Walton on Thames


The recent increase in the number of online Estate Agencies has been a matter of some debate in the property industry. Today we feature a guest blog by David Mintz of Normie & Co., a traditional Agency based in Manchester. Here at James Neave, we echo David’s findings.


Cheap as Chips


In 2007, Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft, famously said in an interview "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." The rest, as they say, is history.


The lesson to business people everywhere is never to underestimate your competition and never dismiss new innovations as fads that will never catch on.


In the property industry, it’s fair to say that love us or hate us, Estate Agents are part and parcel of any house sale. So what of the rise of the online Estate Agent? What does this mean for the market in general and what does this mean for you, the consumer?


Online Estate Agents have been around for a few years now, offering a cut price option to market your property. Depending on the company you choose and the package you opt for, they offer different levels of marketing and in most cases leave you to do most of the work yourself.


These express-style agencies offer a minimal amount of personal contact, most of the calls being routed through call-centres and staffed by "local property experts" who actually live several miles away and have never had occasion to visit your neighbourhood previously. But hey, who cares right, it’s cheap?


Well the saying "you only get what you pay for" has never been more apt. The online reviews for one online agency struggled to attain more than a one out of five scoring, and those reviews are numerous. A typical review that sums up their customer's feelings stated "Save yourself the heartbreak and headache, and invest your money in a proper Estate Agent. Online Agencies take your money and then couldn't care less, a terrible service."


Based on what we hear, it’s tempting to have a Steve Ballmer moment and say that it will never catch on but with the amount of money being raised by some of these online Agents, it would appear that there is an appetite for this sort of cut-rate innovation - particularly in London where agency fees are likely to be much higher than the rest of the country.


Nothing can replace the personal touch


Locally, there is still no replacement for your local Agent. Our offices are staffed by people who have been selling property for years, they live locally, shop locally and their children go to school locally. Practically, this means that they are able to offer advice to both sellers and prospective purchasers that is factual and helpful. When they are selling a house, they are very much selling an area and all the day to day things that people consider when moving home such as travelling distance to work, shops and of course schools.


The personal touch of fully accompanied viewings is an absolute must, as in addition to actively selling your property it adds a layer of professional separation between you and your buyer which most vendors love. With an online Agent, you will be left to do a lot of the viewings, negotiating and chasing all on your own. You might at first be comfortable with negotiating directly with your buyer, but as the relationship deepens will you still feel as comfortable when having to renegotiate a sale after issues are raised on a survey, for instance?


Selling a property is often not as straightforward as simply uploading it to the internet and hoping for the best. Whilst that remains the case, the traditional high street Estate Agent is here to stay. After all, you and your home are unique and the false economy of trying to sell your house online the same way you may sell a second-hand couch on EBay might well end up costing you a lot more in the long run. There's still value in a professional service provided by an Estate Agent that will work tirelessly to achieve the best for you and your property.


Our reviews speak for themselves. Before choosing your Agent, be it online or traditional, always ask for testimonials.