You can save thousands of pounds in commission by using an online estate agent that charges a flat fee rather than a commission – but how much will you need to up by using an online estate agent, and is there a catch?

Woodland Estate Agents, leading Ilford estate agents, explains the pros and cons to online estate agents and high street agents.

One in five high street estate agents are at risk of going out of business amid a growth in online companies, according to recent figures. High street agents offer a face-to-face service that can guide a seller from start to finish. In exchange, they receive commission for this personalised service. Online estate agents are now promising the same service – minus the commission fees. Instead, you pay a fixed one-off upfront cost, which can be a lot cheaper.

This can seem attractive, but in many cases it’s non-refundable – so you pay whether your home sells or not, while there’s no up-front cost with most high-street agents.

The pros of high street agents

The biggest pro to using a high street agent is peace of mind. On the high street, you can get access to an experienced agent who can build a rapport with you and everything about your home. They will have sales people in place to act as the ‘middleman’ after an offer is accepted.

High street agents are trustworthy and reputable, as they can trust experienced high street agents to get the best price possible during negotiating processes and push sales through by helping with any problems that may crop up – something an online agent cannot offer. High street agents also have local knowledge and are aware of local market trends and pricing levels for the area, which is something that online agents may not be able to match.

High street agents also only require you to pay if a property sells.

The cons of high street agents

The price can make or break a decision to choose a certain agent as commission through high street agents can be through the roof, sometimes amounting to thousands depending on the price of your house and where it’s located.

High street agents can manage viewings for you, the viewings are often limited to their set schedules. So, if someone wants to view out of hours, you’ll have to conduct the viewing yourself, or it may never happen.

The pros of online estate agents

Using an online estate agent to buy or sell a property has quickly become a trend in the UK. In less than 4 years, PurpleBricks has become the 3rd biggest estate agent in the country, and it’s not the only firm growing fast.

It’s a cheaper option to high street estate agents as you pay an upfront cost and not the additional payment once it’s sold. You receive a 24/7 service as the internet is always open, which means sellers can manage their sales as and when it suits them. There’s also a call centre which can be accessed over the phone, offering sellers an online dashboard to track, update, arrange and confirm viewings and manage offers.

You also have the freedom to use a face-to-face service to guide you from start to finish, and the freedom to use multiple agents as generally there is no contract period online.

The cons of online estate agents

The downside to online estate agents is that you have to pay an upfront online fee that is payable, regardless of whether or not the property actually sells or not. Whilst it may seem cheaper at first glance, if the sale falls through, you could still end up out of pocket.

There will be a lack of consistency, as you could find yourself talking to a different person each time as you will essentially be calling a national call centre.

Extra costs will build up, as you may have to pay extra for professional photos and to have a floor plan designed. Extra help will cost you, so keep an eye on the price!

Unless you’ve been appointed a regional sales representative, you will more than likely have to conduct viewings yourself, so you will need to be comfortable showing strangers around your home.

There’s not an after sales support, as an online estate agent cannot call a buyer’s lawyer to push along the negotiations – only a property professional can do this – which can make the buying process a lot slower.

Overall, the general consensus is to sell or buy a property through a high street agent. Yes, the costs may be dearer, but you have a personal face-to-face service with a dedicated estate agent, they will do all the work for you including listing the property and dealing with the legal side of things from start to finish.