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Online vs High Street: Which Estate Agent is Best for Me?

Trying to sell your home can be a stressful process; often much more stressful than the actual moving day. There’s a multitude of things to consider, with perhaps the biggest question of all being “do I use a high street estate agent or try an online estate agent instead?”

It’s no secret that high street estate agents haven’t always had the best reputation throughout the UK, but although some may try and squeeze some extra pennies out of you in a number of ways, the large majority of high street estate agents are professionals who have a wealth of experience on their side.

Online estate agents are a relatively new breed, with numerous companies popping up over the past few years. Providing services often costing less than £1000, online estate agencies will list your property on various sites (RightMove, Zoopla, etc), provide buyer checks, a viewings calendar, sales progress reports, professional photography, a floor plan and Energy Performance Certificate and much more. With all that, though, are you compromising the expertise and experience that high street agencies can offer?

So, how do you know which to choose? We’ve weighed up the pros and cons to help you with that all important decision.

High Street Estate Agents

Pros

  • Knowledge of the local market – this is an area that might give high street an edge over online agencies. Knowledge of the local area could result in a more accurate property valuation, therefore increasing its competitiveness and likelihood to sell.
  • Negotiation abilities – one definite plus of using a high street estate agent is that they will always negotiate the price for you. Some online agencies will do this, but not all. If you’re someone that finds negotiating with buyers awkward or embarrassing then leaving it to the estate agent is a definite benefit, especially since they will have the expertise and knowhow to get you the best deal.
  • Managing viewings – not only can selling your home be a stressful process, but it can also be a very time consuming one. Liaising with interested parties, managing and conducting viewings will all fall under your estate agent’s remit, taking away many of the main stress points associated with selling your home.
  • Managing the sales process – in addition to managing viewings, a good estate agent will check regularly with solicitors and up and down the property chain, making sure everything is running smoothly. With these tasks taken away or at least minimised, your experience will be much less stressful.

Cons

  • In it for them, not for you – as well as providing a service, estate agents are also there to make a living. If estate agents know your bottom line then that’s leverage they have on you, and they may well use it to force a sale through. Avoid this by doing thorough research on your agency and having your property valued by at least three different agencies before making your choice.
  • Extra advertising - if your property isn’t selling, rather than changing up the strategy or going with a different approach, estate agents will often offer extra advertising for extra cost. The question is, why haven’t they already exhausted all possible avenues for the money you’ve already forked out? If you still don’t get an offer, will you get the money back?
  • Making up offers – the large majority of high street estate agencies are professional outfits who do a good job for a fair amount of money. However, there have been stories of improper practices within certain agencies, such as forging signatures and faking documents. One case shows an estate agent making up offers far below the original valuation so that the seller reduces the price. Again, remember to do thorough research before choosing your agency.
  • Accepting backhanders – one case found that agents were willing to accept backhand deals in order to sell properties at much lower prices than the valuation. Again, if you wound up with the wrong estate agency, you could find yourself on the backend of one of these dodgy deals and losing out on tens of thousands of pounds.

Online Estate Agents

Pros

  • Lower costs – one obvious benefit of using an online agency is that they are much cheaper than traditional high street agencies, with most boasting that you can save thousands of pounds or ‘the price of a new kitchen’. Furthermore, as online agencies charge a flat fee, the more expensive your home is, the more you stand to save.
  • Around the clock – the majority of online estate agencies have call centres that are open during the evening and weekends, so when you need to check something or need some advice out of working hours, getting hold of someone who can help can often be easier than with traditional estate agents.
  • Bespoke packages – just because you’re paying a fixed fee, it doesn’t mean you get a fixed service. Although prices will vary, you can tailor your package to fit your specific requirements and can often track viewings, feedback and progress online.
  • Multiple website listings – certain agencies don’t just work with certain property websites – your property will be listed on a large number of leading property sites, such as RightMove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation.

Cons

  • Lack of incentive – as most online agencies will charge a flat fee, they may have less incentive than high street agents to drive the price up to get the best possible price for you. However, in saying that, online agencies have a reputation for mostly achieving 99% of the asking price.
  • Lack of knowledge – Online agencies, even those with regional specialists, will struggle to compete with high streets agencies, whose agents will know the local property market like the back of their hand. That knowledge could be invaluable to your selling experience.
  • Time consuming – one of the things that high street agencies get paid for is for managing the entire sales process, including dealing with buyers and solicitors. Although this may be able to be negotiated if you opt for a bespoke package, most online agencies will not deal with this in their standard flat fee offering.
  • Viewings – if you opt for an online agency then you’ll have to adopt a salesman’s persona and conduct viewings yourself, meaning that you’ll have to feel comfortable showing people around your home and make yourself available on evenings and weekends.

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