Selling Your House with an Online Estate Agent
In recent years, the majority of buyers start their property search by looking online. More recently, a small number of sellers are now looking to sell their home online. As of the fourth quarter of 2019, online agents had a market share of 7.9% of exchanges in the United Kingdom.
Not only is the process cheaper online than via a high street agent, but it can also be more convenient. With the internet accessible 24/7, the likelihood of your property being considered by a prospective buyer increases and could, in theory, mean a faster sale and many offers from buyers.
Compare My Move work with property and legal experts to bring you everything you need when it comes to selling your home. If you are looking to sell a house online, this guide will cover all the steps you need to take.
Choosing an Online Estate Agent
Choosing the right estate agent is crucial when selling a property. Online estate agents are usually much cheaper than traditional estate agents and are accessible - albeit only by email or telephone - for longer hours than a traditional high street agent
The main role of an estate agent includes valuing and marketing your property, but this will differ significantly between traditional and online estate agents. You are more likely to have to work as a seller to keep the process moving when selling your home online, so be prepared to be more hands-on. This includes negotiating, marketing and hosting viewings of the property.
Be aware that the cheapest online estate agents may not necessarily be the best, so make sure you research thoroughly before shortlisting. Take into account online third-party reviews and ask friends or relatives if they have any recommendations for reliable online estate agents in the UK.
Online property portals such as Rightmove or Zoopla are also a great way of finding some of the best online estate agents, but remember that these online property portals are not online estate agents.
Reputation and Experience
Compare agencies based on experience and reputation. Also look at their experience in selling your type and size of the property, as they will most likely be the best agent for your sale. Speak to family, friends and neighbours to see if they have any experience with the online estate agents you are considering.
Recent Online Estate Agent Reviews
Make sure you are looking at the most up-to-date reviews from third-party sites. This will give you a good idea of how reliable the estate agent is and whether they are right for you. The most recent reviews will give you a more accurate representation of how they currently operate.
The Right Accreditation
All estate agents, both online and high-street, are regulated by the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
They must also hold membership for either The Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme. Further voluntary accreditation include the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). Very exceptionally, an online agent may be in the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Advantages and Disadvantages
As mentioned above, there are some definite advantages to using an online estate agent, such as the potential to save money. However, there are some downsides to doing so that you should be aware of before proceeding.
Below we’ve compiled a table of the advantages and disadvantages of using an internet-based estate agent:
|Pros of online estate agents||Cons of online estate agents|
Potentially a cheaper option than an online estate agent
Not able to discuss anything face to face - communication is over the phone, email or online chat.
Likely to be more tech-savvy and able to utilise social media
Viewings may have to be conducted by the seller or as an additional charge if offered
As online estate agents can take a “hands-off” approach, giving you more control. You can market, host viewings and arrange your home, your way.
With regards to marketing, much of this may be left to the seller. You’ll need to work harder to keep the ball rolling.
Unlike traditional estate agents, online agents may be available outside set hours and of course, the internet is available 24/7 for potential buyers.
Online estate agents’ fees usually need to be paid upfront, so you will be paying these fees even if the property doesn’t sell.
Comparing and Shortlisting Agents
When it comes to shortlisting an estate agent, narrow your search to around three online estate agents. Prepare some questions to ask the estate agents to determine which one will be the right fit for you and your property sale.
Remember that most online agencies do not have people ‘in the field’ so they may not visit your home - instead, you will have to pitch questions electronically. This means communicating with your estate agent either via email or over the phone.s
Check the terms of their contract and their fees, paying close attention to what is and isn’t included as a standard before you sign the contract. This will avoid any confusion or unexpected fees along the way. You should also confirm their tie-in period in the event that you want to change estate agents further down the line.
Getting a Valuation
A downside of selling online is that a free online valuation is not always accurate and can often be a poor substitute for having a high-street estate agent value your home.
