It’s a discussion that’s been intensifying over the past couple of years, as the number of online agents continues to grow. And the slant of the debate is changing, from ‘which one should I use?’ to ‘when is it most advantageous to use one or the other?’.
And the story revolves around the different business models offered by the respective options.
On the one hand, online agents generally offer fixed fees, which might seem to be more beneficial to sellers of higher-value properties, whilst the personal service offered by a High Street agent might be more helpful if the sale is not entirely straightforward.
But there’s much more to it than that…
Fees and extras – the hidden costs
Typically, online agents charge a fixed fee for selling your property, and it’s easy to be seduced by the headline figures. However, vendors are becoming increasingly aware of some of the less obviously costs.
Some, for example, feel uncomfortable with the idea that the fee has to be paid up front, even if they never sell your property, although not all online agents insist on this. Others point to the list of ‘extras’ charged for services that would be included as free and standard by almost all retail agents, including sale boards, photos and accompanied viewings. Detractors liken the service to that of Ryanair or other ‘no frills’ airline services.
And because online agents charge a flat fee, it could be argued that they are less inclined to push for the best possible price for you, opting rather for the quick sale.
The knowledge gap
One of the most often cited benefits of a local High Street agent is the knowledge they have into the local property market and the local community, including such insights as:
- The best schools
- Parking, traffic and transportation issues
- Areas prone to unsocial behaviour or high levels of crime
- Advanced indications of development plans in the neighbourhood
In turn, this knowledge attracts buyers who might value this information, and that could help to optimise the selling price.
The communications gap
If you want to be able to stay in touch with progress, 24/7, and are happy to do so via email or with a call centre, an online agent might well be your best bet. But if you feel more comfortable speaking to a local expert, and are happy that he or she many only be available during standard working hours, the online route is probably not for you.
Vetting your prospective buyers and maximising the sale price
You might be very happy seeing any possible buyers yourself, and showing them around your property, but not everyone shares this confidence, and some vendors really value the reassurance from a High Street agent who can filter out timewasters and anyone else deemed unsuitable.
And price negotiations can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, so having a local agent on your side can save (or make you) thousands of extra pounds.
The need to manage communications with potential buyers and legal representatives (conveyancing specialists or solicitors) by yourself can be stressful and time-consuming.
Marketing your property
Whatever agent you use, they will almost certainly use a range of online portals to promote your property, including Rightmove
However, many properties are still sold from buyers who have seen the property advertised in the High Street agent’s shop window, and this might be especially significant if your prospective buyer is likely to be older, and therefore less inclined to be browsing online.
- If you’re sale is likely to be very straightforward, and you feel very confident in using an online operator, you could potentially save money by selling through an online agent.
- If, however, there might be issues best left to local specialists, using a High Street agent is likely to ensure that you sleep more soundly!
- If you never seem to have enough time to do things yourself, delegating the potentially stressful and time-consuming job of selling your property to a local High Street agent might well be worth paying for.
- If getting the best possible price is important to you, online agents may not necessarily be your best bet.
Whichever route you choose, it’s always worth seeking the FREE advice a local High Street agent will offer first. Simply by meeting them, you may be persuaded, one way or the other!