Online agents aren’t really estate agents, but they’re better value than most highstreet offerings………

A small part of what annoys me about online estate agents is that they’re not honest.  The line ‘without highstreet offices, we can pass the saving on to you’ is utter nonsense.  Our office isn’t anywhere near our biggest expense and they’ve actually had to cut near on every corner to give the headline rate, not just lose the office.

Online companies market themselves as estate agents, but they’re not really.  Effectively they’re call centres with admin staff that act as a middle man between the seller and the property portal.  In a lot of ways though, that’s probably a more valuable service than what the majority of conventionally set up agents offer.

I’ve learned what is and isn’t valuable to all the parties involved in the house moving process; buyer, seller and agent.  The difficulty is that much of what is of value to each party is conflicting.  It’s the agents role to effectively manage that for their client, but many do it for themselves.  Online agents are incapable of managing this process  as they automatically don’t get to the point of really understanding a sale or just don’t get involved.  They’re on the sidelines.  A lot of conventional agents do the same thing and you’ll pay more for it, so why not choose an online agent if they charge less?  If I only had the option of a cheap solution or an expensive solution if both were equally ineffective, I’d choose the cheap one every time.

If you’re going to choose an online agent, you might as well choose the cheapest variant you can find that will get you on Rightmove.  They’re your gateway to doing what the monkey in a suit on the high street does and if you’ve anything about you whatsoever, you can sell a house better than a monkey.  So go DIY.  I guess my gripe with the online agents is that they pretend like they do all the important parts of what an estate agent should do, but they don’t.  The industry has a bad name with agents charging high fees for an average to poor service and now we’ve got ‘agents’ competing with them that are claiming they do a great job for little money and that the important parts don’t exist.  Neither are honest or transparent.

My wish is that estate agency became a transparent business where customers can make educated decisions based on clear information.  At the moment it doesn’t happen and the online agents are just doing exactly the same thing as conventional estate agents but with a different spin. Sell your house properly and you’ll get the best price, don’t do it properly and you almost certainly won’t.  There aren’t any short cuts or silver bullets.

Without going in to too many details, Mr Green invests over £250 per property (this figure is excluding our time) upfront before it even goes to market, on things that are of true value to the seller.  It’s not for a gimmick or a sales tool.  If it wasn’t of value to getting a property sold at the best price, I just wouldn’t let it be spent.  So how can an agent claim to sell a house most effectively for £500 or even £1000 and still make a profit?  If they were doing the job properly, that leaves them £250 or £750 for property portals, staff, website, printing forms, documents, boards, petrol and cars, insurance and so on and so on.  So what do you imagine they do?  Cut corners.  That’s all they can do.

I’m not against online agents whatsoever.  I started Mr Green as an online business trying to sell houses for low fees, I know that business.  It’s not viable without massively reducing standards and service and it wasn’t something I was happy doing.  It costs people money in the place they can’t really quantify.

Estate agency can be such a helpful, professional and valuable service to people, but the education and attitude of those working within it is mostly really poor.  Even the governing bodies are useless.  I genuinely want it to be better.  I get as equally frustrated with seeing someone sell their home with an agent that has done a poor job for their client whether they’re a highstreet agent or online agent.  I don’t like seeing nice, trusting people being tricked.

Simon Ward
Mr Green Estate Agents