A traditional estate agent will value your home based on local knowledge, recent sales and on the property market in your area. That being said, an online valuation can give you an indication of where to start when it comes to pricing your home but it is likely they will not visit and will actually ask you to come up with an asking price.
It is possible to have your property valued by an independent property surveyor for £300-£400. A valuation report involves an inspection of the property undertaken by a RICS registered property surveyor. This can give you an indication of your property’s estimated value. You can do the research yourself, ensuring you use the most up-to-date market research for your area and type of house. Look at similar properties to yours that have sold recently nearby to get an idea of how much your house is worth.
How Will My Property Be Marketed?
When it comes to selling a property, good marketing is crucial. However, this may be limited when using an online estate agent and some or all of the marketing may be down to you.
From quality photographs to using social media, there are a number of ways to get your property in front of potential buyers. Below are a few suggestions for marketing your property successfully online:
High-street estate agents will arrange for professional photos to be taken and are included in their fees. Only a few online agents give an option to a seller to pay an additional fee for professional pictures, so it is likely to be down to you to get images or even a video via your mobile phone.
Both the set up of your home and the quality of the photographs can have a huge impact on the marketing of your home. If you are not confident in taking the pictures yourself, it may be worth hiring a professional. Keep in mind that this will add to the overall cost of selling a house.
With selling your house online, you can look to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise your property. An online estate agent may use this as a way of marketing your property which is ideal if they have a strong online following, but doing so yourself will increase the visibility of your property.
Sharing in specific groups and asking friends and family to share the post detailing your property for sale is a great way of ensuring your property listing is seen by as many people online as possible.
Having a property listed on the main property portals including Zoopla and Rightmove and newcomer, On the Market, is a great way to get your home noticed, increasing the amount of interest the property receives.
All three of these portals take online estate agents’ listings - but they do not take listings from individuals selling their own homes without the help of an online or traditional high street agent.
According to Property Price Advice, 94.8% of people use online property portals when house hunting. On average Rightmove alone receives 127.5 million visits per month, with Zoopla reporting an average of 60 million visits a month.
How are Home Viewings Carried Out?
With regard to viewings, some online estate agents may offer this service at an extra cost or as part of a package. Be aware this is by no means standard. Otherwise, it will be up to you to show prospective buyers around your home.
When selling online, it is not unusual for the seller to conduct the house viewings themselves.
As for preparing your property for a sale, keep in mind that you will be leading the potential buyer through your home. The upside of this is that no one will know your home as you do, and you’ll be able to highlight it’s most attractive features and show the home in its best light.
Using an Online Conveyancer
Just like finding the right estate agent, finding the best Conveyancer for you is a vital step in the house selling process, be it online or otherwise.
Your conveyancer will be able to handle the legal side of your sale, transferring ownership to the buyer on completion day. An online conveyancer works exactly the same as a traditional conveyancer, but the process is entirely online. This can make the process quicker and also cost less than a traditional conveyancing service.
Negotiate and Accept an Offer
As with any house sale, online or via a high-street agent, it is important to consider each offer you receive on your house. You can choose to accept or, reject or make a counteroffer, with the aim of coming to a sale price which suits both parties.
Remember that price is not the only consideration. Your estate agent should provide you with information on the buyer such as whether they have an agreement in principle from a mortgage lender or if they are in a chain and whether they are financially organised.
However, it must be remembered that few online agents have resources to ‘chase’ potential buyers, or to interrogate them on issues other than the offer they are making. So you may have to do some of this tough negotiating yourself.
Exchange and Complete
When it comes to exchanging contracts and the completion date, this will not be vastly different to if you had sold your house via a traditional high-street agent.
Exchanging contracts will be done via your conveyancing solicitor who will confirm with you that you are happy to exchange, and a completion day will be set once the exchange has taken place.
Next Steps of Selling a House
This article is part of our selling a house guide. In our next article, we look at everything you need to know about selling your home quickly. For more details see: Quick House Sales: How to Sell Your Home Faster