Archive for the ‘Online Estate Agents’ Category

As the owner of an online estate agency I am only too aware that many home sellers want the lowest estate agency fees. I am not here to defend the more expensive agents or criticise cheap estate agents but I do believe an increasing number of home sellers are now looking for cheap estate agents online without factoring in the possibility that a cheaper agent may lose them more money than they save in fees.

I am the first to acknowledge that many estate agents charge excessively high fees for what they do and we have grown our business as a result of this. However, it is frustrating when some home sellers seem to regard estate agency services as a uniform commodity like a DVD – they compare prices online and select the cheapest one.

For the vast majority of home owners their priority is to receive the maximum amount of money from the sale of their property after estate agency fees are paid and to have the whole sale process managed as professionally as possible according to their needs.

Going for the cheapest estate agent may sound like it will save money but this assumes the sale price of the property will be the same whichever agent is used. For example, I would be happy to pay my estate agent £5000 in fees to sell my house for £200,000 rather than pay another agent £399 in fees to sell my house for £190,000. This sounds obvious but as fees are known upfront and sale prices are not many people select the cheapest fee option without really thinking about the possible impact this choice will have on the price their property will sell for.

The point is not about who has the most/east expensive fees but which agent will leave the home seller with the most money after the sale is complete and their agency fees are paid (and the least stressed out after the sale is complete!).

We often get asked by home owners if it is possible to advertise their property on Rightmove privately rather than go through an estate agent. The short answer is ‘no’ and Rightmove is very careful to ensure only Estate Agents can list their properties on their site after kicking out all the private sellers and non ‘estate agent’ companies a few years ago.

Rightmove has chosen to do this to provide a better quality of service for home buyers and  keep estate agents happy which both result in a more profitable business and happier Rightmove shareholders.

The reason why this provides a better quality of service for home buyers is that unlike private home sale websites, estate agents have to comply with the Estate Agency Act of 1979 and the Misdescriptions Act of 1991 which ensured that amongst other things, estate agents had to visit the properties they were advertising, organise all viewings, inform vendors of all offers and under no circumstances advertise properties details that they know to be false or misleading.This was not the case for private selling companies who relied on the details provided by private home sellers – in the vast majority of cases they never checked the accuracy of the information they were displaying. Understandably, Rightmove did not want property searchers to be presented with property information they could not rely on or advertise the contact details of private home sale companies who did not have to provide clients with certain standards of service.

In the short term Rightmove may have got some additional revenue from signing up these private home sale websites but over time they risked losing web visitors due to displaying poor quality property information and losing fees from estate agents who did not want to share advertising space with private home sale companies who could undercut their fees.

So What About Online Estate Agents – Why Are They Allowed on Rightmove?

Online Estate Agents have to comply with Estate Agency Act of 1979 and the Misdescriptions Act of 1991 and should not be confused with private house sale sites. The main difference between online estate agents and normal estate agents is that online estate agents normally don’t do accompanied viewings. However, given that nearly all traditional estate agents are online and many don’t actually accompany all/any of their viewings the distinction between the two is not that clear cut.

The Secretive World Of Estate Agency Fees

October 29th, 2011 by andrew

The recession may have reduced house prices in many areas around the UK but it has hardly put a dent in high street estate agency fees. Within London some agents have actually been increasing their fees since the start of the recession. For example Foxtons won’t negotiate below 2.5% and their competitors are likely to be close to that – especially in London where many estate agencies continue to charge extremely high fees to maintain their high
Outside of London the fees are normally between 1.5% to 2%. The National average being 1.8% according to a recent Which? investigation.

It was thought the internet and the increasing number of online estate agents would have put a lot of downward pressure on high street estate agency fees just like it did to travel agents when consumers suddenly had the ability to research their flights and hotels from home online. However, many people put their home on the market with no clear idea of what represents good value when it comes to estate agents fees – the secrecy around them means that many people are simply being ripped off. Thankfully many home owners are starting to realise they can save thousands of pounds by using online estate agents like us and receive an extremely high standard of service.



Weekly Vendor Reports

August 18th, 2011 by andrew

Each new client will receive a weekly report showing how many times their property has been seen on the big 4 biggest property portals below:

As far as we know we are the only online or high street estate agency to provide the statistics for all 4 of these portals. We know some online estate agents provide Rightmove data but as the vast majority of requests come from Rightmove, Zoopla, FindaProperty and Primelocation you will have a more complete picture of how your property is performing.

The weekly reports will show:
Summary Views: The number of times the property has been shown in the summary results of buyer searches.
Detail Views: The number of times buyers have clicked on the property after seeing it in the search results.

Click Above To Download A Sample PDF Report

Click Through Rate (CTR): This is a key indicator of a property’s attractiveness to potential buyers. Measured as a percentage, it represents the number of click throughs from a property summary view (e.g. the property advert) to the actual property details. For example, if 100 people viewed your property advert and 7 clicked on it to see more details, the property would have a 7% click through rate. We pay close attention to this rate and if it drops below 6% it can often suggest potential buyers think the property is over priced. This rate will also depend on the stage of advertising (the first 2 weeks get the highest click through rates), the property type and the area.
Extra Detail Views: Only Rightmove provide this data which indicates the number of times the full property details get seen outside of the normal click through from a property summary view. These clicks represent clicks from emails, bookmarks, property alerts, search engines, featured property, IE8 webslices, IE8 accelerators, RSS feeds, RM Widget, Twitter, iPhone App, iPad App and Property links posted on Social Networking sites such as Facebook.


The reports will also show a graph illustrating how the viewing figures and click through rate change over time. This is useful for spotting when a property becomes ‘stale’ and needs some action taken to increase online and actual viewings.

