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Self Service or High Street?

For most people their home is the most expensive asset they will ever sell. There are now 2 ways to sell – traditionally with a high street agent or online.

Nowadays people’s first port of call when looking for a new home is on the internet. To enable you to advertise your home on one of the property portal sites, such as Rightmove and OntheMarket, you will need the services of an estate agent.

Estate agency, nowadays, comes in 2 forms. The traditional agent with a high street presence or the online agent.

If you use a traditional high street agent you won’t have to pay any fees upfront. Payment to them is made on completion of your sale. They will book your viewings, negotiate with potential purchasers and when your property is sold “subject to contract” progress the sale for you through the legal and financial channels. High street agents will have a variety of ways to market properties and may, as in the case of Andrew Grant, require their staff to obtain relevant industry qualifications and offer on-going training.

Online agents offer a “self-service” method of selling your home. There is an up-front payment whether they manage to sell your property or not. Some offer credit facilities on their fees via third parties. Customers have an online profile so they can check the feedback and progress of their sale. However, if you are not computer literate and do not use email it would be very difficult to sell with them.

Online agents promise huge savings for consumers with the same, or better service, than the high street agent. But, is this the case? And, does the old adage you get what you pay for apply?

PurpleBricks, is one of the online market leaders. It employs "local experts" across the country who work from home on an online platform to help their customers sell their property. They value the houses, take photos, draw up floorplans and create an advert which is listed on the property portals.

PurpleBricks current fee is typically about £849, or £1,199, for those selling in and around London. If you want accompanied viewings that’s an additional £300.

Although their fees are cheap, there is no incentive for them to get the best price for your property as the upfront payment has already been banked. A High Street agent will work on a commission based sale so it is in their best interests to get the best price possible.

To sell a property it needs to be marketed at an achievable price and one of the key factors in valuing a property is knowledge of the local housing market. Although online agents can employ “local property experts” the areas they cover can be vast making a valuation more difficult. Land Registry records may also be used but these are three months out of date.

Property buying agent Henry Pryor, speaking to the BBC, pointed out that 20% of all of the properties on Rightmove have been on sale for six months or more.

That means if they are advertised with companies such as Yopa, eMoov and PurpleBrick, the fee has been paid without the home being sold.

So, sellers using online agents find it cheaper, but only if they manage to sell. Otherwise they have, in effect, joined a very expensive listing site.

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