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It’s hard to imagine a world without the internet; it’s certainly brought many advances to how we access information and allows us to make informed decisions on important topics.  That, and watch entertaining videos of cats….


The advance of conducting business via the web has also affected the process of buying or selling property and the introduction of online estate agents has triggered the question of whether to use online or high street agencies.


There might be a common misconception amongst house sellers that in this digital age, a presence online is all that’s needed to sell a house.  In fact, depending on the service level that you opt for, you could find yourself conducting viewings, following up for feedback, negotiating with buyer solicitors, putting together and processing paperwork and legal documentation, all potentially whilst fitting this around full-time work.  There’s more to selling a house than simply generating initial interest.


Online companies promise to revolutionise the market and there’s no denying that their existence has created healthy competition in which established high street agencies have evaluated their business offering and services provision in order to stay ahead of the game.  However, there’s something to be said for an established business with multiple avenues for promoting your sale.


BBC Television show Watchdog exposed allegations towards an online estate agency which revealed the company had gotten itself in trouble with regulators, with the Advertising Standards Authority stating that the company is "likely to mislead" their customers about payment terms meaning that sellers who did not pore over the small print could find themselves out of pocket.


During Watchdog's investigation, the BBC found that sellers who defer their payment over 12 months to an online company were entering a credit agreement or loan, something that the company did not tell three out of five of their sellers during the show. Essentially, this ensures the online estate agent gets paid even if the property doesn't sell.  Most high street agents’ terms will be on a no sale no fee basis, meaning they only receive an agreed commission rate once they have seen the deal through to the completion which means they have a vested interest in tracking the entire process as opposed to handing over to you once a sale is agreed.


Without regular contact with an online agent, key events in the house sale process can be missed, with one example highlighted that a vendor’s purchaser had withdrawn from the deal, causing the entire chain to collapse! 


High street estate agents bring the value of essential knowledge of local areas when discussing a purchaser’s requirements, whereas online agencies often use centralised call centres to deal with enquiries and requests to view which can be off-putting to potential viewers, particularly if dealing with a long-distance relocation.  However, claims of someone being a ‘local property’ expert need defining as unless they are within a specific radius, they are "at risk of being in breach of Consumer Protection and Trading Regulations, and were also likely to be in breach of property Ombudsman regulations as well" said Paul Walsh (NAEA spokesman).


There are absolutely benefits to the services that online agents bring to the market but, call us biased, we’d recommend that you really do your research and make sure you read the small print regarding your responsibilities before signing up.  Better yet, pop in to any of our sales offices and we’ll talk you through the services we can offer to manage the entire process for you!