The Definitive Guide to Online Estate Agents
With the rise of the online estate agent, there has been a lot of confusion as to what an online estate agent actually is, how they fit into the industry and even what they actually even do.
Why We Wrote This Guide
This is why we wrote this guide – to give you, the property buyer or seller, the information as to what an online estate agent is and how they can help you.
The good news is, as the internet merges more and more into our daily lives it has never been easier to sell your house or get so much information to equip you on your property journey. This trend also looks set to continue for many years to come.
There are plenty of people to talk to about online estate agents, with many opinions. From books, videos, blog posts etc there is so much out there covering all sides of the arguments, but what we felt people needed is a comprehensive break down that covers all aspects of the online estate agents world and the differences with already established ways to sell your house. This is where The Definitive Guide to Online Estate Agents comes in.
Who This Guide Is For
This guide is for people looking to sell or currently selling a property or even buyers looking at property and in need for some guidance. Most of all we want you to come away with confidence knowing what an online estate agent does and how it’s going to help you.
Chapter 1 – The history of online estate agents
Before the internet, buying or selling a property had a very different approach. The process was slow, and you’d have to physically get the local paper or drive to the estate agents office jotting down the For Sale Boards you saw on your way. It was slow and time consuming.
When property portals arrived in the late 90’s early 2000’s, things started to take a turn. Buyers had a handful of websites they could access properties from and now begin to access them from the comfort of their own home. At this point a very small number of online estate agents began to pop up, although the service was very sporadic and basic.
Fast forward to today and the industry is vastly different and changing at a rapid rate. Property search is no longer trial and error and weeks of planning. With the availability of smart phones and tablets you can now look and apply to see multiple properties anywhere and at anytime. The future it seems, is even more freedom for the buyers and sellers.
Online estate agents have been around longer than many people think, with some online estate agents
starting up as early as 2000, offering customers low fees to sell their property, although it wasn’t until about 2010 that online estate agents really started to get some coverage and people began to really see what they could offer. Albeit a little slower than the success of the travel industry, the affect has been much like that of the travel agents of the 90’s when customers realised they could get holidays online a lot cheaper than through a high street travel agent.
Chapter 2 – How does an online estate agent work?
So we now know where they come from and how they have evolved into the force they are today, how do they work? There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors around the property industry on how properties are bought and sold. In this section we hope to blow some of the myths away as there really is no major difference in terms of service level compared to a traditional estate agent, but some huge benefits on the money you could save.
A typical good quality online estate agent runs from a central location and has estate agents that work for the company in key locations around the country. From the central location you’ll have a property manager you to organise the day to day things including dealing with most of the aspects of your sale, coordinating from the viewings all the way to completion.
One common myth is you’re not allowed to visit this central location. This is just a myth and a good quality online estate agent will be more than willing to welcome you in to their central office should you want to visit.
The agent in your area will be trained and have expertise in taking good property pictures, drafting floors plans and taking down all the key features of your property. Many times their job will be to make sure all the relevant details are taken of the property ready for the advert to be built.
When you decide to sell your property with an online estate agent you will typically go through the following journey:
- Property Valuation
- Property Home Visit – Pictures, Floor Plan, Property Details
- Advert Build & Check
- Going Live & Marketing
- Performance Reports
- Booking Viewings
- Getting Offers
- Agreeing to Sale
- Ongoing Sale
As you can see there’s not really much difference in the way an online estate agent works compared to a traditional estate agent. Many common questions online estate agents get asked is “How are you different to traditional estate agents?” The truth is, there is not a lot of difference! A lot of online estate agents are actually ex-traditional estate agents that have seen the way the industry is progressing and want to add value and help their customers. The main difference is mostly the price, with the average high street estate agent charging anywhere between 1-4% of the sale price (they could be as high as £10k depending on your property value)compared to the average online estate agent of just £500.
Chapter 3 – How are valuations done?
