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A guide to online estate agents

Published: 6th September 2018

A guide to online estate agents

Selling a home is very different from selling off your old stuff on eBay. In property sales, making sure you get the best price for the lowest transaction cost can make thousands of pounds of difference, in fact at the higher end of the market, possibly even tens of thousands of pounds of difference. That means that there’s rather more at stake than there would be clearing out your old clothes, even if they’re designer ones.

Picking the right estate agent is therefore possibly the single, most important decision you will need to make when selling your home and your first step in taking that decision is to decide whether you want to go with a traditional high-street estate agent or an online estate agent. With this in mind, here is a quick guide to the key stages of the house-selling process and how real-world versus online agents compare.

The valuation

Generally speaking, both real-world and online estate agents will provide a free valuation.You might think that a local, high-street estate agent should be able to provide a more accurate valuation, but actually this is unlikely to be the case these days. The simple fact of the matter is that valuations are generally based on comparable statistics which are widely available. This means that unless your home is really unusual, its valuation is likely to be based on sales of similar properties in your area. There might be some degree of adjustment for specific aspects of your home, but these will probably be minimal.

As a side note, for completeness, we should mention that it’s far from unheard of for real-world estate agents to value on the higher side to win a sole contract.

We would like to emphasise that not all of them do this and there may be perfectly legitimate reasons why one agent would see a property as being of a higher value than another agent would, although we’d expect most valuations to be in the same sort of ballpark. The best advice we can offer here is to ask any potential estate agent, real-world, or online, to explain how they reached their valuation and to back up their figure with hard data.

Marketing

There are basically two parts to marketing a home. The first part is to create a sales prospectus which is both accurate and enticing and the second part is getting that sales prospectus in front of potential buyers.

The “accurate” part of the sales prospectus is generally the easiest to put together since it consists of purely factual information such as a floor plan and the size of the rooms. Usually real-world estate agents will organise all this for sellers. Some online estate agents may organise this as standard, others will offer to do so at an extra cost. Similarly, real-world estate agents will typically organise “for sale” boards while online agents may or may not do so.

The “enticing” part of the sales prospectus is the part in which local knowledge can actually make a real difference. Estate agents who know the area as a whole can sell the general location at least as much as the actual home. This has long been their competitive advantage over centrally-based online estate agents. The more astute online estate agents, have, however, come to understand this with the result that some of them now supplement their central office staff with local experts, giving sellers the best of both worlds. These agents may charge a bit more than online estate agents which are purely centralised, but they tend to be much more affordable than real-world estate agents.

When it comes to getting a property in front of potential buyers, the harsh fact of the matter is that getting your property featured in the local estate agent’s window just isn’t the advantage that it used to be. Even high-street estate agents list properties on the main online portals, where they sit alongside the listings from the online estate agents.

In other words, it’s basically a case of “six of one and half a dozen” of the other. Real-world estate agents will generally conduct viewings for you as standard, online estate agents may or may not offer to do this as standard but will usually be able to do so for an extra fee should you wish it.

Customer service

It used to be, at least broadly, fair to say that real-world estate agents were way ahead here. We’d still say they had the edge over some online estate agents. There are now, however, online estate agents who offer exactly the same level of customer service as real-world ones and who are just as skilled at what might be termed “the post-offer process”, essentially the art and science of guiding an agreed sale to exchange and completion. You should be able to identify these fairly quickly through a combination of online research and your experience of interacting with them when you request a valuation.

Costs

Real-world estate agents tend to work on commission, online estate agents may work on a flat-fee basis or commission model or even a combination of both. Some online estate agents require up-front payment, in fact this used to be another major point of differentiation between real-world estate agents, but there are now online estate agents which take payment on completion. Overall, the cost of selling a property via an online estate agent tends to be significantly lower than using a real-world estate agent and in itself can make a real difference to the amount of money you bank upon completion.

If you found this article useful and you are considering selling your Manchester property then please contact our local area experts at Indlu who are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, why not use our free online valuation tool to see how much your property is worth!

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