I am selling my house and need to choose an estate agent. There seem to be a whole lot of new online agents, which say they’re cheaper than the high street agents.
I’d like to save money on estate agent fees but I am keen on using someone I meet in person and who has knowledge of my local area.
What are the online agents like, and how should I choose between high street agents when they seem to offer pretty much the same things?
Customer review sites are helpful in informing your decision, but take them with a pinch of salt
Paula Higgins, chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance, replies: When choosing an estate agent remember that they work for you.
You’ll be paying their fee so make sure you’re happy with their service offering before you instruct them. It’s best to start with the facts. You can find and compare your local agents using this tool which will rank them according to how they perform based on the average time it takes to sell a property like yours, how close they get to achieving asking price and how successful they are at selling similar homes.
Once you’ve got the facts, you need to select three local agents to come and give you their pitch and a valuation.
Paula Higgins: When choosing an estate agent remember that they work for you
It’s at this point you’ll want to see the agents demonstrate real local knowledge and experience.
Are they enthusiastic about your property? Have they sold properties like yours locally and recently?
Find out how they plan to market your home locally as well as on what property portals.
With 90 per cent of all house purchases starting online, you want to maximise online exposure.
You want your property on the big ticket sites to maximise exposure of your property to potential buyers, including Rightmove and Zoopla.
Be warned: those agents with OnTheMarket will then only be able to list on one or the other big two so think about what works best for your property.
If you’re not sure, take a look at our guide Rightmove, Zoopla and the rest: which is best?
Customer review sites are also helpful in informing your decision, but take them with a pinch of salt; if we all took the reviews on TripAdvisor as gospel we’d never go on holiday again. But reviews will give you an idea of whether there are specific problems or points you want to pick up with the agent.
How do online agents compare?
Most people are attracted by the lower prices offered by online agents which are in the hundreds rather than thousands.
Don’t be taken in completely by the starting package price as they often give you a long list of optional extras. Some of these you don’t need, but others are pretty essential and can add up so it’s best to compare packages.
You’ll want to decide whether you’re willing to do everything from photos to floorplans yourself. More commonly, home sellers choose a basic package that includes the essentials such as floor plans, photos and online system so you, the agent and prospective buyers can communicate about viewings, as well as a listing on Rightmove and Zoopla.
Online agents are banned from OnTheMarket so are free to list your property with both of the main property portals which is a bonus.
Purplebricks was the first to successfully realise that some home sellers still want face-to-face contact and the back-up of a dedicated person to call and so launched with a network of local property experts.
Increasingly other agents, like YOPA and Easyproperty, offer a similar option.
Purplebricks was the first to successfully realise that some home sellers still want face-to-face contact
Traditionally, when using an online agent you had to be comfortable conducting viewings yourself. And you might think that’s the best option – no one knows your house like you. But knowing many people aren’t comfortable with this, many online agents now offer hosted viewings – at a price.
Before you instruct an agent, take a look at the contract terms, carefully. Anything you don’t understand, ask.
With a high street agent, the contract length should be four weeks (but 12 weeks can be the norm and we’ve seen some shocking 26 weeks), plus the usual 14 days notice should you not be happy.
Negotiate the contract length down if it isn’t right. The same applies to the fee – you should look at paying around 1 per cent + VAT.
With online agents, the pay upfront deals are often cheaper, though you can opt to spread the cost paying some upfront and some at the end, which can help if you have problems with cash flow.
You’ll need to check how long the agent will be marketing your property for the upfront fee – it should be for a 12-month period.
Whether you go for an online or high street agent, your first port of call should be getting three local high street agents round to value the property.
Online agents, even those with a network of local experts, often fall short here. Getting the right valuation will be important to set your house sale off on the right foot.