Different to what many people believe (or some estate agents will tell you) Property Valuations are not an exact science; they are more of a estimation based on many types of data and the more data you have the closer you can make this estimation to what buyers may be willing to pay. No matter what anyone tells you unless they are the buyers themselves no one can tell you exactly what you WILL get for your home. Why’s this you ask? Because fundamentally the property industry is driven by emotions the emotions of people, what is one persons dream home maybe someone’s worst nightmare and so a buyer will only pay at the of the day what they personally feel the property is worth in their own eyes.
As an online estate agent we get asked daily for property valuations and ideas on how much a vendor may achieve on the open market all the time. One thing that confuses many people is how we perform the valuations.
The data available from portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla can give vendors a very good grasp of what their property is likely to achieve before even seeing an estate agent. Being online, a lot of these online estate agents compile expansive reports into the data of an area, looking at comparables, past sales, properties that have recently sold, and number of buyers registered in an area etc.
All of this data builds a good picture of what you’re likely to achieve on the open market. Have you ever had an estate agent give you a value on your property before walking around to take a look? The truth is they are probably telling you something you already knew and they got this from the same database every other estate agent is also using.
If you’re looking to value your home here are just some of the things you should look at:
- When was the last property sold in your street/area?
- When was the last property sold that was similar to yours? Same bedrooms, receptions etc
- How long was the property on the market for?
- What is the average price for properties selling which are similar to yours?
- What was the condition of the property like compared to yours?
A lot of the time it’s good to find a range to work from. For example what is the highest your likely to get for your property and what is the bottom figure you would accept for the property? From this range you can work out what you might be likely to achieve and even if it’s worth selling at the current moment.
If you are looking for a valuation report you can get one from our Valuation team, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our staff can help, or you can simply fill out the form on our valuation page here.
Chapter 4 – Property Visits
A good online estate agent will be able to visit your property. This visit is not only a legal requirement but also a great chance to meet the estate agent and also imperative to create a good property advert to give you the best chance of making a good first impression when marketing.
Every agent works different and has his/her own way they like to work through the visit but typically an agent will start by walking through each room just writing down some of the key features of the house and getting a feel for the layout. The details will be added to the text of the advert and if relevant included into some of the properties features.
Once the details have been taken the next step will be to draft a floor plan. Floor plans are an essential
piece of marketing content for your property. They show the properties overall layout as well as dimensions of each room. This means buyers can see how the layout of a property may look for them before even having the viewing, meaning they’ll be more prepared to make an offer when they actually see the property. The agent will walk through the house sketching out the layout and measuring all the individual rooms. This also helps them get a feel for the property and scope out some good angles to choose later on when pictures are taken.
Once the floor plan has been done and any adjustments are made the next step is to take the property pictures. At this point the agent will have a pretty good idea of where to take the property pictures and will start from where they feel best. Pictures are important for first impressions, helping the buyer get a feel for the property. The golden rule tends to be more pictures the better although some property portals have restrictions of up to 20 photos that can be uploaded.
Are you looking to show more than just standard Pictures and Floor Plans to your property adverts? Online estate agents are able to offer other marketing features such as:
- 3D floor Plans
- Property Videos
- 360 Tours
If you want to know more about the marketing features that are available to your property to stand out from the crowd you can contact us at email@example.com or call us at 0800 228 9012.
Chapter 5 – How do the fees work?
How does an online estate agent help you get the most from your property sale? It mostly comes down to fees. Where as a traditional high street estate agent can charge fees typically in the region of 1-4%, an online estate agent can do the same from an average of only £449! We know of people who have spent £10,000 on fees when selling their home through traditional percentage fees. To us and many online estate agents this is a lot of money that simply doesn’t have to be spent.
