Online Estate Agents - Attractive Fees With Hidden Costs?

Posted on 2 February 2018
Online Estate Agents - Attractive Fees With Hidden Costs?

Belfast estate agents are increasingly under pressure from online listing agents and the fees quoted are very attractive, but do you know what you are actually getting, or perhaps the better question is, do you know what you are NOT getting?  Once you pay the fees upfront - how can you be guaranteed of the service? 

As online agents usually operate from nationwide mainland UK based call centres they may have more limited local knowledge, so valuing your house is often done using online data e.g. searching for comparable sales in a 1.5km radius. With Northern Irelands unique history, that can give a large margin for error!  Only Belfast estate agents, like Morton Pinpoint, will have the local knowledge and experience to be able to factor in to their valuation things like local market conditions, supply and demand and the propertys proximity to areas of repute, good and bad!  Northern Ireland is unique in the property sales market that in some areas, a cultural separation from one end of a street to the other end of the same street could mean a difference of £10,000, or more, in the value of a property of similar size and type.

Pitching the price right
Nobody wants to sell their property for less than market value.  Everyone wants to maximise the sale value of their property and it is easy to to be swayed by the lavish praise and a higher valuation from a confident agent about your property, but an over priced property is often evidenced by the silence which follows its entry onto the market.  The best way to gauge the most realistic marketing price is to take an average of all the agent's estimates and allow a little for negotiation.

Marketing the property.
All estate agents will list your property on at least one, two and sometimes three property websites.  To ensure the strongest possible online presence, and widest reach, Morton Pinpoint list properties on four property websites. 
A high street estate agent will be aware of the types of properties and cultural background of an area, the situations of buyers looking for them, have an immediate, live register of interested buyers seeking property and can match your property with more accuracy, driving quality viewings through rather than quantity.

If you have the time, a thick skin and don't mind conducting the viewings yourself, an online estate agent may indeed be a suitable option for you. Some will arrange and conduct viewings at an additional cost. Most will arrange the viewings for you and keep you updated by phone or on a dedicated online site just for you, whilst a few will just pass on the contact details of potential buyers to you.  Very few online estate agents will be able to understand, or respond to, the queries regarding the political persuation of the immediate area surrounding a property.  It is likely only in Northern Ireland would an estate agent be entirely unphased (and able to answer!) when presented with the question "Is the area orange or green?".

Pinpoint, as a professional estate agent will use their knowledge, skills and experience to filter through quality viewers, give you the choice of conducting key accompanied viewings on your behalf at no extra cost, and make follow up calls to ask for feedback and to update you.

Marketing a property is however the easy part, progressing a sale to completion is HARD WORK. 

Selling your property
Most online agents will take offers, discuss them with you and negotiate the price for you, while others will leave it up to you.  Arguably, online estate agents do not have the same commission based incentive as a high street agent to get you (and them) the highest price possible or to put in the time and effort pushing, negotiating, cajoling and driving a sale through to completion.

This is where a high street agent, like Pinpoint, will really earn their commission fee by
•progress chasing - co-ordinating and keeping together complex chains at each of several stages
•being tenacious - not giving up at the first hitch but using all their knowledge, skills and experience to overcome it, dealing with somet1imes difficult solicitors, surveyors and other professionals
• acting as peacemaker - placating angry vendors, and buyers, for whom the agent is always the focus of most blame if things go wrong, keeping calm when everything around you is collapsing and trying to restore perspective when emotions and stress levels are running high
•keeping everything progressing smoothly through to exchange of contracts and ultimately, completion
communicating - at every stage, with all parties

It doesn't matter how much advice you read on the subject of buying and selling properties, it has been and will always be the most stressful thing you will ever do in your life except perhaps getting divorced, dealing with death or getting married.  Choosing the right estate agent at the outset is a very important decision, of which fees should only be one factor.