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Should I use an online estate agent to sell my home?

Using an online agent to sell your home can save you hundreds or thousands of pounds. But can you trust them to handle your most important financial transaction? We take a look at the pros and cons of online estate agents to help you decide

Why should I use an online estate agent?

Without doubt the biggest advantage of online agents is the savings you can make. High street agents typically charge around 1.5% of the price achieved. Even if you do get 1.5% this means you will pay £4,500 if you sell your home for £300,000. This seems extortionate compared to fees charged by online agents. Basic packages normally start at around £400, but even for the more expensive services you will struggle to pay much more than £1,000.

Can I trust online estate agents?

There is no law stopping you or me from setting up as an estate agent tomorrow – on the high street or online. So how do you ever know they are legitimate?

Our comparison table identifies the main players in the market at the moment

All agents must be a member of one of three grievance bodies who can pursue your claims should things go wrong: the Property Ombudsman, the Ombudsman Services Property and as of 2014 the Property Redress Scheme. However, their powers are limited so don’t make the mistake of taking it as a stamp of approval.

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How will people find my property?

Like high street estate agents, online agents use Zoopla, Rightmove and other property portals to market your property. So while people won’t find your photo in a high street agents’ window as they go for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon, serious buyers will regularly check the portals. You will want to look at the different agents’ marketing packages. “For Sale” boards are also offered by online agents.

Will I need to conduct viewings?

In most cases, yes. Different online agents have different packages. Some agents will arrange and conduct viewings at an additional cost. Most will arrange the viewings for you and keep you updated by phone or on a dedicated online site just for you. While a few will just pass on the contact details of potential buyers.

If you work full time an open day where all potential buyers view the property in one day might be a good option.

How will an online agent value my home?

As online agents operate from nationwide call centres they may have more limited local knowledge, so valuing your house is often done using online data. That’s fine as a guide but you really need people with local knowledge to help you set the right price for your house. This is easily overcome by asking three local high street agents to value your home before deciding whether to opt to go on-line. See our guide on selling your home for the right price

Check out our comparison table to compare the online agents out there

Will the online agent negotiate a final deal with my buyers?

Most online agents will take offers, discuss them with you and negotiate the price for you, while others will leave it up to you. Don’t want to haggle? Then choose an online agent who will do it for you. Before deciding, take a look out our free guide on negotiating the right price

Will they really care about my sale if they don’t get commission?

Arguably, online estate agents do not have the same commission based incentive as a high street agent to get you (and them) the highest price possible, whereas high street agents will apply their experience and skills to do so. That’s assuming your high street agent knows what they are doing, of course. To counter this view, online agents usually offer a commission based package.

Will the photos be professional?

Yes. A quick look on Zoopla or Rightmove and you will be able to see the quality of photo used by the online agents you are considering. And just with high street agents you can opt for additional virtual tours and 360 degree photos.

Is an online agent right for me? 

Yes, if:

  • You have time and don’t mind conducting the viewings
  • You like to feel like you’re in charge of the process of selling your home
  • You think you are better placed to sell your home
  • You don’t want to pay thousands to an estate agent when it feels like Zoopla and Rightmove do most of the sales work

Watch this space…

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10 Comments

  1. We have just been the victims of credit card fraud through the use of an online agent. It is possible, of course, that this could happen with a local/established agent but I feel the latter would have been more astute in assessing the potential viewer as bona fide or not.
    Let this be a warning to all those who hope to sell their home on the cheap.
    We were called by our online agent to arrange a viewing. We have a lovely country property . A couple came along and perhaps alarm bells did ring when they expressed no interest in viewing the land , a major feature of our property. We allowed them to tour the house unaccompanied . They seemed enthusiastic and said they would return on another day to view the land. It was raining on the day they visited so that seemed appropriate. Within 48 hours all our credit cards /accounts were hacked and thousands of pounds of Apple iphones were purchased. This has caused no end of stress and inconvenience. And we have wasted time and probably lost the house we wanted to buy

    Comment by Mrs MJL Bending — February 27, 2016 @ 7:06 am

  2. Lets get something straight here, online estate agents are not set up and run by butchers or bakers who have no idea about property, they are set up and run by real property experts, 97% of people looking for their next home use rightmove, i recently sold my property, i asked a local chain agent to come and value my house, i asked him what he thought about online estate agents, and he turned into a raving lunatic becoming more and more desperate for me sign up there and then, well that made me feel rather angry and so i used an online agent who valued, marketed and sold my property for the price a wanted and they saved me £4000, i will never use a high street agent again and neither will any of my friends or family. The end is nigh for high street agents and they just can’t come to terms with the fact that one day soon they will be out of business, good riddance to fleecing swines.

    Comment by John — February 26, 2016 @ 10:18 pm

  3. Online estate agent Purplebricks have been around for 2 years now. They are the biggest online agent in the country in terms of stock. They are yet to make a profit.

