Should you use a online agent or High street Agent ? That seems to be the latest question at the moment .
Since the investigative programme by BBC Watchdog in to online agent Purple Bricks aired last month, I have been repeatedly asked what the difference is and more importantly who gives better value in terms of customer service, value and satisfaction.
As an estate agent for over 30 years, I know every sale has its own unique set of circumstances and challenges to overcome. I would never sell my own home if I did not have full trust and knowledge that the person selling my home was competent and trustworthy. The services offered by these generic online agents are marketed as mirroring those offered by a traditional high street agent, however they cannot possibly be the same. Their biggest selling point is their low one off fee coupled with they use local property “experts or professionals”. This is great - if every property, freehold, purchaser and vendor were the same, in practice we know this is not the case.
The growth and market strategy of Purple Bricks and other such on line agents has been to target and attract homeowners on the premise that the small fee will cover the whole sales process. Their business strategy has been to gain massive investment in order to float on the stock exchange. I personally think this big business model doesn't suit the estate agency industry.
As a small independent estate agent I am passionate about property - selling a client’s home has been part of why I became an estate agent; giving clients the service, the customer expectation and experience they want and deserve. Having staff who have worked in the industry for a minimum of 10 years and being visual on a high street is important as it develops local in depth knowledge, quality control, best practice and a sense of community. This is where we differ significantly from the online agents whose sole purpose is to churn out sales without the same knowledge, dedication or commitment to getting the best possible price whilst offering the best possible customer service.
Over the last few years, the explosion and trend of online estate agents has compromised the service home owners expect. Also the fee charged by online agents is demanded upfront, even if your property doesn't sell removing any incentive for those firms to work hard on your behalf .
Reports such as the Watchdog investigation show that online agents they have fallen short of knowledge and lack the experience in any location to effectively handle a sale and provide the level of customer service required. Many of the 'local property experts' they employ cover a broad geographic area so do not have the detailed local knowledge the majority of high street agents have. In addition to this once the upfront fee has been paid - the lack of interest to pursue the sales process declines as the owner is left to book and vet callers and accompany viewings, as well as the negotiating their own sale, that is unless a significant increase in fees are agreed and paid upfront.
Therefore when choosing an agent its important that you choose wisely and that make sure you are fully protected. Every estate agent either online or high street have a professional obligation to abide by the rules set out by their governing body and regulator. All estate agents must be members of one of three government-approved redress schemes: the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services or the Property Redress Scheme. in addition to this Trading Standards will also investigate agents that it believes have acted in breach of the 1979 Estate Agent Act.
So if you want my advice - choose your agent carefully - I know which one I would choose !