In the realm of real estate buying and selling, one of the most notable disruptions in the last several years is the rise of online-based estate agents.
Many agencies have sprung into the market, somewhat out of nowhere, touting substantial benefits over traditional high street estate agents.
As competition increases with more sellers willing to lean into a digital model of transacting business, it may be a challenge to understand the differences between online and high street estate agent offerings.
According to a group of Mayfair estate agents, the rise in popularity among online estate agents is not a surprise. Many industries have been moved by the influx of powerful technology, from online and mobile banking to food delivery.
However, there are distinct differences between the two. Understanding the advantages and drawbacks of each type of estate agent assistance offers is necessary in order for sellers to make the best decision to meet their needs.
The most obvious difference between high street and online estate agents in experience is how they interact. High street agents have physical branch locations that anyone interested in selling their property can visit, during business hours.
Most high street estate agents are intimately familiar with the neighborhoods they serve, giving a potential upper hand to sellers who utilize their services.
This could lead to better results not only in finding the right buyer but also for setting the price correctly to start. However, this can be a challenge for those who work throughout the day and cannot easily visit a brick-and-mortar location to speak with an agent.
Online estate agencies are call center or digitally based, meaning there is no location to visit for face-to-face interactions. Instead, all business is done over the phone or online, making it easier for some sellers to work with an agent on their own time.
Unfortunately, the digital advantage of online estate agents inherently comes with downsides. Because call centers could be located anywhere, agents handling requests from sellers may have limited knowledge of the local area.
That could mean the valuation of a home may be off base, or an understanding of the buyer’s market may be lacking altogether. These can offset the benefits of working with an “always-on” online estate agent.
Part of the unique experience in working with a high street estate agent is the personalized touch that comes with face-to-face discussions.
Only high street agents offer this benefit, and in doing so, sellers may benefit from being able to fully talk through what they need or want in a home sale.
Unfortunately, the human part of the equation can make communication challenging from a timing perspective.
Most high street estate agents work during standard business hours, which can be less appealing for those who are either not in the local area or who have other commitments throughout the day.
Online estate agents may be better at responding to seller queries and in a timely fashion compared to high street agents.
This is due to the structure of online agencies and the provision that there are multiple contacts a seller may have for a single transaction.
If one agent is busy, another may be able to pick up where they left off, keeping in constant communication with the seller. However, this is often more impersonal than high street estate agents, so not ideal for every seller.
A nod to online estate agents is clear when it comes to pricing. Because there is less overhead expense by operating a digital service as opposed to in-person at a physical location, online estate agents can ultimately save a seller hundreds to thousands of pounds.
High street estate agents charge an average of 1.18 percent plus VAT, which eats away at profits made from the sale of a home.
While some sellers believe this cost is too high, others argue that the advantages that come with using a high street estate agent outweigh the price.
Which to Choose?
Each home seller is different in terms of what he or she expects throughout the process. However, making the choice between an online or a high street estate agent should revolve around the expectations of the seller from the start.
For those who don’t mind a digital experience that is cost-effective, an online estate agent may serve its purpose.
Sellers who prefer in-person consultation, local knowledge, and accurate valuation, as well as a customized approach to selling a home, are better off using the services of a more traditional high street estate agent.