Online vs High Street

There were waves made in the property market last week when a seller opted to put his £15.5m Knightsbridge house for sale via an online estate agency, rather than going down the traditional route of using a high street estate agent.

Unlike other industries, the property market has been slow to embrace online technology. Whilst there are plenty of apps and portals to help find a property, none of these have yet captured a significant share of the actual selling market. So, this recent coup by an online estate agency has been an exciting development, as the house is thought to be one of the first super prime properties to be listed solely online.

There are strong arguments for using a traditional high street estate agent; an experienced agent can bring the right buyers through the door and often negotiate a great deal for you. But this comes at a hefty price, usually between 1.5 – 2% of the properties’ sales value, compared to less than £1,000 charged by many online agencies.

Online listings can bring substantial savings (£260,000 in the case of the Knightsbridge seller!), however, I can say from experience that a large number of the properties I’ve bought for clients over the years probably wouldn’t have got over the line if there wasn’t a property professional working in the middle.

By using an online approach, the buyer and seller, and their solicitors, are left to manage the transaction between themselves; this is where the cracks can start to appear. No matter how many times they may have done this before, a property transaction can be very delicate. Having a middle man makes a huge difference, whether it’s communicating with buyers and sellers, putting pressure on slow solicitors or chasing up inefficient managing agents. A skilled estate agent will be worth the price tag, if it’s the difference between selling your home at a good price and the whole thing falling apart.

As a buying agent, I’ve dealt with a number of online estate agencies over the years, and whilst some are better than others, there is definitely something to be said for being able to have an honest, direct dialogue with a genuine seller.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.