should i choose an online or high street estate agent

Should I Use an Online Estate Agent?

Buying or selling a property are usually big moments, so it’s only natural to look at your options when it comes to working with estate agents. In particular, one of the questions many people ask during the process is whether it’s safe to use an online estate agents, and should you go with an online or high street estate agent?

This guide breaks down the pros and cons of working with an online estate agents based on our years of experience working in the industry of surveying properties and conducting property valuations. It will also highlight when a professional, high street estate agents might be more beneficial to ensure you’re well informed when it comes to choosing whether or not to go with an online estate agents. 

The dawn of digital estate agents

In the 21st century, technology has revolutionised numerous industries, and the real estate sector is no exception. In 2022, online estate agents has 7.4% of market share, but this is likely to grow.

The advent of online estate agents signifies the seamless integration of convenience and speed that digital platforms offer. However, with these advantages come unique challenges that both prospective sellers and buyers should keep in mind. 

Here are the pros and cons of working with an online estate agents to help you decide what you should do.

Online estate agents: Pros and cons

online vs high street traditional estate agent

Online estate agents have gained popularity for several reasons. Often, they offer fixed-rate packages, making them potentially more cost-effective than traditional high-street agents, who typically charge a percentage-based commission. The convenience of 24/7 access to property listings, updates, and communication tools is another appealing feature.

However, there are also drawbacks to this approach. Relationships with online estate agents might lack the personal touch and local knowledge that high-street agents often provide. Some sellers and buyers may find the process impersonal and distant. Also, while fixed rates can be appealing, some online agents might have hidden fees for extra services such as accompanied viewings, potentially negating the initial cost savings.

The absence of a professional interface

Online estate agents distinguish themselves with their DIY approach, appealing to sellers with the promise of cost savings and greater control. But this self-service model comes with its own set of hurdles, primarily the absence of a professional intermediary.

When property viewings are conducted by the seller, potential buyers may feel uncomfortable providing candid feedback. A memorable incident from the experiences of Chris Bloor, Managing Director of CJ Bloor Property Consultants, illustrates this issue. Chris attended a property viewing where the owner, who had listed with an online estate agent, conducted the tour. The house had a persistent drain smell, an issue that could deter potential buyers. However, Chris, out of courtesy, found it difficult to raise this directly with the homeowner. In such situations, a traditional estate agent’s presence could facilitate constructive feedback.

“In my experience, there’s an inherent value in having a professional estate agent who can act as a bridge between the buyer and the seller,” states Chris Bloor. “They provide a necessary channel for candid, constructive feedback, which is often lost when sellers conduct viewings themselves.”

Barriers to effective problem resolution

An estate agent’s role extends beyond property viewings; they act as a crucial liaison, communicating concerns and managing issues that surface. In situations where the buyer and seller interact directly, raising concerns can be an awkward affair, potentially leaving issues unresolved.

Reflecting on his viewing experience, Chris notes that the homeowner, without feedback, remained unaware of an issue that could impact their property’s appeal. A professional agent, on the other hand, would not only have relayed the feedback but also suggested ways to address it, thereby enhancing the property’s attractiveness to future viewers.

High street estate agents: Pros and cons

High-street estate agents have a long-standing presence in the property market and are known for their local expertise and personal service. They typically have an in-depth understanding of local market trends, community dynamics, and specific buyer needs, which can provide valuable insights during the selling process.

choosing an online or high street estate agent

Face-to-face interactions and customised assistance are hallmarks of high-street estate agencies, creating a more personal experience for both sellers and buyers. In terms of service, high-street agents often provide a full spectrum of assistance, including negotiations, viewings, and legal aid.

On the downside, high-street agents may come with higher costs, particularly for more expensive properties. The limited accessibility outside of regular business hours may also hinder instant communication for some clients.

Understanding the local market: A challenge for online platforms

Another potential disadvantage of online estate agents is their grasp of the local property market. Traditional estate agents often boast a wealth of local knowledge, offering invaluable insights into local property trends, nuances of the neighbourhood, and other factors influencing property value and appeal. In contrast, online estate agents, operating on a national scale, may lack this specific local understanding, which could lead to inaccurate pricing or missed selling points.

Should you choose an online or high street estate agent?

The decision to choose an online or high street estate agent depends on lots of factors. Ultimately, online estate agents will be popular due to their cost-effective, flexible services. But it’s vital to acknowledge their inherent challenges. Direct interactions between sellers and buyers can be complex and potentially uncomfortable, with missed opportunities for effective problem resolution. Furthermore, the local market insights offered by traditional estate agents can be crucial for accurate marketing.

“Selling or buying a home is a significant step. It’s crucial to weigh up the advantages and drawbacks of both online and traditional estate agents. An informed decision ensures a smoother, more effective transaction process.”

CJ Bloor

Overall, the choice between an online or traditional estate agent should hinge on your individual needs and preferences. Understanding what each option offers and their potential limitations is crucial. After all, the process of buying or selling property is significant, and making an informed choice is paramount.

At CJ Bloor Property Consultants, we aim to facilitate your home buying journey with our professional services, such as the RICS Home Survey, ensuring you’re fully informed about your potential investment. If you do choose to go with an online estate agents (or even a traditional high-street agents), working with an impartial and regulated Chartered Surveyor can ensure you get an accurate valuation of the property you wish to sell or buy. To learn more about how we can assist you, feel free to contact us.

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