This weekly statistics report, together with the number of viewing requests and the viewer feedback we collect are very useful in gauging whether the property is priced correctly and how long it will take to sell. You will receive one of these reports every Friday and will always be happy to answer any questions on how to interpret it or the general trends in your local market.

More research has been released showing how important photographs and floor plans are in attracting home buyers to a property. Unfortunately, as many home searchers can testify, there are still many estate agents who continue to display poor quality photographs and show no floor plans.

It is not a surprise that 83% of home buyers polled in a recent survey by said that the main photograph is the most important element in a listing. This corroborates Rightmove’s study which found properties listed without photographs receive 81% less interest from house hunters. Possibly just as bad as having no photo is using a poor quality photo. Here are some examples used by estate agents on Rightmove that shall remain nameless.

Maybe this isn't the best angle.

Photos taken with the car window up rarely work.

What is in that shop that they don't want me to see?

Mmm..well it's better than no photo.

What may be more surprising than the importance of photographs is that Rightmove found that adding a floorplan can increase click through by a massive 52%.

The quality of the floor plan is also important – something is better than nothing but many look like they have been drawn by a child with no dimensions written on them, no detailing (i.e. kitchen units, bath etc), no indication of aspect and no outside space included.

See the examples below of one floor plan done by us (on the left) and one done by an expensive high street agent.

73% of home buyers also indicated that showing the street name where the property was located was essential. Showing the properties location on a map would probably satisfy this requirement so if the street name is not given a location point in a map should be provided.

So, the message is clear. Choose an estate agent that takes pride in their marketing  which should be immediately apparent from looking at the properties they currently advertise. Ideally they should use a professional photographer or at least someone with a wide angle camera and photographic skill.  The quality of their floor plans may also make the difference between a potential buyer requesting a viewing and clicking on to the next property so make sure they are detailed and available at no extra cost.

88% of Home Searches Start Online

March 3rd, 2011 by andrew

It seems every online property portal or online estate agency has some statistic showing that 80%+ of people now use the internet to search for property. This 80%+ figure seems sensible enough given anecdotal evidence but evidence to back this up is rarely shown.  It is therefore nice to see a survey carried out by MyHomeLife last year has given more evidence to back up these figures.

MyHomeLife is a panel of 9000 property searchers that are selected to reflect the demographic population of the property searching market (i.e. 1/3 male & 2/3 female, 52% aged under 45%). Below is the question they were asking and the answers they gave:

So in this survey 88% of people said they used the internet as their first source in order to find property to buy or rent (this includes property portals, search engines, an agent’s website or another type of website). Given this survey was done a few months ago it is likely the online figures are even higher now given the monthly upward trend.

This survey also suggests that less than 5% of people now visit a local agent in person as their first port of call to find new property – this is obviously good news for online estate agents that typically do not have local high street offices.  It must be remembered that this only measures the first source people use to find a property and they are likely to use other methods as they continue their home search. This is indicated by the 2009 Home Moving Trends Survey (we are waiting to get the 2010 results on this topic) which shows how often home buyers look at each source.

Once again, online sources are used most often with 97% of respondents having used property portals at least once and 75% saying they use them all the time. Given this information it makes sense for estate agents to invest heavily in their online presence rather than glitzy town centre offices which have a relatively small impact in attracting property buyers. The property buyers that do visit these offices have normally found the property online first and then track down the agent advertising it.

Estate Agents are continually adapting their marketing techniques to attract more home sellers but the latest annual Property Academy Home Moving Trends survey suggests many of their tactics are relatively unimportant. This survey asked 21 questions to 1600 home sellers across over 100 different estate agents and found that most home sellers did not choose their estate agent due to their size, fees or their local marketing presence which are the very things most agents focus on in order to try and attract new clients. The overwhelming majority of home sellers in this survey said they chose the estate agent they instinctively trusted the most.

Of course, the other factors will play a part in a home seller’s decision but if an estate agent struggles to instil trust they are unlikely to be very successful. This is interesting given that estate agents are often caricatured as pushy salesman types that bend the truth and can not be trusted. Like many negative stereotypes, this obviously has an element of truth in it to be so pervasive and it highlights the fact that trust (or lack of it) is a big issue in this industry.

Of course, estate agents can not train their staff to ‘act’ trustworthy as most people will see through anything that hints at being a masquerade very quickly – it is more about the integrity, expertise and inherent character of each individual they employ.

There are a lot of misconceptions about online estate agents and what they do and do not offer. We often hear comments that online estate agents are only for private home sales or they will not do any sales progression (i.e. once an offer is accepted they will not deal with solicitors, mortgage brokers etc). Most of the misconceptions are because online estate agents are relatively new but also because traditional estate agencies give incorrect information about them as they don’t want to lose their clients to them.

So what are the facts? Well, in summary a good online estate agent should carry out all the same services as a normal estate agency but they will not do accompanied viewings and many will not have a high street office. Since more than 90% of property buyers now search for property on the internet the lack of a high street office is not a big issue. However, some home sellers prefer accompanied viewings and in this case a traditional high street agent will be a better choice.

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Of course a table like this can not tell you the quality of the service you will get or the expertise of the agent you will be dealing with. It is paramount that you find an agent who knows how negotiate with potential buyers when they have been identified and also how to manage the sale the sale through to completion. The objective is to sell your house at the best price possible and not just pay the lowest fees possible but it is possible to sell at. Estate agents like us can charge lower fees because the internet has allowed us to cut our costs significantly without impacting the service we can provide you – we save money by not renting expensive town centre offices and not having the significant costs of doing accompanied viewings.