Online Estate Agents Vs High Street Agents

Online vs High Street Agents
Disclosure: Clicking on links on this page may earn us a small commission. This helps us continue to produce free content and doesn't affect the price you pay.
Online Estate Agents vs High Street Agents – it’s an increasingly important question and many home sellers wonder which is the most efficient and cost-effective way of selling their home.

While vendors will save thousands of pounds in commission when using an online estate agent – because they offer a full fee and not a commission-based service – what will home sellers be signing up to and are there any catches?

We’ve used both online agents and high street ones to sell our previous homes. Using our first-hand experience, we explain the pros and cons of traditional estate agents and their online rivals.

Online estate agents vs high street agents – What’s the difference?

ServiceOnline Estate AgentHigh Street Estate AgentHybrid Estate AgentComments
Percentage based feesred crossgreen tickred crossA fee that is a percentage of the sales price can be quite high if you have a property with a high value.
Fixed feesgreen tickred crossgreen tickWith a fixed fee, you pay the same amount whether your home sells for £100k or £1m.
No sale, no fee optiongreen tickgreen tickgreen tickMost online agents do offer this payment option, however not all, and it will be more expensive than paying upfront.
Physical office spacered crossgreen tickred crossMost buyers today search online and won't ever set foot in an estate agent office.
24/7 accessgreen tickred crossgreen tickOnline and hybrid agents use online platforms where buyers can book viewings at any time and sellers can accept them directly.
Viewingsgreen tickgreen tickgreen tickMost online agents and all hybrid agents will offer hosted viewings, but you might have to pay extra.
Extras included (floor plans, for sale board, etc.)green tickgreen tickgreen tickSome smaller online agents won't have these extras included in their cheapest package, but most bigger ones do.
Local knowledgegreen tickgreen tickgreen tickLarger online agents will have a local agent with the right knowledge.
Sales progressiongreen tickgreen tickgreen tickLarger online agents will have a sales progression team, while small ones won't.

There’s no doubt that the rapid rise of online estate agents has had a big impact when it comes to selling our homes. But what’s the difference between the two? The main difference is price.

The traditional high street agent offers a service that’s based on a highly personalised offering that will help the seller from the beginning of the property selling process, right through to the finish.

They then receive a commission – as much as 3% of the property sale – for their efforts and on a £400,000 property, this will cost the vendor £12,000.

The problem facing traditional agents is that their online estate agent rivals are also promising a personalised service as well but without the hefty commission fee.

Often, online estate agents will charge a fixed fee to sell your home. If you’re willing to pay upfront, you could pay less than £1000.

If you prefer to pay on completion, so there’s less risk, you’ll be looking at paying around £2,000 with an online estate agent. This is a significant saving for most people verses the percentage based fees high street estate agents charge.

The best online estate agents are offering homeowners the opportunity to save thousands of pounds when using their service rather than a high street rival.

When we sold our last property, we had quotes from both online estate agents and from high street estate agents. The high street agents all quoted around 1.5-2% (around £4500-£5500), whereas the online estate agents were priced at less than half of that.

The only real difference other than the price was that we had to do our own viewings with the online agent. However, for us, that wasn’t a problem. In fact, we preferred it as we knew we could ‘sell’ our home better since we had experience of living there!

Selling A Property? FREE Step-By-Step Platform

  • Bite-sized steps for buying and/or selling a property in the UK
  • Easy-to-follow explanations every step of the way
  • Clear actions to follow to progress your property transaction
  • Trackable progress so you know what to do next
  • Detailed informative articles related to every step you follow
Property Road Platform

Benefits of using an online agent

Our 'Sold' Sign
We successfully sold our home via an online estate agent.

Other than the potential to save a lot of money, there are other benefits to using an online estate agent beyond money…

24/7 Listing Access

Since the Internet never sleeps, home sellers can manage their own selling process when they want to. Many online ones offer a dashboard which acts as their personal agent and means they are a ‘virtual estate agent’.

