Today I have been trying to work out the pros and cons of selling a property myself vs. using a High Street estate agent. Now estate agents get a lot of slack, but I have to be honest, I have had many good experiences with selling my properties via High Street estate agents.
The reason I am in this quandary is primarily down to cost savings. Last time I sold a flat with a London agent it cost me the best part of £4,000. Now, I don’t mind this as they did sell the flat within 2 weeks, the sale completed with the original buyer and there was only marginal hassle (the buyer’s bank made me own the flat for 6 months before they would release funds – Oh and I ended up with squatters – but that’s a different story). However, in my opinion, I only got the price I wanted because I told the negotiator exactly what to tell the buyer and why the flat was worth 5k more than what his original offer was…on the other hand I can’t help but wonder whether by virtue of being an estate agent you can ask for that bit more? So the question is – are estate agents worth the money you pay them?
I have to clarify at this point when I am talking about selling the flat myself, I am not talking about erecting a home made ‘For Sale’ board and only advertising on free ‘For Sale By Owner’ sites (although I understand Tepilo is making great headway in this sector). No, I am talking about the online estate agencies such as Housenetwork and Hatched which allow you to advertise on Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation et al – the key property portals which people use to find properties for sale.
What I found with a lot of these online estate agencies is that you pay part/ all of your fees upfront and that is how most of the cost savings are made. Like a High Street estate agent, these online agencies still send a photographer out to get professional photos, do floor plans, a virtual tour and write the property description. They still manage all the communication with viewers and potential buyers, communicate with you about any offers made and should you accept an offer they organise all the paperwork and liaise with all the parties through to completion. As far as I could see the only real difference was that I would be doing the viewings. But still the question remained…is it really that simple?!
So let’s focus on the cost savings – for the flat I want to sell, we’re talking about £3,000 clear. Yes, £3,000 real money that I could save by using an online estate agency. It’s a lot of money. Money that could buy me a pretty nice holiday….
But – my fears….
– Will an online estate agent sell my property as well as a High Street estate agent – especially since they’ve already been paid? Where is the motivation to sell and achieve results once you’ve had your dosh?
– Given I am so busy travelling the country looking at potential opportunities do I have time to re-schedule my diary at a moment’s notice to show people the property?
– I live a 90 mile round trip from the property – what happens when viewers change times, their minds, don’t turn up – how will that impact upon my schedule?
– How many potential leads will I miss from the local knowledge/ presence/ leads that a High Street estate agent has?
– Is it a case of you pay for what you get – i.e. the less you pay, the less you get?
So I scoured the net for reviews of the online estate agents I was thinking of using and then I called the agents myself. Hatched came out on top – they had great reviews, 100% of users would recommend them, I have seen some of their boards around and when I called them they were chatty and personable. They also had good back-end systems in place which made me feel they were organised and my property would not get lost in the system.
I tried to convince myself that I could/ would sell my property better than an estate agent – after all I own the property and know more about it. Plus, I stand to make more than them so surely I am more motivated to make a sale…
But I was torn – my previous experience with the High Street estate agent has been so good…who’s to say that just going on the major property portals such as Rightmove is enough to sell a property? Maybe estate agents have some sort of additional magical way of selling a property??
Using an online estate agent feels a bit risky – but more because of the fear of the unknown and what I may be missing rather than anything I can properly articulate. I know we’re talking about saving £3,000 – but if an online agent doesn’t sell the property then I have nothing to save as they didn’t sell it in the first place! That, to me, makes it a false economy.
And so torn between positive previous experiences with High Street estate agents, fear of the unknown of using an online estate agent and concerned by my ever bulging diary getting deluged with viewers I opted for the traditional High Street estate agent.
Why? I hear you cry! Well, for now, I have decided my job is to focus on buying properties and finding opportunities rather than also trying to sell the properties. Yes, I could make a great cost saving – but at what “actual” cost? If me trying to juggle viewings with potential buyers means that I end up missing a viewing on an auction property I could end up with a missed opportunity that costs me more than the £3,000 I stand to save from selling the property myself.
Time will tell if I have made the right decision…but for now it’s in the High Street estate agents’ hands – and I have to say, for now, I like it that way 🙂
Since this post, I later pitted the wits of an online estate agent Vs. a high street estate agent, you can read about the story here and here and then the crazy story which later happened here and then the ending here.