Online vs Traditional Agents

by Michael Brown

THERE have been many articles written over recent months about how much money can be saved by using an online estate agent when selling a property.

Online agents have existed for several years and have recently become more talked about, thanks to expensive TV advertising and marketing campaigns.

However they are making little impact upon the housing market, especially in Lincolnshire, where over 95% of sellers still choose to put their faith in local, established traditional estate agents.

The most obvious difference is that online agents are cheaper. Are they cheaper for a reason? In my opinion, yes they are. And as with most things in life, cheap isn’t always best.

However they’re certainly not as cheap as their marketing campaigns would suggest. Many of the online agents claim that they save the average customer over £5,000! I find this hard to believe (and quite laughable), particularly across Lincolnshire where the average fee is £2,679!

Having said that, many online agents will charge as little as £800 to sell your property so you may well be tempted to give it a go!

Does the high street agent warrant a much higher fee? Absolutely. But can the online agents offer the same kind of service of a traditional agent? Absolutely not.

Firstly, when choosing to put your property on the market you need an experienced, local agent who knows the local market and has experience of selling properties like yours and in your local area.

Seeking good advice from the right people is essential as you need to get your price right – choose a marketing price that is too low and you may undersell, go too high and you run the risk of your property ‘going stale’.

Some online agents simply let the sellers choose their own asking price which, in my opinion, offers no commitment to the client whatsoever.

Some online agents do have ‘local’ valuers, however the likelihood of them having sold something similar in the vicinity is much lower than that of the traditional agent based purely on the low volume of transactions that they carry out.

These local valuers can often cover such a large area that their in-depth knowledge of your particular town or village is very limited, or sometimes non-existent.

Online agents will of course advertise your property on the world wide web – great. However, your traditional agent will get to work before your property appears on the Internet.

Traditional agents will have lists of well qualified buyers who will be called about your property once you instruct.

Very often those traditional agents will call a buyer about your property as an alternative to what they originally requested because there is something about the property that may appeal.

For example a client may specifically ask for a property in a village five miles away from where you live that has 4 bedrooms, a large garden and a double garage.

If Starkey&Brown were to sell your property which has 5 bedrooms and a triple garage, this same client would be called to see if they would like to view – even though it isn’t in the village that they requested.

Would this be a service offered by online agents? Sadly, I think not. I fear that the online agent would simply add this property to the Internet, put their feet up, hope that the above client happens to search for properties in your village, and hope that they call.

In addition, those clients who are viewing properties should be offered other properties that are also for sale.

Should you call an online agent to arrange a viewing, no doubt this will be booked on your behalf in a very professional manner (unless it is with one of the online agents who insist on you booking your own viewings).

Your traditional agents will offer the buyers a selection of properties that suit their requirements, rather than just the one viewing. This dramatically increases the chances of selling each individual property – something that is very underestimated when it comes to selling, and something that very few online agents will do.

Traditional agents offer accompanied viewings as part of their service, online agents very rarely do – the only ones
I have come across actually charge for the pleasure!!

Some clients prefer to do their own viewings, which is fair enough, however we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it has been statistically proven that by asking the agent to carry out the viewings you are more likely to receive an offer.

If you are carrying out viewings on your own property, buyers will very often put on their ‘poker face’ or go to the other extreme of paying you over-egged compliments about your property.

If the agents are meeting with the buyer they are generally more likely to tell you what they are really thinking. This gives the agent the opportunity to overcome any objections and offer reassurances, rather than letting the buyer walk out of the door.

Your traditional agents will call those viewers for feedback, and try to encourage offers. Most online agents don’t do this – in fact some of them leave it for you to do yourself, which I find astonishing!

For the few online agents that do offer a viewings chasing service, it is often the case that the people making that all important phone call are in a call centre miles away, and have no idea about you, your situation or your property.

A similar pattern occurs when it comes to negotiating an offer.

Many online agents will leave it to you whilst some will take an offer but without any understanding of your property, its good points (or bad) and whether or not the offer that has been received is worth consideration.

Your traditional agent will fully qualify the offer, assess what kind of position the buyer is in and clarify the financial situation before calling you to discuss its merits.

Traditional agents will also liaise with other agents to help secure you your perfect home. More importantly, they will use their skills and experience to negotiate the best price possible.

Sadly, in many cases, your online agent will rarely do any of this and will simply throw a number at you and wait for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

When an offer arrives, naturally the amount that has been offered is very important, however the quality of that offer in terms of the buyers’ position should not be underestimated and this is a time when having a local traditional agent really does pay dividends.

Once you have accepted an offer, this is where the fun begins. Both online agents and traditional agents offer a sales progression service, where your property is taken care of so that it hopefully completes without too much hassle.

However, don’t be fooled – there is a massive difference between the sales progression services offered between online and traditional agents.

Your traditional agent will no doubt recommend a local solicitor who knows the area. They also know the surveyors and solicitors involved, the mortgage advisors and most importantly you, the seller.

Here at Starkey&Brown we have dedicated staff to chase your buyers, solicitors, surveyors, mortgage advisors, other estate agents and keep everybody up to date throughout the process.

Unfortunately, there are few online agents who offer such a service and if they do, the team could be based in a swish office in some far away county.

This is a critical part of the home moving experience, and something which sellers don’t give much consideration to until they have a sale which is going horribly wrong.

Last year, throughout the UK, it was reported that 37% of sales that were agreed ‘fell through’. That’s right – 37%, more than one in three which is an astonishing and frightening statistic.

At Starkey&Brown only 17% fell through. Although this is still a substantial amount it is less than half of the national average and, in my opinion, highlights the essential need for good, local sales progression experts.

It might be worth noting that not all traditional agents offer such a dedicated service. If you are thinking of putting your property on the market please ask your agent if they have a dedicated sales progression service.

And finally, let’s talk about fees again.

The online agents are, as stated earlier, much cheaper than your traditional estate agents. However, hopefully I have given you an insight into why there is a difference in price.

There is also a difference in how you pay your fees. Most traditional estate agents will charge you a certain percentage, ONLY if they sell your property and successfully see it through to completion.

Alternatively, most online agents, particularly the cheapest ones, will request their fees up front. This begs probably the most important question of all – where is the incentive to sell the property?

Traditional estate agents will remain highly motivated to find you a buyer until the bitter end – otherwise they will get no commission!

Meanwhile, Mr Online can sit back and enjoy your £950, safe in the knowledge that he has your money and needs to do nothing from here on in – where is the logic in that?

Estate agency has always been a results driven business, and it is clear that traditional agents are better equipped to achieve results for their clients, which is probably why 95% of customers choose traditional over online.

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