Should you use an online estate agent?

Online estate agents offer eye-catchingly low prices, but are they really a better deal than the traditional versions? 

Online estate agents offer eye-catchingly low prices, but are they really a better deal than the traditional versions? 

Mark Gordon
From the Mortgages team
4
minute read
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Posted 19 FEBRUARY 2021

Looking to online estate agents to cut costs?

The current pandemic hasn’t put the UK off buying and selling homes. In fact, the number of residential property transactions in October 2020 was 8.1% higher than in October 2019, according to government figures.

But for many homeowners looking to sell, cost-saving is a priority. Traditional estate agent fees can make up a significant proportion of the cost of selling your home and many of us are looking to alternatives like online estate agents to help keep the costs down.

How do online estate agents work?

Like traditional estate agents, online estate agents market your property through popular online platforms like Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation, and sometimes their own listings too.

The big difference is that they don’t have physical branches you or your potential buyer can walk into for a chat with an agent. They work over the phone and online instead.

Online estate agents typically give you a more basic service than you get from a traditional agent. Arranging viewings or working with your conveyancing solicitor, for example, might not be included in the base price, but you may be able to pay extra to have them.

Many leading online firms are hybrid estate agents, offering a local property expert as well as an online service.

Online estate agents: pros and cons

Pros

  • The biggest advantage of online estate agents is that they tend to be much cheaper than traditional ones. Some don’t charge you at all and make their income from referral fees from other businesses.
  • You also get some flexibility on what you want to pay for. Rather than an all-in one package, you can choose to pay for only the parts of the service you need.
  • Many estate agents use a call centre or online chat service, which gives you access outside business hours.
  • Like traditional estate agents, online estate agents and lettings agents have to be registered with a government redress scheme – either The Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme.

Cons

  • Online agents work nationally, which means you won’t necessarily get the local expertise that a traditional agent can provide.
  • Valuations may be based on data, not on local knowledge of the market, which means they could be less accurate.
  • If the agent charges up-front or flat fees, they have less motivation to help you sell your home or to get you a good price.
  • You might spend more time and effort doing things like conducting viewings, negotiating with buyers and arranging photos and information for listings.

Things to think about before choosing an online estate agent

What’s included in the price?
Will you have to negotiate prices, write up the marketing description and show buyers around during viewings, for example? Exactly what online estate agents include in their prices can vary, so make sure you know what you’re getting before you compare prices.

When do you have to pay the fee?
Do you pay the fee up front or at the end of the process? If you’re paying up front, you won’t be able to change agents without losing money if the process is going badly and you’re not happy with the level of service you get.

Is it no-sale, no fee?
Traditional estate agents usually charge you once the sale is complete. Online estate agents may charge you regardless of whether the property is sold. That means if the process fails, you may end up paying another estate agent if you’re not getting anywhere with the first one.

Flat fee or percentage?
On the face of it, a flat fee looks more attractive. But the percentage is linked to the sale price of your home. If it means they get a higher fee, an estate agent may be more motivated to help you get a higher price.

UK online estate agents
Here’s a quick run-down of some popular UK online estate agents, including their fees** and the services they provide.

  • Purplebricks
    Basic fee
    : £999 (inc VAT) or £1,499 (inc VAT) in London
    Pay up front: optional
    Hybrid: yes
    Basic package: local property expert, professional photography, floor plans, advert, listings on Rightmove, Zoopla and other sites, call centre support.
  • Strike
    Basic fee: free
    Pay up front: N/A
    Hybrid: yes
    Basic package: local property expert, photography, floor plans, advert, listings on Rightmove, Zoopla and other sites, for sale sign, professional offer negotiation, call centre support.
  • emoov
    Basic fee: £249 up front then 0.5% fee on completion
    Pay up front: see above
    Hybrid: yes
    Basic package: dedicated property expert, professional photography, floor plans, advert, for sale board, listings on Rightmove, Zoopla and other sites, 24/7 call centre support, negotiation support, online dashboard.
  • Yopa
    Basic fee: two options available, from £999 and £1,399
    Pay up front: optional
    Hybrid: yes
    Basic package: local property expert, professional photography, floor plans, advert, for sale board, listings on Rightmove, Zoopla and other sites, 24/7 call centre support, negotiation support, online dashboard.

**Prices correct as of January 2021.

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