Online vs Traditional

Online vs Traditional

Belvoir’s Head of Franchise Recruitment, Andy Smith discusses the current trend in online estate agents and answers some common questions such as; are they a threat to the traditional agent?

I am often asked about online estate agents and what threat they represent to the traditional market. It’s a very good question and it’s important to understand why there has been a rise in internet-only agents.

So, firstly why are we seeing these companies become more prevalent? The easy answer is that the technology now exists when it didn’t before and the market on a whole is simply evolving. People are expecting a service that can now be offered for a lower price because of the advances in technology. This is coupled with our desire to save money, when someone tells you that they will sell your house and charge you £0000’s it is natural to wonder if you can get that figure reduced elsewhere.

You could use the promotional saying that “every little helps” and with some products I think this is very true.  However, with a ‘service’ I think that the saying “buy cheap, buy twice” has more relevance.

Technology has improved and continues to do so, but, the basic concept of customer service hasn’t. Rightmove and Zoopla are the portals that everyone has used at some point when buying a house, they are solely internet based. They are very accessible and easy to use and much more convenient than popping down to the High Street to look in a window.  In fact, in my many years in estate agency I cannot recall more than 1 house that I ever sold from someone simply looking in the agents’ window.

The point here is that this is not how you buy or sell a house, Rightmove and Zoopla are just tools, albeit very useful and now pretty much indispensable, but, tools all the same.

The initial personal contact with an agent is priceless. When a house comes on the market, and in many instances before it comes on the market, if you are registered with a good estate agent they will be calling you and arranging for you to view it. A good agent will have prospects waiting for properties before you even put your home on the market.

You simply can’t do this online.

If you aren’t registered you won’t be contacted.  If you aren’t contacted you may never get the chance to see the property.  From the sellers point of view an opportunity to sell your property immediately is sometimes invaluable, and if speed isn’t important, the feedback you receive at this stage will allow you to gauge the two principal factors of price and time much more effectively.

There is nothing more soul destroying than putting a property on the market and waiting whilst it sits there and slowly over time you reduce the price again and again. This is where one of the key differences between online and traditional exists.  You pay an online Agent up front to ‘list’ the property.  You pay a traditional Agent when they successfully sell the property for you. The technology change therefore helps to display the property conveniently, but certainly doesn’t help the sales process.

It’s an unusual scenario, who would ever pay a salesman on the promise of selling something rather than after they have sold it? Where is their incentive to get the best result for their customer, when they have already gained the best result for themselves?

A good negotiator calls hundreds of people a week, arranges and conducts viewings, manages negotiations and expectations from both parties and of course chases solicitors to keep them to timescale. If you haven’t employed a number of these key staff members in each location, because it simply doesn’t work on a call centre basis, how do you manage the best result for your client, the seller? How do you adapt to their changes in timescale and needs?

When the sale has been agreed who do both the buyer and seller celebrate with? Come on admit it, have you ever hugged an Estate Agent?  I used to get hugged all the time because of how happy my clients were on both sides of the process and it clearly wasn’t because I’m pretty!

Basically in my view, if all you want to do is list a property for sale and pay as little as possible then online is the way for you.

However, if you want to enter into a sales process that takes into account your needs and adjusts to them over time, to ensure that you achieve the right price at the right time, please use a traditional agent.

We are not yet at a point where we can dispense with the human factor in such a service-based industry. That time may come, but, given the reliance on the interaction with people to look after you and obtain the best result for all concerned, we simply aren’t ready for that just yet.

Belvoir is an award-winning estate and lettings agency with over 200 successful offices around the U.K.  If you would like to talk about being our next success story, please call us on 01476 570000 or email us on

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