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So, what about Estate Agents in the UK today? My little soap box moment!

Many of us, especially the 50-somethings will understand the ups and down of the property market and will all have had some dealings with a traditional high street agent but, in broad terms, what does an agent do and why are they now ‘online’?!

Firstly, let me announce that I’m a property professional – although what that means, I’m not entirely sure! Perhaps it’s my experience that counts, my qualifications or a combination of both! It appears that my reputation is not based on the number or expense of any accreditations, membership, affiliations with bodies set up to maintain a standard within estate agency who are there to encourage training and the upholding of legal requirements; nor is it based on paying to be accountable for the data I hold, registering for money laundering checks and keeping extensive insurance. Apparently, a good reputation depends on how many properties are advertised with my own branding online, or how many high street branches I own and not necessarily how many times I’ve helped someone achieve their property-related goal.

Julia in action!

A little help goes a long way.

An estate agent, as defined by Wikipedia, is: A person or business that arranges the selling, renting or management of properties, and other buildings, in the United Kingdom and Ireland. An agent that specialises in renting is often called a letting or management agent. Estate agents are mainly engaged in the marketing of property available for sale and a solicitor or licensed conveyancer is used to prepare the legal documents. In Scotland, however, many solicitors also act as estate agents, a practice that is rare in England and Wales.

The alternative description would be to say that an estate agent is someone with local knowledge, a competitive fee, and a resolute approach to driving the highest price which is happy coincidence as these are the qualities of the well versed home owner who is, by today’s measures, more than competent to sell their own home.

This is where the online sites come in – eMOOV, HouseSimple, Purple Bricks, SellmyHome, I am the Agent, Tepilo, Urban, 121Move, YOPA, House Network, Hatched and, now, easy Property – each one created in the naughties and are all doing well thanks to the power of the internet and mobile phones.

Not one of these on-line property agents have been able to challenge the search engine supremacy of Rightmove and Zoopla and it seems the on-line agents all need to use them to survive. A new listing site, On The Market, designed and launched in 2015 to undermine these two masters but is only supported by an elite group of agents and hence will never really be a direct competitor. Similarly, PrimeLocation, Need a Property and others struggle to keep up or overtake the popularity of Rightmove and Zoopla.

Home owners, regardless of their property prowess, are bound to use one of these two international platforms via their agent in order to attract any buyer from anywhere in the world to their little home in some remote corner of the UK. Newspaper, signage, social media, and word of mouth are now less likely to produce the buyer than ever before, especially as we are all so internet savvy its easier to look at our phone and check Rightmove than to go to the shop, buy a paper and flick to the right page!

It still amazes me that buyers don’t even think to check the high street agent’s website even though the Zoopla/Rightmove ads clearly say which is the selling agent; whether it be the online or high street agent. Instead, the buyer calls or emails via the Zoopla/Rightmove site and consequently becomes logged as ‘their’ customer and thereby adding fuel to the fire.

Having recently approached both major listing sites to see if my little one-man-band could advertise the few properties I had for sale it was clear that the pricing was way above my capacity. Ironically, on careful examination of the on-line agents available I could see that working with them instead of against them would be the most cost effective path. Big high street estate agents that can afford the upfront fees do benefit from using Zoopla or Rightmove but only if they can list a good number of properties and at the same time charge the seller a fee of 1% or more (i.e., an average £250,000 property would be paying £2,500)

Then I realised that the online agents are being even more clever than the majority of high street agents – they don’t just use one of the big boys, they list on both! They also invest in links via some of the many other property portals and link into many social media networks. They also run advertising in traditional media and thereby increased the numbers of buyers and vendors using their service.

Why as an agent or a vendor would I want to choose just Rightmove or just Zoopla – or a high street agent that only uses one site – when I can have it all for less, and better still have a team of people check that my information is correct and appropriate whilst offering support from local professionals such as myself in an all-inclusive price much lower than the average 1.5%.

Whilst this is great news for the vendor, for me personally I regret that my new company is still small, my branding is little known and I haven’t achieved a fraction of the recognition that the high street agents command. Indeed, this is a small price to pay to know that I can help a home owner sell their home cost efficiently by simply assisting them to list their property or help them manage a repair or renovation that will greatly improve the value of their home. Some even choose to rent instead of sell.

From as little as £9 a week a property can be out in the ether within 48 hours of instruction – and, most importantly, you get to choose the best online agent for your personal circumstances with free guidance from Home Cornwall. A complex or sizeable property will need add-on extras, but at least this way you know what you are buying and not just expecting the world from a fixed percentage.

Best of all you should have an amount of money saved that can be invested in home improvements or essential repairs to make your property even more saleable.

If you would like completely independent and free advice, please do call me and find out what your choices really are for selling, managing or improving. Thank you for reading – let me know what you think below!

(2) Comments

  1. Home Cornwall

    on   said 

    Since writing this article my own experience of online agents has changed somewhat. I was working with one in particular as a ‘photographer’ but as such I was acting as the ambassador for this online property marketeer. Indeed, I was being asked to do more and more for the customer as this is what the customer required, of course. So essentially, I was a local estate agent, not a ‘photographer’. Now I work with both online and traditional. Lately, my hat goes off to PDQ Estates in Helston who work with a very clear ethos, MAP Estate Agency, who have knocked a few of the high street agents off their pedestal. Also, I have to mention Laskowski of Falmouth for their customer service, Hus of Truro for just being slick, and Bradleys for being so persistent! I am sure there are others… I hope to meet them soon.


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