For example, say you sold your home and paid a fee of £3000 to an estate agent, you may feel you had a good deal, but you notice that a neighbour has signed up with online estate agent and their fee is just £449. If you both sold for £200K, this would mean your neighbour made £2,550 more money than you on their property sale. Think what you could do with that £2,550! To some it may be more than a month’s wages and a much needed bonus.
So how does an online estate agent charge such low fees? The simple truth is technology has moved on so much that estate agents have been able to cut operating costs whilst keeping the same service level or in some cases increasing the service level. With this decrease in operating costs online estate agents have made the decision to give customers more flexibility by charging lower fees. As you can see in previous sections of this article the service level has changed very little even though the saving is so large.
To online estate agents this is important and for every property sold under this model is one vote towards online. That’s not to say we don’t believe traditional estate agents don’t offer a good value service. There are some ludicrously over priced estate agents out there and many would agree customer service has been lacking over the years. However in a lot of cases we believe some traditional estate agents do offer a good quality service and are worth the added expense but you need to ask yourself the following question when choosing an estate agent to market your home. Is the service level that you will be getting worth the added expense?
Chapter 6 – Where will an online estate agent market my house?
Property marketing has never been so effective and available to so many buyers at one time. With the advancement of the internet and smart phones the availability of information at your finger tips customers can look for properties in any location with internet signal all over the country. Love them or hate them property portals area powerful tool to find a dream home. One of the key factors that contribute to a struggling sale is if your property is not being advertised on the UK’s leading property portals. Currently the top property portals are Zoopla and the old faithful Rightmove. These property portals gain over 90% of buyer searches online every month, meaning for every month you’re not on one or both of these you losing buyers!
In 2014 a portal called onthemarket was launched by a conglomerate of estate agents, with the terms for joining this brand spanking new portal, that they must ditch either Rightmove or Zoopla! A lot of estate agents bought into this new portal and in doing damaged their own property marketing efforts. Essentially what they did was stop advertising their properties to 90% of the UK’s buyers so they could make larger profits. As online estate agents we thought this was a crazy move that does not benefit the customer in the slightest. If you’re interested a quick Google search will show how this project is beginning to fail with a lot of estate agents ditching onthemarket now they realise selling times have gone up. The article here is a good one to get you started
Online estate agents operate nationally. This means they pick up buyers not just from your local area but across the UK. If an online estate agent is getting registrations from buyers in Cardiff they will also be getting buyers registering to move to from all over the UK. People are commuting longer and longer distances and so it’s imperative that you find an estate agent not only that operates in the local area but is also able to find buyers outside of this area too. This is where the online estate agents come in very handy.
Aside from this online estate agents are also able to use marketing tools of a more traditional nature. Do you want some brochures made up? They can do this. Would you like a leaflet distribution around the local area? They can do this too. Online estate agents will also send out property alerts to existing registered buyers as well as call people that are present on their database.
Not forgetting curb appeal, if a FOR SALE board outside your property is what you want a good online estate agent will be able to provide this. Estate agent boards are a great way to increase buyer enquiries and teamed with the UK’s largest portals and other advertising features you have the makings of a good quality marketing mix.
For an added bonus the Rightmove and Zoopla offer Premium and Featured listing upgrades to your property advert to make sure it can be seen be even more people. Featured and Premium listings get on average 30% more buyer enquiries than standard listings. For more information on these portal features you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0800 2289012 to discuss how they could help you sell that little bit quicker.
Chapter 7 – During the Sale
The Property Manager
A good online estate agent will always provide you with your own property manager. During times while a property is on the market (especially during the sales process) things can escalate and get complicated quite quickly, that’s why it’s important to make sure you have someone who knows the process and knows you personally. Just like a traditional estate agent, you can call this property manager for all things property related, whether it’s advice on the sale, an update from solicitors or even advice on buyer in your next property.
Viewings are available
Yes it’s true! Just like a traditional estate agent online estate agents CAN do viewings. The common myth is that online estate agents can’t do viewings and never will. Although they may not directly advertise this it’s always worth asking the question if they can offer viewings in your area. Some may charge on a cost per viewing basis, some may charge as a set number of viewings, others may include it in the price it all depends on the type of online estate agent.
