Should you sell your home online?
Filed under: House Prices
But there is a new breed of online estate agents that claim to be more efficient and much cheaper than the traditional high street operators. They may have no branch presence but they reckon they'll give you more bang for your buck.
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Online estate agents have grown in popularity over the last decade, as homeowners wake up to the fact they can save thousands of pounds in selling costs by going online.
And that is by far the main draw of these firms, which advertise fees starting from just a couple of hundred pounds, or a tiny percentage (half a percent or less) of the property's sale price.
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This compares to an average fee of 1% to 2% from a high street agent, which could amount to over £2,000 on a modest £150,000 property. And the more expensive your home the more you need to fork out to a traditional agent. Little wonder then that online agents have proved particularly popular in the pricey South East.
Why are they so cheap?
Most online estate agents are based from one office and have very few operating costs aside from investment into technology and salaries.
They also offer a menu approach to their pricing so you can choose to pay for as little or as much of their service as you require. This brings down the cost for those who don't need a bells and whistles service, such as flashy brochures or agents to show people around their home.
Finally, they also tend to offer different fee variations, so you can choose to pay the whole lot upfront and nothing when your house is sold, with the obvious risk that it may not sell. Or you can decide to pay a small amount upfront and a larger sum on completion, which might be a good option if you are less confident your property will shift.
For example, housenetwork.co.uk offers the following payment options for its standard service of photography, descriptions, floor plans and advertising:
- £495 plus VAT upfront and nothing on completion
- £99 plus VAT upfront then £99 a month for six months
- £295 plus VAT upfront then £695 plus VAT on completion
You can also choose from a number of bolt-on extras, like a For Sale sign, or a premium listing on Rightmove.
Go the whole hog
You can go one step further and sell your home privately online, without an estate agent, which will mean you pay even less.
Dedicated platforms have been set up to make this easier, such as Sarah Beeny's Tepilo.com, which is free to use, though others may charge a small fee. You take the pictures, write the descriptions and make the floorplans and then you list your property on one of these.
However, some property portals are only open to estate agents, so you will be missing out on a massive swathe of potential buyers by going down this road.
You will also need to deal with all calls and visits from potential buyers as well negotiating the price – but if you are up for it, it is definitely a cheap option.
Of course, high street estate agents reckon they have a massive advantage over their online competitors – local knowledge and a local presence. They claim to have the lowdown on their areas, including the achievable prices on specific streets, the best local schools, and of course, face-to-face contact with interested buyers.
Robert Lazarus, sales director at Paramount Properties in North West London, says: "As an independent high street agent we have extensive market coverage; our valuations are accurate and we have a database of buyers with funds in place waiting to purchase."
In addition, high street estate agents will show any potential buyers around your property, which means you don't have to stay in every weekend for viewings (although some online agents offer this service too).
Lazarus adds: "Our local knowledge, accompanied viewings and accurate pricing makes you more money in the long run, and we chase the lawyers and mortgage advisers to get the sale completed once an offer is made. Your property is your biggest investment - give it to someone contactable and who you can trust."
Also, remember that high street agents will be prepared to negotiate on fees so do check them out as well as looking at online options. Some also offer flat fee options or a menu approach to pricing.
One thing you must be wary of with online agents is where exactly they will advertise your property. Their own site is not likely to attract the required traffic you need, so you really want them to put your home onto a major property portal.
And let's be honest, you want that to include the market leader, Rightmove.com, and possibly some additional sites like findaproperty.com and zoopla.com. It's essential that you choose an agent that advertises on these large websites, otherwise you risk too few people coming across your property during their search.
It's also wise to check that the online agent has a telephone service to back up the website, as there are bound to be issues or questions that crop up and it is useful to be able to talk it through with somebody.
Also be sure to choose an agent – online or traditional - that is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents, as they adhere to a strict code of conduct and have to be trained and qualified in their profession.
You can certainly save more money with an online agent, but whether or not they will suit your needs depends on what you want out of the partnership. If you are happy to take on a lot of the work, and want more control, selling your home online could be right up your street.
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