We had this when we used Yopa and were able to accept viewing requests and even exchange messages with potential buyers at any time that was convenient to us. We found this much more preferable to having to wait until we could call our estate agent to pass a message on.

Enjoying this article? - Selling

Enjoying This Article?

Get more advice about selling property in your inbox

Get articles like this as downloadable PDFs when you join our email newsletter with regular updates and tips.

You can unsubscribe at any time. See our Privacy Policy.

On call

Online agents may also offer a contact centre, so there’s always someone to speak to even if your local property agent isn’t available.

When we sold via Yopa, our local property agent was very responsive even on evenings and weekends. This is very different to our experience with high street agents who tend to turn their phone off as soon as 5pm arrives.

Ability to use more than one agent at the same time

Another area where online estate agents vs high street agents clash is their terms and conditions around sellers using more than one agent simultaneously. With most online agents, the vendor is free to use several agents at the same time.

While there may be fees attached, most online agents don’t have a contract period, so it’s possible to use other agencies if you want to.

Disadvantages of using an online estate agent

Having discussed the pros of using online agencies, it’s also worth appreciating that there are some downsides. They include:

Paying upfront

To get the best possible price from an online estate agent, you might have to agree to pay the fee upfront, meaning that you’ll be paying even if you don’t manage to sell your property.

While many do now offer ‘no sale, no fee’ options, that will usually cost you more (though it’s still usually much less than high street estate agents) and some do not offer it at all.

When we sold with an online agent, we were able to take a ‘pay on completion’ option, so it wasn’t an issue for us. And the price was still lower than if we had used a high street agency.

Extras add up

The online estate agent may have a flat fee, but there can be extras to add on that push the price up. For instance, most online estate agents do not include hosted viewings in their cheapest fee. You may also have to pay extra for floor plans or For Sale boards depending on which one you choose.

However, we have found that most of the more reputable online agents offer most of the key services you’ll need, even in their cheapest package.

Hosted Viewings

If you’ve sold with a high street agent previously, you’ll be used to the idea that the estate agent will show people around your home. However, with online agents, it’s usually assumed that you as the homeowner will do this.

The larger online estate agents will offer hosted viewings as a service, but it will usually cost you extra to add it on, sometimes as much as £500 or more.

When we sold with an online agent, we wanted to do all our viewings ourselves as we knew we were good at it.

When we sold our first home through a high street estate agent, we did some viewings ourselves and the estate agent did some for us. We got offers from everyone we showed around, yet none of the estate agent hosted viewings resulted in an offer.

We put this down to the fact that, as we lived in the property, we knew what the best bits were and could explain to people what it was actually like to live there. This made all the difference, and we’d encourage you to try hosting your own viewings when possible. We even found we enjoyed doing them!

Advantages of using high street estate agents

Tradicional agents are still in high demand.

Now that we’ve examined the pros and cons of using online estate agents, we should have a closer look at the offering from traditional agents.

There’s no doubt that using a traditional estate agent will bring peace of mind because you will be dealing with a professional who has lots of experience in selling property.

They should also build up a rapport and learn all they can about your home to sell the benefits of it to a potential buyer. The pros include:

Service

The high street agent will have employees to negotiate and accept an offer and then deal with solicitors and the chain you may become involved with. This means you will get support from start to finish of the process.

However, we found that larger estate agents, such as Yopa or Purplebricks, also have teams to deal with the whole process. When we sold our last home with Yopa, the progression team took over once we accepted an offer.

One service that only high street agents can offer is the ability to physically visit the agent in their office. This allows sellers and buyers to speak to an agent in person, providing the personal element that some want.

It can be easier to build up trust and a relationship with an agent, who will be showing potential buyers around your home, if you meet them in person. This is probably the main factor when people decide to go with a high street agent over an online agency.

Even though online agents don’t have physical offices, some, like Yopa, have a network of local agents. We had personal contact with our local Yopa agent when we sold our last home with them. He came to value our home, took the pictures and was willing to visit us whenever we wanted to discuss something in person.

