BLOG: Britain’s homeowners – A nation of property experts?

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A new breed of online estate agents may be able to help homeowners save thousands of pounds while also giving expert advice, argues Ben Grove.

There can be no doubt that property sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla have had an incredible impact on the way homes are bought and sold. Not only are potential purchasers able instantly to view all the photos, floorplans and information they need, but they can compare prices at a glance and easily track online how much a property is bought, sold and marketed for, as well as how long it takes for property to sell. As a result homes undergo a rigorous selection process before a viewing has even been booked and in the past, much of this work may have been done by an estate agent.

With this in mind, and today’s easy access to internet and high definition cameras, it is not surprising we are seeing increasing numbers of vendors wanting to see how much of the selling process they can complete themselves. However, they hit a stumbling block when they need to access expert legal and marketing advice normally provided by estate agents. This is where many sellers return to the safety of the traditional high street estate agent, but the tide is turning.

Recognising that homeowners are keen to avoid paying commission-based estate agents fees, a number of online estate agents have been formed. But in order to cut the cost there is very little face-to-face assistance or legal advice provided by online agents during the sales process, leaving some homeowners uneasy.

So what’s the answer? Homeowners need a hybrid that will bridge the gap between online and traditional estate agents: something that gives homeowners the expertise and face-to-face assistance of a traditional estate agent, but with the low cost options of the online estate agent, allowing the owner to take as much or as little support as they require and ultimately, putting the power in their hands.

That said, many sellers still prefer to distance themselves from the process entirely and enlist the support of a local agent. In this case, it is certainly advisable to ensure not only that the chosen agent has a sound local knowledge, but that they are well equipped with the small details that will help to sell a home. For example, the different ways space can be used, the aspects that make it a fantastic home and its unique qualities.

Selling and moving home is often said to be one of the most stressful things you can do in life, and having an expert to support the process can be reassuring. But having to pay large estate agent fees can make it even more stressful. With more alternatives becoming available, the traditional, more prescriptive estate agency service is beginning to fall out of favour.

After all, as a final thought, 95% of enquiries a traditional high street agent receives do in fact come from online, so why not challenge the conventional way of selling a home and save money?

Ben Grove is managing director of a new online, fixed fee estate agency.

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