This Video Demonstrates Everything That’s Wrong With High Street Estate Agents

High Street Vs Online Estate Agents
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This video isn’t new, but what it contains demonstrates perfectly why people are turning away from traditional estate agents and opting to use their online equivalents instead.

Watch the video for yourself first, then we’ll pull it apart and explain exactly how this shows everything that’s wrong with high street estate agents.

High Street Vs Online Estate Agents – BBC’s The One Show:

So, here we have a traditional high street estate agent exchanging frank and honest views with the founder of one of the UK’s cheapest online estate agents on the BBC’s The One Show.

If we’re honest, this opening section is a pretty tame exchange. Both are guilty of pushing the same lines that are peddled by estate agents all over the country.

High street agents say that their local knowledge is what gives them the edge, online agents say that they offer the same service for a cheaper price.

If we had to pick a winner from these early exchanges it would probably be the high street agent. That’s mostly because the online agent is repetitive in her point and fails to mention some of the other benefits online estate agents can offer; such as longer opening hours and online viewing management.

But, Things Are About To Hot Up

The next part of the clip is where things get REALLY interesting and shows exactly how traditional estate agents have stopped trying to ‘sell’ properties.

Around 2 minutes into the clip, you meet an everyday homeowner, Deb, who wants to sell her property. She’s chosen to use an online estate agent and that means she has to conduct viewings herself.

Over the next few minutes, we see footage from the viewings she conducts as well as viewings conducted by the high street agent. The difference is startling.

Let’s start with the homeowner, Deb. 

Comments Made By The Homeowner During The Viewings

Homeowner Conducted Viewing

[02:24] Although appearing nervous, Deb is starting to ‘sell’ her property without even realising it. She’s made a point of mentioning how she uses the outdoor space, setting a scene that most people can relate to. She’s pointed out a clear benefit to the potential buyers while remaining completely genuine.

When asked if all the window shutters work:

Window Shutters Keeping Heat In

[02:34] Boom! This is perfect. Deb doesn’t just answer the question, she immediately follows up with a major benefit. The potential buyer didn’t ask about heat loss, but, who doesn’t want to keep their house warmer in winter? Especially with ever-increasing energy costs!

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It’s this kind of knowledge about their home that gives homeowners a clear advantage over estate agents when it comes to ‘selling’ a property during a viewing. The estate agent may not have known how good the shutters were at preventing heat loss. Even if they did, saying it would sound less genuine, as the person viewing the property knows the agent has never lived in the flat.

When asked whether there is any noise from the street:

Being Honest About Noisy House

[03:38] This was a difficult question and not one that’s easy to answer. It’s perhaps one of Debs shakier answers but, importantly, it comes across as very honest. That alone adds credibility to all of the good things that she has told them. If she tells the truth about this negative, she’s probably telling the truth about all the positives, too.

There were also a couple of questions that Deb wasn’t able to answer, such as whether there were floorboards under the carpet. While it’s always good to find out information that potential buyers are likely to want to know, you can’t ever prepare for every single question you will be asked.

Besides, the chances are, if the owner of the property doesn’t know the answer to such a question, an estate agent definitely won’t!

Comments Made By The Estate Agent During The Viewings

Estate Agent Conducted Viewings

[02:48] We haven’t edited any of the above, that’s exactly what the estate agent said. See the difference compared to the way the homeowner describes the property? She described things in a very visual way with emotion and lots of benefits. The estate agent is simply listing lots of features that mean very little. There are no benefits. There is little value in what he says as it’s all things people can see for themselves.

Unfortunately, this is how most estate agents conduct viewings. They don’t know as much about the property as the owner and so tend to slip into listing facts, rather than describing the actual benefits of a property.

Selling Property With Interesting Facts

[03:00] Now, this is interesting and would make a good little dinner party story for the next owners of the property. For that reason, we don’t think it’s a bad thing to mention. However, on its own, it’s not enough to make anyone want to buy the property.

