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Online or Traditional Estate Agent, which is better?

There is no doubt that online agents such as Purplebricks and emoov have disrupted the estate agency industry. There are new online agents popping up all the time offering cheaper and cheaper fees. Their cheap offers are certainly attractive and when money is a big consideration to home movers you can see why they would choose an online agent.

Choosing an estate agent should be a thought out, researched and well-planned process. Your home is most likely to be the biggest asset you have, so it makes sense to ensure that this precious asset is in the hands of a professional. Whether this is a traditional high street agent or an online agent, that is of course, up to you. The most important thing is you research exactly what you are getting for your money and weigh up the pros and cons.

To help you with your decision, we have pulled together a list of areas to consider.


This is the main motivating factor for a home owner to choose an online agent. Fees vary among online agents, below are some examples:

Purple Bricks: £849

Tepilo £645

House Simple £595

Yopa: £839

Traditional agents in Lincoln charge around 1 – 1.5%. Depending on how much your house is worth, you can see that there is quite a considerable saving to be made. However, be aware that the reason why these online agents are so cheap is because they push much of the sales responsibilities onto the home owner. They are very much 'DIY' agents.

Hidden extras

Whilst there is no doubt that online agent fees are very attractive, there is a limit in what is included. Many online agents charge extra for items or services that a traditional agent would incorporate in their price. This includes charging extra for conducting viewings, floor plans, photography and for sale boards. On the surface, the fees may appear very reasonable, but if you dig deeper you will see that your initial fee can often increase quite a substantially.

Upfront fee

Online agents charge an upfront fee - this means that you pay them even before they sell your house. What if they do not manage to sell your home though? You will have still paid that money out to them.

Traditional agents tend to charge a commission fee of around 1-1.5% on completion, meaning that you don’t have to pay them until your house is sold, the paperwork signed and the deal done and dusted. It costs a traditional agent around £500 to bring a house to market. The agent will spend money upfront on a photographer, a floor plan, copy writer, staff time, for sale board and brochure printing. It is in the traditional type estate agents interest to get a sale on the house as if not, they have made a loss even from just taking the property on. Ask yourself how motivated would an agent be if they had your money up front? They have their money regardless of how much effort they put into the sale.

Terms of service

Many online agents have a limit on the time they will market your home. Tepilo, for example, promote your home online for six months. After that, you must cough up more money to continue advertising your home with them. So, what if your home doesn’t fly off the shelf like you might expect? Then yes – you end up paying twice as much as you first thought you would. On the flip side, most high street agents do not have a limit. However long your house takes to sell, you only pay when it does sell. No sale, no fee and you can keep on marketing it for as long as you wish to.

Level of service

Online agents are often referred to as call centre agents, this is because your listing is managed by a central resource. This takes away the human, relationship element of selling a home. It is paramount for an estate agent to build good, solid relationships with home sellers and buyers, this can go a long way when going through the ups and downs that come with selling a home. You lose the human and personal touch if sellers and buyers have to manage their sale/purchase through an external central call centre.

Sales progression

Which? reports that 30% of house sales fall through after an offer has been accepted. This is the point in the sale where a good estate agent really comes into their own. They have to spin many plates to keep the process going and communicating throughout the sales chain with solicitors and mortgage lenders is key. One slip and it can all come crashing down at the last hurdle.

Sales progression is not included in online agent’s fees, it is up to the seller to keep this going. It can be very time consuming and not an easy task if issues are thrown up at this stage and it can also be quite daunting to someone who is not familiar with the sales process.

Quality of marketing

Online agents require either the home seller to take their photographs and write their own description or they will send out a ‘local agent’ who will take the shots for them. This person is not usually a photographer and I imagine most homeowners are not either. Most traditional agents will commission a professional photographer and copywriter to develop the marketing for your home. The difference in quality in this respect is worlds apart.

Property marketing is absolutely central in getting viewers through your door. The imagery, the words and the visual brochure all draw viewers in. They entice them to click into your online listing and find out more about your home. If your marketing is like a Blue Peter project gone wrong, then it is not going to show your home at its best. The higher quality marketing, the more appealing your home will look and the more likely you are to sell your home.

Taking all these points into consideration, like most things in life – you get what you pay for. Online agents are an option for those with the available time, who want to save money. If a seller wants help and support to sell their home, they are better relying on the knowledge and expertise that a local traditional agent can offer. A traditional agent will take much of the hassle of selling away. It all depends on your priorities.

Need more advice on choosing an estate agent? Read our blog ‘how to choose an estate agent’ by clicking here How to choose an estate agent. .

If you are thinking about putting your home on the market, we would love to talk to you about how we can help you with your sale. Give me a ring on 01522 904 904 or drop me an email on paul@greenkeysalesandlets.co.uk. I look forward to hearing from you.

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