AVOID MISERY BY FINDING THE HUMAN TOUCH

Published 25 January 2019

Holding Hands webBarely a week goes by without news of another High Street retailer in difficulties, and whilst grumbles about rising business rates and soaring car park charges are always cited, it is invariably our love of online shopping which gets the blame. 

According to the ONS, we now spend nearly one pound in every four on the internet, and whilst that does still mean that three-quarters of what we buy is in traditional shops, there is no denying that the UK has truly embraced the online retail experience.

Given the big noise made about web-based operators in the property market, you would be forgiven for thinking that the same was happening in the housing market.  So you may be surprised to hear that according to a recent report, the proportion of homes sold via online agents is actually falling, and only represents about one in every 14 sales.

Despite our love for Amazon and eBay, when it comes to buying and selling our homes, we seem still to value the traditional estate agent.  At first this may seem strange, but when you think about it, we shouldn’t be surprised.

First of all, selling a home is a people business. Homes are not commodities piled high in some anonymous warehouse, they are an important part of our lives and our well-being.  So we want to entrust the transaction to a real human being, and what’s more, one who has genuine local knowledge, derived from years of experience in a particular market, not from a cursory Google search.

Secondly, people have come to realise that finding a buyer is only one part of the process.  In a challenging market, the support which comes between the offer being made and completion happening is vital, and this is an area where traditional agents have always scored highly.

Then there is the fact that many people miss: advertising a property online (which is essentially the service offered by online only agents) is something which anyone can do, and pretty much every ‘traditional’ estate agent has been doing it for years. 

What the traditional agents also brings is lists of ‘hot applicants’, built up over time through assiduous personal contact.  A sale is not brought about through sheer numbers of random ‘hits’, but by putting the property in front of quality, relevant prospective purchasers.  You don’t need thousands of people to see it, just the right person.

Finally, sellers are starting to understand the fee structure of online agents.  In most cases, the fee is payable whether the home sells or not, unlike commission, which is only paid on a successful sale.  This is a powerful incentive for agents to work hard for a sale, particularly as how much they get paid is directly linked to the price they achieve.

Online agents are notoriously cagey about revealing their ratio of sales to fees charged, but it is clear that many people hand over cash and get no sale in return – which is misery indeed.

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