When asked whether there is any noise from the street:

Property On Noisy Street

[03:27] On the surface it appears like a good answer, but, is it a convincing one? For starters, the way you walk home from the pub surely depends on where you are going. If the street happens to have several student flats, for example, the existence of Upper Bristol Road may make no difference. This answer reaks of an estate agent thinking on his feet and telling the potential buyer what he thinks they want to hear. Many buyers will see through that.

The Verdict – According To The Potential Buyers

At the end of the clip, each of potential buyers was asked based on the viewings they had just had, if high street agents with viewings conducted by an estate agent were better, or if online estate agents with viewings conducted by the homeowner were better.

Of the five viewers, only ONE opted for the high street agent:

People Prefer Online Estate Agents

Here’s what they had to say…

Potential Buyers 1 & 2 – Both Voted For Online Estate Agents:

Why Conduct Your Own Viewings

[04:22] This is something that no estate agent can reliably replicate. Selling anything you’ve never owned or experienced is difficult and properties are no different. That’s why the homeowners often have the advantage when it comes to conducting viewings.

Potential Buyer 3 – Voted For High Street Estate Agents:

Why Use An Estate Agent

[04:29] This is a fair point. Undoubtedly some people will not feel confident asking probing questions of the owners of a property. And this shows that there IS still a place for estate agents in conducting viewings, but you have to feel they’ll need to up their game somewhat.

The video then finishes on the point that, given the potential savings online estate agents offer, it’s likely that going forward, a lot more homeowners will be selling properties through an online estate agent (where you tend to conduct your own viewings), rather than a traditional high street agent.

Our Experience

When we sold our first home, we used a high street estate agent. They did some of the viewings, but we also did some during out of office hours. Our experience corresponds with the findings of the video, that homeowners are better at selling their house than estate agents.

From the viewings of our first home that were conducted by the estate agent, not one produced any further interest, let alone an offer.

Most of the viewings we did ourselves resulted in an offer, with more than one resulting in an asking price offer.

We sold our house for the asking price within a weekend. For us, this was a watershed moment, because it proved that we could sell our house better than an estate agent. As a result, any subsequent house we sold, we did all the viewings ourselves.

How We Conduct Our Viewings

For many homeowners, the idea of doing their own viewings sounds scary, because they think they don’t know how to sell it. But as Deb has shown, you don’t need to be an expert sales person to sell your own home.

But we understand that not everyone will feel confident or know what to do. So we will share our tips about how to sell your own home.

Sell A Home Not A House

When estate agents conduct a viewing, they will talk about the features of a house, as we have seen. What they do is sell a house, a souless shell with four walls and a roof and some features like an original fireplace.

And while a buyer wants to buy a house, what they are really after is a home. So how do you sell a home? Simple, by giving buyers an idea of what it feels like to live in your house.

The best and easiest way to do that is by telling them how you use your home.

Like Deb did, when she told the potential buyers about the BBQ they had. For me, it’s about telling stories. Not making them up of course, but stories from your life in the house. You can be talking about family dinners around the kitchen tables, maybe even Christmas dinners. Or about how your children love running around in the garden.

All this will give the buyer the chance to imagine living there. Of course, the stories you tell will be unique to your house, but here are some examples we have used over the years.

In one of the homes we sold we had a beautiful roll-top bath. Everyone who saw it, commented on it. So when we showed viewers the bathroom, I would tell them how relaxing it is, after a busy day, to have a good soak in this bath. With some relaxing music and a class of wine or a cup of tea, all the stress just floats away.

The roll top bath in our bathroom
The bathtub in one of our houses.

We had a living room that had a huge window onto our garden. It was the first room we brought in anyone viewing the house, because of this stunning view.

We would tell them how we love sitting on the sofa on a weekend morning, cup in hand, looking out and watching the wildlife go about their business. I would make sure to impress on them how peaceful it is and how it is the perfect start to a Saturday or Sunday.

