Online vs. Local Estate Agents

How do their services differ and which option is best for you?

In recent years, there has been an emergence of online estate agents who, at first glance, seem to offer more affordable services than many traditional estate agents. While this may seem like a great way to save money, there are of course some drawbacks associated with this approach.

In many respects, across different sectors, online services can indeed offer more convenient solutions and perhaps even a superior experience. But can this be said of the property industry? Lets take a closer look at the pros and cons of online estate agents vs. local, traditional estate agents.

What does an online estate agent do?

Online estate agents offer a more basic and streamlined way to sell a property. The specific services offered can vary depending on the organisation. Some packages may require the seller to do the majority of the work on their own – such as taking photos of the property, creating the text for the listing and handling all of the incoming enquiries. Other packages offered by online estate agents can provide a more comprehensive service which is more similar to what a traditional estate agent would provide.

Online estate agent

Operating entirely online, online estate agents will list properties on many of the standard go-to websites like Rightmove and Zoopla, and may handle the initial enquiry phase which then allows prospective buyers to connect with the seller and arrange viewings and conversations. In addition, they may offer the support of a property expert as part of the package, to facilitate the details of a sale and manage aspects such as negotiation and completion.

The benefits of using an online estate agent

The main benefit of using an online estate agent is the cost and the way in which they structure their fees. Usually an online estate agent will charge a flat fee for their services, rather than a percentage of the selling price of the property being sold.

While a traditional, ‘high-street’ estate agent will take commission for facilitating and supporting the sale of a property, when you use an online estate agent they will typically only charge for the services you access.

Another potential benefit of using an online estate agent is the control that you retain over your listing, primarily in terms of how it is presented. This may not be seen as a benefit for those who would prefer to be less involved in this part of the selling process. For example, many people would prefer the expert knowledge of a trusted estate agency to take photos of the property together with creating the copy and marketing materials associated with the listing.

The drawbacks of using an online estate agent

For one thing, when you exclusively list your property through an online estate agent, you lose the kind of local knowledge and property market access that can prove invaluable when it comes to conducting a valuation of the property and finding out where it sits in relation to the local market.

Another drawback to operating via an online agent is that, while you retain control over the listing and the process, you are required to be much more heavily involved and may find yourself having to conduct viewings and manage enquiries on a much more regular basis than if you worked with a dedicated local agent who could do it all for you.

Finally, one of the contingencies of working with an online agent is that they typically require payment upfront – which means that no matter how much you sell the property for (or whether it sells at all) you are liable to pay the same figure to the agent before you even start listing.

So, with all that in mind, lets look at the traditional approach and how working with a trusted local estate agent differs in terms of the benefits and overall experience.

How does a local estate agents approach to property sales differ?

Estate agent sold property sign

A high street estate agent works directly with you to list your property, conducting everything in house to present an end-to-end experience for both you as the seller and to any prospective buyer.

Depending on what you agree to with your dedicated agent, they will create the listing and ensure that it is active on all the main online seller sites as well as via their own website and promote the property from within their physical business premises.

They may contact potential buyers who they know, whose requirements fall in line with what you are selling and will manage any and all enquiries from viewing through to offers and eventually completion.

In short, a local estate agent becomes an extension of you when it comes to selling your property, acting on your behalf and in your best interests to achieve the best deal.

The benefits of approaching a local estate agent

One of the biggest benefits of working with a local estate agent is not only their local knowledge in terms of potential buyers, but also recognising the benefits of the property for buyers and being able to communicate those effectively during viewings. From knowing where local schools are to understanding the main draws of the area, local knowledge should not be overlooked – not to mention, it allows for more competitive valuations in line with comparable properties that are also listed on the market.

Another benefit of opting for a local estate agent lies in the personalised service that you receive, with your agent working with you to manage all the aspects of the process that you need them to. Rather than making you select from a range of set packages, working with a physical agent lets you be as involved as you want or need to be, making for a much better experience for sellers in general.

And it doesnt end there. The consistency of service from a local estate agent means that buyers will also benefit from the expertise and trust that they will get from a local agent; one who knows the area, can answer all their questions, and will deal with them from enquiry through to viewing and negotiation. This is one of the main reasons why local agents tend to get offers that are on average 5% higher than those accepted via an online agent.

Potential disadvantages of opting for a local estate agent

So are there any disadvantages of using a traditional estate agent instead of opting for the online approach? The associated costs are likely to be higher when selling a house, due to the estate agent taking a percentage of the final sale price.

Costs and service fees are naturally something that any prospective seller would want to consider. However, the expected uptick in sale price plus the invaluable local knowledge of the estate agency and the quality service they provide tends to make the perceived higher cost worth paying for many sellers.

Which approach is best?

Overall, an online service presents a selection of benefits to sellers and opens up a world of opportunity in terms of access to buyers from all walks of life – however, when it comes to the success rate and cohesiveness of a property listing and marketing campaign, working with a local estate agent offers far more benefits to sellers and buyers alike.

Here at Pat Robson & Co. we pride ourselves in offering a service which supports the seller and helps them not only list their property but recognise its value in the market and use our knowledge to position it competitively to achieve the best price.

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Online vs. Local Estate Agents