Busting the online agent versus traditional high street agent myth

26th January 2018 posted in Sellers

Research tells us that the following three things are most important to sellers:

  1. Achieve the best price for your home.
  2. Achieve the sale in the shortest time frame.
  3. Achieve a completed sale with the least hassle.

Now let’s look at why you will always be better off with a traditional, ‘no-sale-no fee’ High Street estate agent as opposed to an online agent who charges fees upfront.

There is currently a huge misconception that traditional High Street agents and online agents do the same job and achieve the same results.  It is about time that unsuspecting, misled house sellers and purchasers understand the potential pitfalls of buying and selling property.  Which type of estate agency is equipped to achieve the best results and deliver the best value for money? Let’s find out.

The process of selling and buying a house is totally unique; not to be confused with buying and selling a car or a garden shed for example. The process has many potential pitfalls, so much so they say it comes third on the list of most stressful life experiences, after family death and divorce.

House selling and buying is unique for many reasons, one of them being that the transaction of your home is in the majority of cases dependent on other people’s property transactions - each with their own agendas, each with their own set of emotional needs. Being part of a chain, often made up of 3 properties or more, represents challenges on many levels and it is true to say that the more properties in the chain the more difficult the job is to manage. The job in hand is to bring all parties to exchange of contracts and completion of the sales.

A good estate agent will help to put the chain together, to manage it, nurture it and keep it moving along; the chain is not complete until each end of the chain is closed off. This will happen when the bottom of the chain has a buyer with nothing to sell, for example a first time buyer, a cash buyer, an investment buyer or simply a buyer with nothing to sell. The top of the chain is closed off when the seller has already purchased a property and exchanged contracts on that property or is not going to purchase another property.

Putting together chains with multiple properties needs a good agent with a hands-on approach, an agent with great knowledge of the process, an ability to communicate well with people and excellent negotiating skills to coordinate timescales. At the heart of the traditional High Street agent’s business model sits the no sale, no fee motto which cultivates a great desire to achieve results; unless the sales of the properties in the chain exchange and complete, the agent does not get paid. By the very nature of this customer focused approach, a good agency will invest time and money to ensure that the Sales Negotiator who is dealing with the sales in the chain, is skilled and trained to do the job.

Conversely, the exact opposite can be said for the online agencies who charge upfront fees at the point of putting the house up for sale, leaving their agents with little or no motivation to get that sale over the line; and even less so to look after and manage the chain of properties.   Having already been paid by the customer, it is easy to see that they do not even care whether the sale completes or not.

Let’s look at each stage of the process and see where value can be added or not.

Valuation:  An agent who charges up-front fees or perhaps a ‘pay in 10 months on a credit agreement’ is driven by a seller signing a contract; once done they are assured of their money – irrespective of whether the property sells or not.

A no-sale, no fee agent must carry out a much more in-depth valuation process discovering the needs of the client, making recommendations accordingly to help facilitate a successful outcome -  both for the seller and for the agent; that being the completion of the sale.

Marketing a property: another misconception of potential house sellers is that you can simply sell houses through advertising them on property websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla. However, these providers tell us that the three most important things in an advert on their site in order to attract interest are, price, photographs and description of the property.  These must be right in order for a potential buyer to make an enquiry to the Agent about that property.

Once the enquiry is made, it is now up to the skills and pro-activity of the agent who knows the property and the timescales of its owner inside out, to generate the viewing, accompany the viewing, establish an offer and negotiate the best price. Traditional estate agents will also have a list of buyers on their register who will be called as soon as a new property comes to the market, encouraging those buyers to view the property. Online agents are not available, as standard, to target suitable buyers, arrange viewings, accompany viewings or discuss requirements between sellers and potential buyers but rather leave this important interface to the sellers and buyers themselves who can communicate via online platforms.

The assurance that your agent is available at the end of the phone or in branch, is paramount at this stage. Of course, at Hunters we recognise the need for customers to communicate outside office hours and also offer 24/7 technology for vendors, this is an  additional benefit but not a replacement for our staff being on hand to support you throughout.

Attracting committed viewers: it is the general belief that the more viewings an agent can generate for a property, the best price they will achieve. I do concur with this theory but there is so much more to achieving the best price. Ask yourself this question, why would you pay more for something? The answer is simple - because you desire it more as it suits your needs. Skilled traditional estate agents who have the time and the inclination to get close to their buyers and the properties they market will have a greater understanding of their customers’ needs. They have key local knowledge and information that will help sell the property to the right buyer – be that proximity to schools or shops, good road network, has a big garden, an open plan kitchen, separate WC, en-suite facility, separate reception room, potential for development, low maintenance, has a granny annex, affordable etc. etc. This agent will match the needs of the buyer to the features of the property, helping to build the desire of the property; it is through this process that the best price will be achieved. Online Agents do not have the time, nor the inclination to enter in to such negotiations, they already have their money even though the property has not yet sold!

Negotiating the sale and getting the best sale price for sellers:  This is a highly skilled job and one that cannot be done remotely or by email.  Good communication is 60% body language, 30% tone of voice and 10% said the spoken word; therefore, a skilled negotiator who speaks to or meets with both buyer and seller is more likely to bring together a more favourable deal for their client, the seller.  It is also crucial to say that when negotiations are conducted like this, the sale is less likely to fall through at a later stage as each party can be better informed of time frames and likely hold ups at the earliest stage.

Progressing the sale: another crucial part of the selling process; this is where an agent, through their intervention or lack of, can make or break the deal. If it breaks, it will cost everyone involved a lot of time and money, not to mention stress and hassle. This is a complex part of the process as it involves many stake holders in a chain -  buyers, sellers, solicitors for each party, estate agents, mortgage lenders, surveyors and local authorities supplying land searches and in the case of leasehold properties, the Management Companies of those properties suppling the lease details.

A good traditional agent will deal with the chain, chase necessary procedures and communicate with all parties on a daily basis ensuring everything is on track, re-negotiating where necessary and nurturing all parties to the point of Exchange of Contracts and completion of the transaction.  It is only then that the traditional high street, ‘no-sale-no-fee’ agent will receive a selling fee. Online agents have been paid at the outset and by the time your house sale reaches this final, crucial stage, they have already moved on, focusing on the next instruction and fee!   

If you want your agent to be by your side every step of the way, from valuation to completion and help you achieve the best price for your property, then choose wisely from the beginning. Choose an agent who only gets paid when you see the results.

You can find your nearest ‘no sale no fee’ Hunters agent here