Stunning view from our living room
This view impressed anyone who saw it.

We found it helps to create these stories to pay attention during your day how you use your home.

Where do you have your morning cup of tea and why? What do you do in your garden? Where do you entertain friends and family? Where do you relax? And then think about how it feels.

Maybe sitting in your garden feels like you are in the countryside, because you are surrounded by trees, despite living in an urban area. This is one we used with the garden in the picture above. You need a bit of creativity at first, but soon you will find it easy to find the right stories to tell.

Divide And Conquer

This is a strategy that we have adopted over the years, because we realised that when two people look for a home together, it’s likely that they will have different priorities. Of course, this only works if there are two of you.

To make it appear as naturally as possible, we will each start individual conversations with the two potential buyers. One of us will keep their counterpart in the room, while the other continues the tour with their counterpart.

While it doesn’t always work, most of the time it does.

Once the couple are divided, you can start to focus on stories that will appeal to the individual.

Let’s take the kitchen as an example. The person who does most of the cooking will be more likely interested in the practicalities.

While the other might be more focused on how nice a space it is to eat a meal with a view on the garden. Of course, it’s not always easy to know who will do the cooking. Especially as nowadays, it’s not always the woman.

That’s why I might say something like, “I love cooking in this kitchen. Do you do the cooking in your household?” This will then give you the knowledge you need to decide which story to tell.

We found that it works quite well and most people respond well to it. Once they come together again, they will often point out things that we have said to them individually. This is great, because it will give them something positive to talk about later.

Get To Know Your Potential Buyers

It is always easier to know what stories to tell a viewer if you know a bit about them. So what we do is get them to the first room we want to show them and then ask them about themselves.

We will start with a question like: Why are you moving? This question will give you a lot of information, like if they are upsizing or downsizing or if location is the key.

From there, a natural conversation normally develops. Once a conversation is going, you can try and stir it in a certain direction to find out what they are looking for. If you, for example, find out they are currently living in a flat with outside space, you can emphasise the garden.

Or if they come from a smaller house with a small kitchen, you have another point you can work with. We have used this little trick to find out more about the people viewing our homes several times, and it works really great.

Learn From Past Viewings

Once you have started to have viewings of your home, you will get feedback. Either during the viewing or afterwards from the estate agent, who should be following up on every viewing. Use this feedback to improve your sales pitch.

If you get the same negative comment about something, see if you can either change it or if there is something you could say to pre-empt it.

In one of our houses, we had a kitchen/diner. However, the dining area was a bit small, even though it fitted a dining table for four people.

As we often got the comment that it was a bit small, we looked at it. We decided to change the orientation of the table to make the space look bigger.

Table taking up space in the dining room
That’s the way we had the table originally. By turning it by 180 degrees, the space looked bigger.

Some things you might be able to change, but others you will have to try to put a positive spin on. In one of our previous homes we had a garden on different levels. They were connected by steps, and we often got the feedback that this wasn’t ideal for children or older people.

So we started to explain that you could easily put handrailings up. You have to remember that the perfect house doesn’t exist. But if you can provide solutions for things that are coming up a lot, you show potential buyers how they could make it work.

High Street Estate Agents Need To Improve

That’s not to say that all high street agents are bad. Far from it. But finding good estate agents that know how to sell the true benefits of your property is getting harder and harder.

With most people starting their property search by browsing online portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla, coupled with the fact most homeowners can probably sell their property better than their estate agent, there are becoming fewer and fewer reasons for homeowners to sell properties via the traditional means.

And that’s exactly why online estate agents are rising in popularity.

Add in the significant cost savings to be made, and it’s hard to see traditional high street estate agents sticking around unless they make significant changes to the way they do business.

If, after reading this, you’re considering conducting viewings yourself on your own property, check out our guide on how to do your own house viewings.


  • 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.

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