Online Estate Agents have emerged as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional commission-based High Street offering.
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17 years ago property websites such as Rightmove popped up on the Internet and no one would have been able to estimate the impact the then fledgling websites would have on the property market. Fast-forward nearly two decades later and a new industry is emerging, the online estate agent.
Ten percent of all property sales are made through an estate agent that is based online only with estimates placing the online market taking fifty percent by 2020. The ability for the vendor to maintain control of a sale whilst saving drastic amounts of money over a conventional High Street offering is what is fuelling the pace of growth.
The main aspect that many online agents use is the ability for modern technology to work magnitudes faster than the good old fashioned process and using that efficiency to pass on cost savings. Properties can be listed on major property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Locations within hours of getting a free online property valuation then uploading descriptions and photos online. Fielding requests for valuations and negotiating offers can be handled through an online control panel. Some agents are offering a dedicated local agent to provide a reassuring human presence - and a physical for sale or to let board is also commonly provided.
Rather than using a commission based model - taking a chunk of sales proceeds - the online agents mostly use a fixed-fee structure with additional extras to help market a property offered at extra add-on costs. As of writing, none of the online agents take a percentage of the sale price. As the agent has not got a vested interest in the price being as high as possible (as they take a cut of the price achieved), valuations and therefore advertised prices can be more realistic and expectations from vendors too. This shows why property sales can reach high percentages of the asking prices in a matter of weeks.
Conventional estate agents take on average a 1.5 percent fee of the sale price and on a typical property that is just over £3,000. An online agent will save a minimum of a third on that price - with more expensive properties benefitting the most.
There is no legal barrier to setting up as an estate agent and for those setting up online this can mean agents popping up overnight. There are a few regulatory bodies that should be checked, such as the Property Ombudsman, as well huge independent review sites such as TrustPilot where disingenuous agents can be quickly weeded out.
The fixed-fee structure charged by some agents may be with the proviso that the vendor uses the agent's own conveyancing service. We have made it clear in our online estate agent comparison tables where such caveats apply.
Landlords looking to let out property can also use an online estate agent with options from just a tenant finder service, essentially advertising on the major property websites through to a fully managed solution with rent collection, maintenance and handling of repairs and disputes.