What if you want to do your own viewings? This is usually part of the standard package of online estate agents and in fact when property vendors perform their own viewings, a lot of the time this sees a better quality transaction of the sale. The reason for this is when the vendor gets to meet the buyers and exclude the middle man it allows both parties to get to know each other a bit better understanding of the requirements of the sale and everyone’s motivations. This can stop sales falling through over poor communication and speed up the sale process as a whole.
Negotiating the Sale
We sometime get the old line of “but my local estate agent negotiates on my behalf”. Well so do online estate agents. A good online estate agent will negotiate on your behalf and will try just as hard to get you the maximum for your property so that you can come away with more money from the sale. An art form in itself, some vendors don’t like the added pressure of negotiating directly with a buyer, that’s why we will always handle this part of the process for you.
Another myth commonly expressed is online estate agents just advertise your property and leave you once Sold STC. This is completely false. The good online estate agents out there know once you’ve accepted an offer the sale has only just began. During the sale many hiccups and situations can rise up that need attention quickly. Although at this point the actual sale is in the hands of the solicitors and their legal team online estate agents can help out to push the sale forward and work to the common goals of the vendor and buyer.
The unfortunate situation with traditional 9-5 opening hours is most buyers are still at work and want to make offers when they get home after 5pm. If your estate agent can’t answer the phone to place an offer, you’re interested buyers may be also searching other properties and find something else.
Operating from a central location, many online estate agents offer a 24 hour policy, so if you feel the need to call up at 3am you can actually get to speak to someone. A lot of online estate agents will perform business opening hours of 8am until 8pm where the day to day things can get done. They will usually switch to a skeleton staff after this time where you can speak to someone and pass the message on to your property manager for the next day. This means that you never miss an offer. If a buyer calls up at 7:30 pm and wants to make an offer you can expect to know about it that evening.
Chapter 8 – Where we are today and the future of online estate agents
As the online world merges more and more with the real world, online estate agents are going to be more important than ever. Today, online estate agents are growing in the industry daily. As the benefits are being shown time and time again more and more people are deciding to choose the online method of selling a property over more traditional ways.
With every sale being conducted through an online estate agent comes another vote for using the online methods. The future of the online estate agent model is projected for strong growth over the coming years. As this growth continues we anticipate the good agents will start to use technology more and more to sell properties in ways that have never been seen before. Property marketing presentations will become more and more in depth where people will be able to view properties from the comfort of their living room before deciding if they like the place or not. Have you ever heard of the Oculus Rift? Although this will never substitute actually looking around a property this is just one of the ways you could view a property in the future.
The future for estate agency is an exciting chapter for everyone. Over the next few years we look set to push the boundaries of how properties are bought and sold and see many changes take effect. Some of these things will fall by the way side while others will flourish. Online estate agency has proved it has the longevity and can even change the industry for the better.
So that concludes the definitive guide to online estate agents. We hope it helped you learn a little more about what an online estate agent does and how they can help you. There’s much confusion with online estate agents compared to traditional and a lot of assumptions. In a nutshell the main aim for any estate agent is to sell your home for the price you want. Online estate agents do this by using the latest technology resources to cut operating costs and then pass these savings down to customers.
Do you have any ideas on how to get more value from your home? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Zevizo Properties was formed as a traditional estate agent and after seeing the value it could add to customer’s lives made the risky transition to the online model. It’s been a bumpy road but we always stay true to our focus of trying to get the customer the maximum amount possible for their home. Whether it’s through the fee, or the negotiations, or our marketing efforts, it’s our thought process that if we can help you come away with more money on the completion of the sale then our objective was complete.
Are you looking for a valuation on your property or just interested in how many buyers are available? CLICK HERE to find out more.