Moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do. Your first thought might be to get valuations from high street estate agents - which is a good idea - but when it comes to actually selling your home, an online agent can save you thousands.
These days many buyers user Rightmove, Zoopla and other apps to find their next home, so it's possible to sell your home yourself and avoid that huge cut that a traditional estate agent takes.
But what are the pros and cons? We'll explain what to look out for and what the online estates offer.
Online vs high street estate agents
Under normal circumstances, the main advantage of a local estate agent is that you can meet them face to face by walking into their office, while the online variant doesn’t offer the same brick and mortar experience. While almost all high street estate agents will have increased their online presence during the pandemic, in-person meetings will return to popularity soon enough.
For some buyers, the expectation is that an estate agent will show them round their potential new home and they'll make offers through the agent, not direct with the buyer. That's not always the case, though, and some agents prefer homeowners to show buyers around.
Local estate agents also have contact books full of prospective buyers and know what each of them is after. Online agents tend to rely on Rightmove, Zoopla and other sites to bring in buyers.
The second big factor to consider is of course cost.
Online agents usually charge a set fee, a totally different approach to the commission model that high street agents favour. For example, a typical commission is 1-3%. If your house is worth £500,000 and the commission is 1.25% + VAT, you'll pay them a total of £7,500.
It's debatable whether their services are worth this hefty sum when online agents can sell your home for £999 or less (even £75).
This is usually paid up front and there may be a limit of 12-16 weeks for your property to be advertised on all the major online portals. If you don't sell within that time, you may have to pay again.
How do online agents have such cheap prices? The cheapest are effectively offering you a way to list on Rightmove and Zoopla yourself, something that's impossible without an agent.
Whichever one you choose, you'll be expected to do a lot of the legwork yourself. This can include conducting viewings with potential buyers, putting up your own ‘For Sale’ sign, and even writing your own advert and taking your own photos for Rightmove and Zoopla. Most online agents offer these services, but often at an additional cost.
Many also levy a surcharge for properties sold in London and surrounding areas, which is especially cheeky.
Since it's the law that you have to provide a EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) when you list a property for sale, check whether this is included in the fee. If not, you'll have to arrange for that and pay for it yourself. They start from around £55.
There’s also the consideration that a high street agent is more likely to have local knowledge of the housing market, while the online ones will use algorithms and online data to come up valuations and other information.
Plus, high street agents will vet potential buyers and may even require that they already have an offer on the property they're selling before they'll allow them to view your property. With online agents, this vetting may not happen and you may end up repeatedly tidying up for viewings for people who are simply window shopping and not serious about buying at all.
Remember, too, that if you use a local agent, you're likely to have just one or two people to deal with, who will get to know you personally. Online agents are regularly criticised for taking a long time to respond to emails, failing to progress sales and they don't typically assign a specific person to your sale.
Also consider all the work that needs to happen once a sale is agreed. High Street agents will work to progress your sale, dealing with the buyer and conveyancers. If you're effectively becoming the agent by using a faceless online service, you'll be doing all that yourself, which can add a lot of stress.
Some online agents adopt what’s known as a ‘hybrid’ model, which combines a face-to-face service with online elements, so this could be a good compromise if you want the reassurance of dealing with actual people.
With all that in mind, if you're willing to do your homework and put in the legwork, you can save quite a bit more money choosing the online route. Conversely, if you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of your own job, packing, buying a new home and all the other stresses of moving, then the high street might be a better option.
Should you decide to give the online agents a go, here’s our list of some of the best ones currently around.
Best online estate agents
- Fixed fee of £999, (£1,499 for London and surrounding areas)
- Dedicated app
- Extra charge for in-person estate agent viewings
Purplebricks is one of the biggest online estate agents in the UK and operates as a hybrid service. The company has local property experts that know their areas very well and can provide you with a free valuation for your home.
A flat fee of £999 (or £1,499 in and around London) is charged either at the beginning of the engagement or deferred for ten months without incurring any additional cost. Included in this fee is the local expert, photography of your property that can be used in listings, support from a UK-based team, and your house or flat being listed on Rightmove, Zoopla, and other popular sites.
You’ll need to conduct viewings yourself, although Purplebricks provides the online portal where potential buyers can book them. If this isn’t to your liking, you can pay £300 (£399 in London) for Purplebricks to send one of their agents to handle the viewing instead.
A dedicated Purplebricks app allows you to receive feedback from viewings and even accept offers on your property, making it easy to manage the sale wherever you may be. There’s also conveyancing support that makes the last few parts of the process less complicated.
At the time of writing Purplebricks had a five-star ‘Excellent’ rating on Trustpilot, with over 77,000 reviews.
- Only pay if your house sells
- Pay individually for accompanied viewings
- One of the lowest No Sale, No Fee prices
Can you really sell your house for free? That's what's Strike is advertising. Known as Housesimple from its inception in 2007 until its 2020 rebranding, it offers almost all the services you'll need without paying a penny.
Strike provides expert valuation, photos and floorplan, a For Sale board, professional offer negotiation and listings on Rightmove and Zoopla. The company also says it will provide 'dedicated support until completion'.
How is it able to offer all this for free? Well, there are two premium services you can pay for. A hosted viewings service means you won't have to conduct them yourself, while upgraded ads on Rightmove will ensure your house is seen by a lot more people.
Strike also has partnerships that offer mortgage advice and removal services, so get paid if you choose to use these services. Nonetheless, the core service is offered completely free of charge.
