Local v Online – a response to BBC Watchdog

Our sales negotiator Phil Coombes shares his thoughts on why an established local independent agency is always your best bet:

Last week BBC One Watchdog Live examined an online agent which came under fire for misleading customers and wildly inflating claims. Watchdog investigated the company after receiving numerous reports they were still attracting new vendors by using exaggerated claims previously banned by the advertising standards agency or ASA. This same business has been censured half a dozen times over the past year by the ASA.

When homeowners come to sell their most valuable asset they might be tempted to think there is little to separate an online agent from a local one. Both organise viewings and market your property via online portals, but scratch the surface and you’ll uncover some fundamental differences:

1. Fees: This is where you’d assume online agents would be more attractive, however they like to mislead their clients about how much they can save (though the ASA and Watchdog have now put a stop to these claims). Online agency fees tend to be a fixed amount rather than a percentage of the selling price and this is paid up front with no guarantee the agency will sell your property. After taking this fee, the online agent has little incentive to sell your property and even less to agree the best price possible. Local agents operate on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis ensuring the agent will work hard for their commission and achieve the best price for your property.

2. Viewings: Most local high street agents will arrange and conduct viewings for you. But with an online agent, the default setting is for the vendor to conduct the viewing. You might be tempted to think this is beneficial because you know the property best. From experience, it tends to mean that potential buyers feel pressured into viewing the property quickly and feel less comfortable looking around the home. In turn, I would argue this means less chance of receiving an offer and less chance of achieving a sale.

3. Local Knowledge and Valuations: The majority of agents will visit your home to value it however online agents cover a much broader area which is often regional and therefore ultimately will not know the ins and outs of the local market. They might not know critical information about the local Conservation area, school catchment areas and transport routes. This is vitally important when giving you, the vendor, an accurate figure to sell. We understand that this is a figure you will base your future plans on so it needs to be correct and realistic.

4. Vetting buyers: A good local agent like Horton and Garton will ensure that all viewings are vetted. We take the time to get to know our buyers and ensure we bring around quality applicants. Online agencies might secure little information past the potential buyers’ names and addresses. When showing applicants a property it’s important to understand their finances, current position and search requirements to ensure the home is a good fit.

5. Sales Progression: Once the sale is agreed, a good agent will come into their own. This can be the most difficult, strenuous and delicate part of the selling process. Many online agents have been slated for their lack of communication during this process with BBC One’s Watchdog highlighting how vendors hadn’t been informed their buyer had pulled out of the deal. Horton and Garton handles each sale with kid gloves, investing time in all parties including solicitors, brokers and surveyors to ensure all hurdles are jumped and the sale is seamlessly managed.

The choice is yours. Will an online or local agent work hardest for you, achieve the best price for your property, conduct thorough viewings, source the perfect buyer and deftly handle the challenging process of sales progression – all the while keeping you, the client, at the heart of the transaction? To discuss the sales market in your local area within Hammersmith, Chiswick, Shepherds Bush or Fulham, give our team a call. With over 90 years of combined experience in West London property, we know the local landscape and love to share our knowledge.