What’s the difference between online estate agents and high street estate agents?

online estate agents

Online and fixed-fee estate agents seem to be all the rage these days – after all, their rates can start from as low as £99. But what do online estate agents offer, and what makes them different from their bricks-and-mortar equivilents?

What is an online estate agent?

Let’s address this question first, though. An online estate agent is one that doesn’t have a presence on the high street. That’s all it is. Therefore, it can consolidate its various services in a centralised location and take advantage of the cost savings.

In addition, those with specialised skills can more easily be matched up to those who need those skills.

Is that it?

Well, sort of. Online estate agents have a huge range of service offerings. A £99 deal typically means that they simply advertise your house on Zoopla and / or Rightmove and have someone to take calls regarding offers, but they don’t get involved much beyond that. You end up having to do everything else, which might be ideal for some people who have the time to market their property and arrange viewings. In some cases, even a For Sale sign is an optional extra.

As you go up in price, more services are typically included. Add in photography and 2D floorplans, for example, and a professionally written property description. At the higher end of the scale, typically around £800 to £1,000, you get local property experts who know the area and can provide an accurate valuation, as opposed to an automated valuation that doesn’t take into account property condition and other aspects of the house. At the highest end, you get accompanied visits from the estate agent, but you should typically expect to pay around £800 to £1,200 for that.

Online estate agents that offer services equivalent to the high street are often known as hybrid estate agents, because they combine the advantages of being online (lower overheads and 24/7 portals for managing properties) with the advantages of local knowledge.

What about the high street?

High street estate agents have higher overheads, so minimum fees tend to start between £800 and £1,300. In many cases, you will pay commission, with the average being around 1.2% (when you include VAT). This means that you would pay £2,712, based on an average house price of £226,000.

If you are based in London, some particularly prominent estate agents have even higher rates. Foxtons, for example, advertise rates of 3% (which includes VAT), so for the average house price of £484,173 in London, you would pay a staggering £14,525.19 in commission alone.

  • 2.0% = £9,683.46
  • 1.5% = £7,262.60
  • 1.0% = £4,841.73

The main advantage of using a high street estate agent is that you generally pay the commission once you’ve sold the house, but hybrid estate agents are getting wise to this. Some now offer a no-sale, no-fee option for a little bit extra, and that can be worth taking.

Ultimately, the choice that you make depends on the service that you receive. For many, there’s no real benefit to using a high street estate agent apart from the ability to see your agent face-to-face. As hybrids become more sophisticated, it’s clear that the future of estate agents is online, not on the high street.

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