With house prices inevitably affected by a string of interest-rate hikes, the outlook for the UK’s property market remains potentially uncertain. So it’s perhaps not surprising that many who are looking to buy, sell, rent or let out a property may be tempted to cut corners and save money by using an online estate agent. And with some web-based operators running seductive national TV advertising campaigns, they can seem quite appealing.

But, actually, for a number of reasons, if you need to move, or let out a flat our house, it’s more important than ever that you opt for an established High Street agent, even if, on the face of it, web-based operators seem enticingly cheaper than their bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

Here’s why:

  • Local knowledge

The benefit of extensive local knowledge really sets the two types of estate agent apart. A High Street estate agent will know the market in its area in detail, meaning you’re far more likely to be quoted a realistic valuation based on actual experience. (At Oakfield, for example, we’ve been working in our neck of the woods for years. There’s honestly nothing we couldn’t tell you about property values in East Sussex.)

Not only that, but agents with physical premises will also have access to a pool of prospective purchasers keen and ready to view properties just like yours, so you’ll be put in front of potential buyers a lot more quickly.

Moreover, a High Street business will have working relationships with local solicitors, and frequently also with those working for your buyer. This can make things run more smoothly and quickly all round. It’s also something their online counterparts are rarely able to offer.

  • Securing a top price for your property

If your agent fails to secure the optimal result for you, any potential savings on their fee is just a false economy. And while estate agents’ fees can seem initially high, they’re insignificant in the context of the overall sums of a property purchase. What’s more, if you involve a skilled negotiator, the fees can pay themselves. Additionally, things are likely to move much faster with a High Street agent, who will have a good personal understanding of your situation.

Online agents are not always the best at negotiating on price, meaning you could end up having to put up with an offer with which you are less than satisfied, and which is less than could have been realised elsewhere. And with most web-based agents working for a fixed fee, there is simply no reason for them to push to get a better deal for you. But local agents tend to work on commission, and so sharp and successful negotiation is in their best interests as well as yours.

  • Service provided

Use a local agent like Oakfield and we’ll take you to every viewing and carry out basic checks to eliminate timewasters. With an online operator, you’ll need to do all that yourself.

With a geographical agent, you’ll have a dedicated account manager who knows your individual situation and property. But most online agents work from a call centre, so you could find yourself talking to someone different every time, with people working from notes.

That may not necessarily be a problem if your sale proceeds in a nice, trouble-free way. But if there is anything less straightforward about it, you may find yourself going through the issues each time you make contact.

  • Price

Online agents can certainly seem your cheapest bet. After all, these agencies have no overheads. Meanwhile, High Street operators typically charge a percentage of the final sales fee. But is it really as simple as that?

There are a number of reasons why it probably isn’t. Firstly, online agents frequently expect upfront payment, or at least a commitment to paying later, even if you don’t sell your home.

What’s more, you may discover that you only get that cut-price deal if you agree to buy other services, like conveyancing. You may not wish to do this, yet you could face a stiff penalty if you don’t.

You may also find that the fee only covers basic services, so you may need to shell out for ‘extras’ which we’d consider all part of the service, such as photos, accompanied viewings and so on. Indeed, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld some complaints related to the lack of fairness and transparency in the claims of some agents working exclusively online.

  • What about performance?

While consumer champion Which? did find that web-based agencies performed slightly better on a couple of points, it also found that High Street agents generated a better price, while securing more bookings, viewings and offers.

Oakfield says

Clearly, choosing the agency to conduct such a lifechanging business is a highly personal choice. And if you feel confident showing people your property and negotiating your own deal, an online agent may work. But if you’re busy, or don’t feel happy navigating your way through such an important transaction, a local professional may well be a better bet. Equally, as with anything else, it’s always a good idea to shop around first.

At Oakfield, we’ve been helping people buy, sell, rent and let out every conceivable type of property across East Sussex since the 1990s. With offices in Eastbourne, Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea, we’ve helped thousands of people make their move, and we could help you, too. Give us a call today, click here for our contact details.