Perceptions Of Estate Agents And The Growing Popularity Of Online Agents

New research conducted by reveals a huge disconnect between UK homeowners and estate agents when it comes to understanding what is involved in selling a property.  The findings show a need for more transparency around the sales process in a rapidly changing property market.

The new survey explores the perceptions of UK homeowners across a variety of property related topics; including the services consumers expect as part of an estate agent’s fee, preferences for online property portals and the public perception of estate agents.

How estate agents are viewed

Only 18% of homeowners view estate agents as ‘helpful’ and 20% view them as ‘knowledgeable’, with over a third (35%) thinking estate agents are ‘pushy’ and 30% perceiving them as ‘poor value for money’.

When choosing an agent, fee is the most important deciding factor (56%), with personal recommendation a close second and local knowledge and responsiveness also ranking highly. Crucially, however, findings show that homeowners expect a lot for their money with a quarter (25%) expecting to pay as little as 0.5 – 1.0% fee to cover all estate agency services, in comparison to the national average of 1.1%*. This reveals a clear need for better education by estate agents amongst consumers about what a fee covers and the work that goes into selling a property.

As part of the fee, consumers expect services such as photography (52%) and the listing of their property on property portals such as Rightmove (49%) to be covered, with 10% even expecting the running of open days, 6% video marketing services and 10% virtual tours to all be included as standard.

Interestingly, despite wanting to pay a low fee, 38% of consumers expect estate agents to provide support and guidance from valuation to completion as part of their service.”

A changing market

The research also shows a major shift in how people are prepared to sell property with the vast majority of UK homeowners (85%) willing to consider using an online estate agent. This is symptomatic of a changing market, with traditional high street agents not always the first port of call when selling a house.

Despite this trend, there is still a clear appreciation for the services offered by traditional agents, with reasons to not use an online agent including a desire to ‘speak to people face to face when dealing with big decisions’ and for ‘local people to sell my house in the local area’.

With the increased competition in the marketplace from online agents, the survey reveals that a staggering 96% of homeowners would consider comparing estate agents’ fees and services online if they could, to help decide which agent to use when selling a property.

Search preferences

Findings from the survey also reveal that the most popular time for homeowners to conduct estate agent research is in the evening, between 6pm and 9pm (38%), outside of traditional opening hours for many high street agents.

When looking for property online, only 13% of respondents visit OnTheMarket to search for property online, versus Rightmove (83%) and Zoopla (57%). This highlights the need for increased awareness of the different property portals available to consumers, including, to ensure homeowners are receiving the best possible exposure in an increasingly digital world. managing director, Alex Thorpe, comments: “Estate agents have often come under the cosh in the past and are an easy target for consumers who think they aren’t getting value for money as part of one of the biggest sales or purchasing decisions they will ever make. With more savvy consumers who are willing to shop around and the rise of online estate agents enabling sellers to do more themselves, the pressure is really on to show people that they are getting value for money.

“What’s clear from our research is that homeowners don’t necessarily understand the sheer amount of work that goes into selling a property. From local knowledge and an understanding of the marketplace, to an awareness of what a target audience is looking for and an understanding of how best to promote property, estate agents work very hard for their fee to deliver the best price for a homeowner. There is a real need for estate agents to better promote the value they can bring consumers so sellers can truly understand the best estate agent for their needs.”