You do not have to stray too far at present without hearing the collective groaning of high street estate agents when commenting on their loss of market share to internet adversaries such as Easy Property, Purple Bricks and Tepilo. Am I the only one surprised that they are surprised at how this has happened? You see it is quite simply human nature for us all to seek, in crude terms , “a bargain” – and we are all guilty of it! Which in truth, goes some way to explaining the phenomenal growth of 99p stores and pound shops around country, as well as the success of retail discount stores such as Wilko and the like -so why should UK estate agency be immune?

Principally, there are two major factors that have assisted Purple Bricks and their counterparts in gaining traction in the UK housing marketplace in recent years; investment from largely private equity in their business model, and the public’s increased confidence in internet only property marketing – as online shopping has become accepted practice amongst us all.

However, in seeking the considerable saving in fees that is on offer when instructing an internet only agent, one should at least consider the crucial but subtle difference between what is cheap and what is of good value. You see the evidence overwhelmingly thus far is that internet agency works at its best when:

1) The property to sell is relatively straightforward to value

2) The property title is clean and standard in nature

3) The seller is more than happy to co-ordinate the transaction.

In contrast it works less well when none of the aforementioned points apply.

You see, at the end of the day you “pays your money and takes your choice” just like in any other consumer activity – but on this occasion you are most likely to be selling your most valuable asset, which means that it is essential to get your choice of agent right.

In this area I would urge you to consider the following key points,namely :-

  1. Be honest with yourself- how involved in the selling of your property do you really want to be? Most sellers are emotionally involved with their transactions and struggle to think dis-passionately.
  2. The overall weakness of internet estate agents is their lack of local knowledge of pricing and market conditions (something that they are now trying to do something about by recruiting localised agents), so the cost of getting the valuation wrong and selling too cheap might well outweigh any prospective fee saving.
  3. Complex or long chain transactions can require knowledge, patience and some level of competence when dealing with essential post-sale sales progression – which will not being included in a sale fee of under £1000 +VAT charged by Purple Bricks and co, and in some instances may not be available to you at all (even at extra cost).

To sum up, it is the prerogative of each and every one of us to save money on the purchase of both goods and services wherever and whenever we can, but we should not delude ourselves into thinking that the likes of Purple Bricks etc. are the future of all property buying and selling. For we are all different, and so by and large are the properties that we sell – so be realistic about the fees that you pay and the service that you expect to receive, and almost certainly you will make the correct choice of agent for both you and your property.

This article was written by Peter Nicholls CEO of ideology consulting