Be careful if you’re thinking of using online estate agents

Five percent of sellers are going on the web to sell their homes and this figure is rising; but while online estate agents may be cheaper – they come second place to high street agencies in important areas.

Let’s think about sale price first. High Street agents use a percentage-based commission, which gives us the incentive to negotiate the highest price possible for your property. We also only charge when there’s a sale. Online estate agents use fixed fees, normally charged up front. They’ll charge you more if you want to pay on completion. And once they’ve got your money, why would they strive to get the highest sale price possible?

Do you know the real value of your home? Online agents are unlikely to. They’ll probably use a centralised call centre or administrative office to enter your postcode and work out your valuation. A local High Street agent will know your area and, importantly, what future changes and patterns are emerging in the local market.

Selling houses is a complicated, often stressful experience. Having a good local estate agent behind you will help move things along and help remove some of the hassle of selling your home. We will vet buyers’ financial positions, arrange viewings and give you honest feedback. When the sale is going through we’ll deal with solicitors and legal matters on your behalf. Go online and this is all down to you. Online estate agents list your home on the property portals and then just pass on buyers’ details. Anything else and you’ll probably pay extra. And even then, it may not be the actual company that vets your buyers – some use third party contractors to do this.

So, think carefully before signing up to web-based estate agents. It will probably save you money in fees, but may cost you in sale price, time and extra stress. Don’t forget the value of personal face-to face service. Do you really want the biggest financial transaction of your life to be done online?