Online vs High Street?

At first glance, using an online estate agent to sell your property could potentially save you a few thousand pounds, but is that really the case? And, can you trust an online company to deal with such an important transaction? by Lee Whitelock


On face value, the biggest advantage of using an online agent is the savings you can potentially make. High street agents typically charge a fee of 1.5%-2% of the price achieved, so even if your fee is at the lower end of the scale, you will still pay £4,500 if you sell your home for £300,000. When compared to the fees charged by online agents this sum seems disproportionately high.

However, this saving could easily be wiped out if you make the mistake of relying on an online agent’s valuation of your property. Online agents tend to operate from nationwide call centres and their valuations are generally carried out using online data. This is fine for an approximate guide, but as the central London market can change on a daily basis, it’s important to seek valuations from active local agents who know what’s going on in real time.

Possibly even more important than money is the issue of trust. There is no law preventing anyone from setting up as an estate agent on the high street or online, but the latter is significantly less costly. It’s important to do your research and appoint an agent with a good reputation, so ask friends and neighbours in your area for personal recommendations, and look at online reviews.

Like their high street counterparts, online agents will tend to use Zoopla, Rightmove and other property portals to market your property, however if you opt for an online agent you’ll miss out on powerful local exposure on the high street.

Buyers also prefer dealing with individuals who provide a dedicated service, rather than impersonal call centres with little knowledge of their requirements or the area. A good local agent also ‘qualifies’ buyers to avoid time wasters and is likely to have a ‘hot list’ of applicants who are ready to proceed.

High street agents also win when it comes to viewings. Good agents are highly effective sales professionals who actively ‘sell’ your property and its location without requiring your presence. In a slower market this is particularly important to ensure your property stands out. If you use an online agent, you are likely to end up showing your property to multiple unqualified buyers yourself which is incredibly time consuming.

Once offers start coming in, a reputable high street agent will gauge demand for your property and advise you of different strategies, such as best and final offers or sealed bids, to help you achieve the maximum price. Without this expertise, you could potentially lose thousands.

Once a property goes under offer, a good local agent will work incredibly hard to keep all parties on track. As high street agents work on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis, they are highly motivated to ensure the transaction completes. With an online agent, the vendor usually pays upfront regardless of the outcome. At Garrett Whitelock, we have represented many vendors who first tried to sell their property online, failed and then came to us, so they ended up paying more than if they had instructed us in the first place.

In summary, if you want to achieve the best possible price for your property within your preferred timescale, it generally pays to work with a local high street agent with an excellent reputation in the area. Remember that some agents are better than others, so always do your research before you appoint anyone. However, if you don’t mind conducting viewings yourself, you’re not tied to a particular timescale and you are willing to accept a less-than-guaranteed outcome, an online agent could be the best route for you.

When it comes to selling my own home, I know which route I’d prefer.

Lee Whitelock is Director of Garrett Whitelock estate agents in Tower Bridge Road, SE1.
164 Tower Bridge Road
t: 020 7407 4586

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