    Emoov are the second largest online agent in terms of stock and have been around for 6 years. They are yet to make a profit.

    The ‘online estate agent’ business model is unsustainable, and any homeowners using this site would be wise to do some research and dig a little deeper about what it is these online agents actually offer.

    Sure they can work if your house is in a prime area of London or a few other select places of the UK, however 97%+ of homeowners still use full service local estate agents, despite online only property listing companies being around for almost 10 years now.

    If you are happy to pay between £400 and £800 upfront (no motivation to work hard as they already have your money), accompany all viewings (security risk) and deal with someone at a call center miles away (with no local knowledge of property prices or good relationships with local surveyors/solicitors), then by all means give one of these companies a try.

    Selling a house can be a very timely, stressful and life-disrupting event, and having a local expert at hand whenever you need them should be top of your priorities. Of course some estate agents offer poor service and are not transparent about fees, but the majority will be happy to work hard for their fee and even negotiate on it if you ask! It is up to you the homeowner to read through contracts carefully and select a good local estate agent based on reputation.

    And yes, I am an estate agent.

    Comment by Pat — January 28, 2016 @ 11:16 am

  4. Horses for courses in truth. Finding a good agent by word of mouth, also/and researching the sale figures for each agent is a good place to begin. Someone with a professional approach and a sound knowledge of his/her practice makes all of the difference.

    Comment by ‘Glen at AP lawyers’. — January 12, 2016 @ 10:49 am

  5. This has to be the most inaccurate write up i have read regarding this topic. A House for most people in the UK is their biggest purchase/ asset. There is a place for online agents in the market and that place is for the cheap people just like lettings.. if a landlord is looking for cheap fee’s then expect a cheap service.

    You get what you pay its that simple.. However selling a house is different from selling a new phone on eBay or online. Like i said above this is most people’s biggest asset so meeting a local Agent and finding the right guy/girl who you think will sell your house well for you is key and who better to do that then someone local, Someone who knows the little differences that an online agent wouldn’t such as the pie shop at the bottom of the road will tailor make pies of your choice etc. You just cant compete with that level. They work in yoru best interest because they are commission driven.

    Comment by Tesh — December 21, 2015 @ 10:17 am

  6. Once you pay an upfront fee, there is no incentive for anyone to want to promote your house unlike an agent who will get paid if he sells your house.its a 50/50, worth apunt first by yourself,if you have half a brain to know the value of your house, else you could have wasted a LOT of money , under valuing and selling your property.

    Comment by JO ADVANI — September 20, 2015 @ 9:45 am

  7. Just so you know, I am happy to see this post. Now I got an idea to seek a real estate agent’s help in property selling. Thanks to you..

    Comment by Jimmy — September 14, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

  8. Are you certain of the Sales figures that you are stating in your comparison chart. Eg 700 Sales since 2006 = Income of approx. 28000.00 Over 8 Years doesn’t seem like a business ?? At these rates of sales how are these companies staying afloat ?/

    Comment by philip dillon — January 2, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

  9. Thank you Trevor for your comment. You’re quite right that a new redress scheme set up a few months ago in response to the fact all agents – including property management and letting agents – needed to be part of a redress scheme come 1st October. We have added them to the list accordingly.

    We however disagree that our article is balanced towards “budget” agents. The article is entitled “Should I use and Online agents” and clearly states why consumers might use one. It also gives the reasons why they might not.

    Online estate agents offer consumers a viable and affordable option to sell their home. We welcome their presence in the market as they offer consumers more choice. We have several others guides that explain how to get the best out of your estate agent – high street or online. All of these are written to enable consumers to feel more “in the know” when they come to selling their home.

    The presence of adverts on our site aims to make the process of shopping around online more straightforward for our readers and allows us to earn some income to cover our costs. It is important to us that the information we provide is independent and trustworthy and the editorial line remains independent of any influence. We have only allowed the major players that we have researched, to satisfy ourselves they have a decent offer, to take an ad.

    The HomeOwners Alliance Team

    Comment by AKerr — November 12, 2014 @ 11:51 am

  10. Your article: Should I use an online estate agent to sell my home?

    The article is inaccurate in places, such as saying there are two redress schemes when in fact there is three – and bias to providing an opinion that favours budget agents over traditional agents.

    Budget agents charge budget fees and as such can not do some marketing traditional agents do – being main/sub agency. As such a main agent will often get other higher offers that had they been just a sole agent. Budget agents are always sole agents.

    On the page you then show budget agent adverts from housesimple and emoov, plus mention Purple Bricks. All of which can not offer main/sub agency.

    As appearing as a consumer group your section on estate agents is weighted in one direction which is unfair to those wanting a balanced view of estate agency services.

    Trevor Mealham
    INEAmls idx
    The Independent Network of Estate Agents

    Comment by Trevor Mealham — November 10, 2014 @ 10:12 am

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