There was no extra cost for this level of service, and it gave us the chance to have these personal interactions, just like with a high street agent. Because of this we would class online agents like Yopa as hybrid agents, as they offer the best of both worlds.

Local Knowledge

Near me map

One of the benefits of using a high street agent is they have lots of local knowledge, something that an analysis by the consumer watchdog Which? found. They say that online firms have experts who may live miles away, while high street firms are close to homes they sell.

Also, in addition to knowing the area’s pricing levels, they will also understand the local market trends that an online agent may not know.

Again, while a lack of local knowledge may be an issue with smaller online estate agents, most larger firms like Yopa and Purplebricks have a nationwide team of local property agents. That means they operate in a very similar way to high street agents and have comparable knowledge levels.

In fact, when we had valuations from online and high street agents, it was the online agents that demonstrated the most knowledge to us, not the high street ones!

You get what you pay for

There is an assumption that a higher price means that you get a better service and better results. This belief applies to many things, including hiring an estate agent.

Most people probably think that because a high street agent charges a higher fee they are better and will sell their home for a higher price than their online counterparts.

However, there is no strong evidence that high street agents are able to achieve higher sale prices than online ones.

Downsides of using traditional high street agents

Like with anything, there are pros and cons. And if we pit online estate agents vs high street agents we have to look at both sides of the coin. Here are the disadvantages of using a high street agent.

Cost

costs going up

As we have said before, cost is one of the biggest differences between traditional high street agents and online estate agents. Because high street agents usually charge a percentage of the sales price, the costs can be quite high.

If you are selling a property with a low value, the price difference for an online or high street agent might not be that big. However, if you are selling a more expensive home, you might have to fork out quite a high fee with a traditional agent.

Given that a higher value property also tends to incur higher costs in other areas, such as legal fees and removal costs, many people will be keen to lower their agent fees. And that’s where online and hybrid agents come in, as they tend to charge a fixed fee regardless of the value of the house you sell.

Access only within office hours

One downside of using a high street agent is that they only work office hours. This means that you as well as interested buyers might have to wait until the next day to get in touch with the agent.

We live in a world where we are used to being able to communicate with others whenever it suits us. So it can feel frustrating having to wait to book a viewing of a house we see online or to get feedback for a viewing that happened this evening.

There is also the risk that if a buyer can’t book a viewing immediately online, they might lose interest. Imagine the situation: a lovely couple sees your home online. They really like the look of it and want to book a viewing.

But it’s 7pm and your estate agent is closed. With an annoyed sigh they resign themselves to calling in the morning. They continue to look at other properties and see a house that is comparable to yours. This one is advertised with an online agent and the couple book a viewing for the next day online.

The viewing gets confirmed by the owners straight away. They might even forget to call your agent in the morning. Or if they do, they arrange a viewing for after they have seen the other property. When they come to see your house, they have seen the other one already, and they aren’t so keen on yours any more.

While this is a fictional scenario, it could happen. People get easily distracted, so you want them to be able to commit, by booking a viewing, as soon as they have seen your home online. And that’s where online estate agents have the edge.

Viewings

House Viewing

While high street agents will manage viewings for a client, this will be restricted to their own schedules. For out of hours viewings, then you may have to conduct the viewing for yourself.

This means that if you have a lot of people wanting to view your home in the evening or on Sundays, you will have to conduct the majority of viewings yourself. And let’s face it, this is the time when most people have time to view properties, as most of us work all day.

When we sold our first home, we used a high street agent. Because many requests were for out of hours viewings, we ended up conducting half of all the viewings ourselves.

While this didn’t bother us, as we believe we can sell our home better than anyone else, it did beg the question of why paying a premium for a high street agent to conduct viewings for us if we end up doing half of them anyway.

So if you are leaning towards using a high street estate agent because they conduct viewings for you, you should consider this. And remember, most online agents will conduct viewings, at a cost. And it might still work out cheaper, depending on the value of the home you sell.

