Online agents have barged into the industry with their proposals of no commission and instant responses to enquiries. But just how much can consumers trust online agents? Consumer group Which? warns the public about the claims made by online agents.
The competitive fees that online agents charge isn't enough for them to push traditional agents out of the market. The public must focus on three things to accurately judge whether online agents provide a quality service that's worth the money. The public put online agents to the test and published their findings in a blog (of which this article sites from).
- What do the fees include? “You can expect a package to include at least the basics needed to sell a home, such as listings on the main property portals. But extras, such as the agent conducting the viewings for you, are likely to cost more.”
- When do you have to pay? – “With some agents you will need to pay an upfront fee (meaning you have to pay even if you don’t sell your property). Some will let you defer payment, but you may still face a fee even if you’re property doesn’t sell. You may also have to enter into a credit agreement with the firm. Companies that allow you to only pay on completion will often charge more for this option.”
- How long will they market my property for? “Packages can be time-limited, for example 10 or 12 months, rather than your property continuing to be marketed until it sells.”
Whilst there are some clear benefits of using online agents, the list of cons seems to outweigh this, and the public should do some good research in order to make an informed decision.
Advantages of Online agents
- Generally have low fees
- Convenient and flexible for consumers
- Gives the vendors the freedom to use multiple other agents.
Disadvantages of Online agents
- A lack of local knowledge - “even online agents with regional reps could struggle to compete with a high street agent who knows your neighbourhood and its property market inside out”
- Sellers using some firms having to manage their own negotiations and viewings
- Paying up front, saying: “If you opt for this type of package, you won’t be paying on results. In fact, you’ll have to pay even if that company doesn’t end up selling your house.”
The consumer group goes on to interrogate the selling price, noting that flat fee agents have less incentive to get the best possible price. “That said, they have reputations to maintain, and many companies claim they usually achieve the desired asking price” the blog adds.