Online Estate Agents: Is Sticking to a Niche Preferable, or Should Agents Try to ‘Do it All’?

Online Estate Agents: Is Sticking to a Niche Preferable, or Should Agents Try to ‘Do it All’?

The traditional, high street estate agency is a staple of the modern business world and dates back hundreds of years. It is still often the first port of call for people considering selling their properties and moving on, although the rise of online estate agencies has changed the market considerably. Selling a home in the UK is expensive and while a fee of 1.5% or 1.75% sounds relatively low, the high asking prices of UK properties result in a fair amount of money changing hands.

The purely online model, however, allows sellers and buyers to spend far less on fees; if they themselves are prepared to put in more of the legwork. The entrance of these modern players to a centuries-old market was seismic at the time, with industry experts predicting more of a shift towards the online model than actually occurred. With the collapse of businesses such as Emoov and Tepilo in 2018, and Strike's purchase of Purple Bricks, does this indicate that the online model is falling out of favour?

Increased Industry Scrutiny

As a result of increased interest in these online estate agencies, it tends to translate to more intense media scrutiny when it doesn't work out. The Office for National Statistics states that 695 estate agency businesses folded between 2019 and 2023, indicating that much like most industries, there is risk involved regardless of the business model. It's also important to bear in mind that every business operates differently, with differing fee structures whether they operate solely online or adhere to the more traditional model.

However, despite the spotlight being trained on the online model and potential criticism, it's clear that it has a valuable place in the market. It is not intended to replace the traditional model; rather, its purpose is to offer sellers an alternative, more economical option. Since the first online estate agencies began operating, their share of the market has settled at around 5% and held steady, showing that there will always be interest in cost-cutting alongside quality customer service.

The Advantages of Online Estate Agencies

On the face of it, the main difference between the high street estate agency and the online model is the huge difference in fees. Online estate agencies list their properties on the most popular property portals such as Rightmove, which is the first port of call for buyers and sellers in today's society. Sellers also have the option to add extra features such as professional photography. If sellers are prepared to carry out viewings themselves, they can take back control of the sale of their property and drive it forward, for a much lower fee than that of a traditional agent.

Should Agencies Adopt a Hybrid Approach?

Hybrid agencies,combining the approach of the traditional agent and the online model, market themselves as offering the benefits of a traditional estate agency at the cost of an online agency. They may offer more options than online agencies, with agents providing viewing services and following up on feedback.

With online, hybrid and traditional agencies available, sellers have more choice than ever before when deciding how to market their property. However, all industries have players which attempt to 'do it all', and a desire to dominate more of the market has often led to businesses folding.

Agencies which have set themselves up as experts on all types of selling and subsequently collapsed may have ultimately forgotten what is most important; meeting buyers' and sellers' needs with outstanding customer service. Identifying a gap in the market and filling that gap with excellent service is far preferable to spreading a business too thin and expecting it to succeed.

Choosing the Right Estate Agent

Selling a property can be stressful and time-consuming, but sellers now have more choice than ever before when it comes to appointing an estate agent. It's important to do adequate research and identify the agents that will fulfil your needs, whether that's a company who can generate leads and interest, or one that offers a cost-effective, online service. However, the most crucial thing to do is find a responsive, helpful agency which primarily keeps its customers at the heart of everything it does.

If you are looking to sell and want an alternative to the costly fees charged by high street agencies as standard, coupled with excellent customer service, check out our selling services here.

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