Choosing between online agents and traditional agents

There’s no doubt there are good and bad estate agents working today. And while the best will find a buyer at the highest price for your home, the worst agent will price your home higher to attract you as a client and then be unable to find a buyer.

And as everywhere, there are good and bad estate agents with both high street and online estate agents. So how do you solve the conundrum of online estate agents vs high street agents?

Nowadays, the main difference is price. While there might be some differences in the level of service you get with each, the big online agents now offer pretty much the same as their high street counterparts, but for less money.

Our list of pros and cons of both types of estate agents should help you decide which is the best, but if you can’t decide, there might be a compromise.

The issue of deciding between the two types of agent has become clouded with the rising popularity of online agencies and the appearance of hybrid estate agencies.

These tend to be estate agents that offer a full traditional service alongside a cheaper, fee-based package to attract those vendors who may be tempted to use an online agency.

Making a decision is hard so make sure you gather all the information you need.

So if you can’t decide which type of estate agent is right for you, then a hybrid one might be a good choice. You get the best of both worlds. The only thing they can’t offer is an office to visit, but this is a small downside if you could save thousands of pounds.

Whichever agency you choose, these tips for selecting either a traditional high street or an online estate agency will prove useful:

  • Reviews. Always check reviews from previous clients and there are several sites available for this purpose.
  • Read the small print. Read everything your agent gives you, particularly the small print. Also, opt for a free no obligation valuation from an agent and then use this to compare with your own research.
  • Know what you pay for. You should thoroughly check the website of a potential agent and also visit other sites, such as Which? to ensure that you get what you are paying for.
  • Quality. Regardless of the online agent’s fee, or the commission from an agent, it’s the quality of their service that the vendor should use to make the final decision. Check whether there are any hidden charges or questionable tactics and whether you will be tied into other add-ons including using their own conveyancing service, which may be much more expensive than others are offering.
  • Don’t be afraid. Always challenge an estate agent to back up their valuation and ask for examples of any previous property they have sold like your home and the price that was obtained.

This last point is very important when it comes to anyone considering using online estate agents vs high street agents and – as highlighted in this article – you’ll need to build up a rapport with someone selling your home to get the price you want to achieve.

Don’t be blinded by an agent’s promises of obtaining a higher price and a quick sale since you need to trust the agent to handle your property sale in a professional way.

There should also be someone you can contact to discuss issues and problems and be reassured that you are not wasting time and money with an offering that fails to deliver.

When we sold our first home using a high street estate agent we felt like we got a really good service, and we achieved a fast sale, however, we were always unsure whether we could have got more for the property.

However, we had no such regrets when we used an online estate agent. The fee was much cheaper than the high street estate agents we had value our property and the online agent valued our property the same as the high street ones.

We enjoyed the flexibility to arrange viewings directly with potential buyers and the fact we could easily communicate with our local property agent on evenings and weekends.

We felt the support after we agreed our sale could have been better, though in fairness we were only just coming out of the pandemic and so the service levels weren’t at their usual level. Overall, we wouldn’t hesitate to use an online estate agent again if (and when!) we decide to move again.

For more help and advice about deciding between using an online estate agent or a traditional high street offering, the Property Road website has lots of information and resources to help you.

Authors

  • Steve Lumley

    Steve Lumley has years of experience writing about property. His output has covered everything from property investment, news for landlords and student tenants to articles on how to run a successful portfolio and starting out as a property investor. He has also written several books on the subject.

    View all posts
  • Paul James

    Paul James, is a marketing expert with a passion for property. As well as being a property investor, Paul has also worked within the marketing departments of some of the UK’s leading estate agents. Paul is the founder of Property Road.

    View all posts
Checklist - 101 Ways To Sell Your House Faster

101 Ways To Sell Your House Faster eBook

FEATURED DOWNLOAD:

FREE Checklist: 101 Ways To Sell Your Home Faster

When you subscribe to our email newsletter. Plus, receive a 7-day crash course on how to get higher offers on ANY type of property.

You can unsubscribe at any time.
See our Privacy Policy.