an ‘unlimited viewings’ package from an online agent costs around £300. It’s worth factoring this into your pricing if you don’t want to conduct viewings yourself.
However, we would recommend that you do your own viewings. After all, you have lived in that house for years, so are best placed to sell its benefits to potential buyers.
We sold our first home with a traditional estate agent. They did some viewings during the week, and we did some at the weekend. None of the viewings done by the agent got us much interest. But almost all of the potential buyers we showed around either asked for a second viewing or made an offer.
That’s because we could sell them a lifestyle rather than a house. We could talk about the BBQs we had in the garden with friends and the Christmas dinner with our family around the kitchen table.
Stories like this turn the house into a home and as a homeowner you can do this much better than an estate agent who only saw it once, maybe twice before the viewing. So don’t be put off by doing your own viewings.
If you want more proof of this, check out this video we analysed that shows estate agent viewings vs homeowner ones.
Finally, only having an email and phone number to call rather than a physical office you can walk into may put some people off online estate agents. But, on the flip side, their phone lines tend to be open much longer. So, what you lose in physical offices, you gain in opening hours.
Overall, we strongly feel that the benefits of online estate agents firmly outweigh the negatives. However, it will come down to your own personal preferences and needs as to which one is right for you.
We have used both online agents and high street agents and we certainly prefer using online estate agents. They just give us the flexibility and control that make it so much easier and more convenient to sell. Plus, we’ve found we have saved a lot of money by using online agents.
If you do decide to use an online agent, be sure to check out our online estate agent reviews to find the best one for you.