A new way of selling houses

A new estate agency has launched a pay-per-viewing service whereby the agency gets paid per viewing, rather than a percentage of the sale price when the property transaction completes. The agency, Wesold, charges £99 in upfront fees and then £35 for every completed viewing – up to a cap of £420, or the equivalent of 12 viewings. After that, viewings are free.

While I am all for innovation in the property sector, I’m not convinced this is a sustainable business model, and I certainly can’t see the rest of the industry following suit. I agree that this looks like a cost effective option, but this is only the case if the online agent actually sells the property for the same price a traditional agent could have done.

From experience, the selling process is not just about advertising property details online, taking calls from potential buyers and meeting them to open the door. The best estate agents really are worth their fees in my opinion, and their negotiation skills will prove invaluable to any seller (in the same way a buying agent’s negotiation skills are invaluable to a buyer) and it’s these skills – and local market knowledge – that can achieve the seller a much higher price.

A good estate agent is also invaluable throughout the entire selling process – from managing expectations and emotions, to coordinating solicitors, managing agents, surveyors, the valuer, and so on. Overseeing a sale or purchase is incredibly time consuming and can require detailed knowledge of the process. This can be the difference of a transaction going through or the sale falling apart. One assumption of the online model is that both buyer and seller will understand the process and they will each instruct competent and efficient solicitors. This is quite a big assumption and, from experience, is rarely the case.

Another factor to consider is the safety of those viewings. As the seller, you are expected to do the viewings yourself and allow strangers into your home. Unsurprisingly, a lot of sellers don’t feel comfortable with this.

Although the online estate agency options can appear cheaper initially, it’s often much more lucrative for a seller to instruct a brilliant local agent who will achieve them a significantly higher price for their property, even if they are charging one or two percent. I always think you get what you pay for and this is no different.

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