With low flat fees, DIY brokers are gaining traction
I’ve recently moved home and I don’t need to remind you of how much of an ordeal that can be. The story ends well but not without the usual bouts of anxiety, stress and emotional trauma.
In January, I opted to pay a flat fee of around £800 (including tax) for the services of a new breed of estate agent – an online-only do-it-yourself broker.
From just a handful five years ago, there’s now around 50 of these companies, all competing against each other – and the traditional bricks-and-mortar agents. Industry insiders predict they’ll have half of the market share by 2020.
But the incumbents warned me. They said these online-only startups lacked the “local knowledge” to sell my home and wouldn’t be too fussed about my sale once the cash had changed hands.
By February, it was going well. I had shown viewers around my home with my own “local knowledge” and a buyer had been promptly found. I was dealing with them directly but I could also contact my agent pretty much 24/7.
But by April, our buyers had gotten “cold feet” and my own attempts to allay any of their concerns about my home had failed. They had “fallen out of love with buying their first home” and it was probably all my own doing.
Late to the party, my agent tried to resurrect the deal, but in vain.
Within a week, the house was back on the market, dual-listed alongside a high street firm with a smiling, bubbling estate agent showing young couples around my home.
Just two days later there was a bidding war. I opted for a “super-keen” buyer via the traditional agent and shunned fairly half-hearted offers that came through the online platform of my DIY agent.
Within two months, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered and I was packing up my belongings.
The traditional agent had proven her worth in a changing market and had earned over £7,000 of my money. She had “managed” the deal -- in spite of more than a few communication breakdowns along the way.
This may all be anecdotal evidence but there are lessons to be learned. From my experience, traditional high street agents will invariably bug your buyers night and day.
They will be masters of communication and know how to grease the wheels. They will speak to your buyers on the telephone in their caring and chirpy voice, rather than via email.
They might be useless at times, they might not show up to viewings, they might be off on holiday for weeks, but the fight is not over yet for the high street.
However, I’ve since been told that my own DIY estate agent is known for being particularly “standoff-ish.” So maybe I was too hasty. Other online agents might work harder or maybe it was just never meant to be.
If you’re thinking of picking your own DIY agent, pick a good one. Make sure they are fully involved all the way up until moving day. Or perhaps stick with what you know if all else fails.
The market might be changing but moving home is still full of anxiety, stress and emotional trauma. The very best of luck to you.