We can't vouch for how good this current iteration is, although one of the Tech Advisor team used the service when it was known as Housesimple. They found the experience seamless, despite being part of a long and complicated chain of houses. The local photographer they sent was fantastic, the process of uploading details was simple and straightforward, and arranging viewings or accepting and declining offers was painless.
A rating of 'Excellent' from over 7000 reviews on Trustpilot suggests it's a similar story following the rebranding.
- Pay up front or on completion
- Photographs and floorplans with all plans
- Award winning agent
It might sound like some kind of dairy-based drink, but Yopa is a well-respected and award-winning hybrid agent. Unlike some of its competitors, the company offers a local agent that can manage your sale, no matter which tier you choose.
There are three packages on offer, with two of them not requiring any payment until after the completion of the sale. For £999 (£1499 in some London locations) the Core service includes a valuation, pro photographs and floorplans of your property, a full listing on Zoopla, Rightmove, PrimeLocation and others, plus all negotiations with buyers handled by Yopa.
There are a few additional services you can purchase, which include unlimited accompanied viewings, premium listings on the top property sites, and conveyancing (quotes on application), and everything can be paid in instalments across six months.
It’s the same for the Premium bundle, with the only difference being the price - £1,999 or £2,999 in some London locations – and the fact that it is paid once the sale of your home has gone through. You'll also get unlimited viewings and premium listings on Zoopla and Rightmove.
Yopa has received a string of awards in recent years, and currently sports an 'Excellent' rating on Trustpilot from more than 11,500 reviews.
- Cheap £99 starting tier
- Handles buyer negotiations
- Photography and floorplan cost extra
While only having been around since 2016, Doorsteps has quickly grown into an impressive company, garnering a few industry awards along the way. One of the reasons for its popularity is an extremely affordable £99 commission-free standard package, which dropped to an incredible £1 for Black Friday.
However, there are four tiers available depending on what you're looking for. The aforementioned £99 package includes a property evaluation, listings on all the major sites, a dedicated account manager to handle negotiations with potential buyers, and a few additional services.
Moving up to the £199 tier adds professional photography of the property as well as a 2D floorplan and full description in online listings. At £599 you get all of the above plus featured spots on Rightmove and Zoopla, a physical For Sale sign outside your home, and social media promotion of the listing.
Finally, there's a £999 option, which means Doorsteps will host the viewings on your behalf. In all other tiers you'll have to conduct them yourself, but you can save plenty of money if you're prepared to do it yourself.
Despite being a relatively young company, Doorsteps nonetheless has a 4.8 star ‘Excellent’ rating on Trustpilot from over 5,000 customers at the time of writing.
- Three distinct tiers to suit how you want to pay
- Listings on Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation
- All packages include photographs and floorplans
Another rising star is that of SellMyHome, which offers a variety of packages and payment options. The most basic plan costs £150 per month, with an additional £250 set up fee. In exchange, you’ll get a valuation of the property as well as professional photographs and a floor map to accompany your listing on Rightmove, Zoopla, PrimeLocation, and a number of other popular sites. Other perks include buyer and viewing management tools, a virtual walkthrough for online viewers and memorandum of sale.
Stepping up to the £999 Essential package adds a dedicated account manager for your property, and monthly performance reports. The recently introduced Premium package starts at 0.75% of the final sale price, although the minimum you'll have to pay is £1,899 (or £1,999 in London). It removes the £399 fee for accompanied viewings, but you will have to pay an extra £149 for the virtual walkthrough and short videos.
All of this still comes well under what you’d expect to pay from a high-street agent though, so it’s worth considering. SellMyHome makes the claim that it’s the UK’s number-one-rated estate agent, with 4.8 stars on Trustpilot. This is from drawn from 461 customers.
- £75 fixed fee
- Listed on Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location for up to 12 months
- You write the description, take the photos and arrange the floor plan
One of the newest online agents, the Smart Estate Agency charges just £75 to sell your home. You have to write the description, take the photos and organise a floor plan (if you want one) and an EPC, but if you're handy with English and a camera, then you'll probably do a better job than a lot of traditional estate agents: you know your own home best.
If you want a Premium listing or a For Sale board, those cost extra.
Enquiries go via The Smart Estate Agency, but you'll also show round potential buyers yourself. Buyers can make offers via The Smart Estate Agency or direct with you, and the company says it will "keep an eye on things until exchange and completion".
It's the only agent with a 100% Excellent rating on TrustPilot, though that is from just 16 reviews. They mainly praise the speed and efficiency of communication and getting properties listed, but whether this can continue when there are many more customers remains to be seen.
Visit The Smart Estate Agency
- No tie-ins, only pay when you sell
- 7-day fast cash sale service
- 24/7 live chat
As one of the hybrid estate agents we mentioned at the start, Property Solvers offers a choice of ways to sell your house. Its business is getting your home sold fast, and offers a 'Quick Cash Sale' service that gets you up to 75% of market value and urgent sales can be turned around in as little as seven days if you are in a tight spot.
For those who aren't in such a hurry, the estate agency Express Sale Service means you get the market value but still a good deal faster than normal. One of the benefits of the hybrid service is that a sales manager will visit your property, talk you through the sale process and value it.
Everything is arranged for you: floorplans, high-quality photos, and listings on the major (as well as smaller) online marketing portals. There's a choice of three packages, all of which have no tie-ins so you can leave at any time, and not pay a penny until your house is sold. Fees start at 1.25% for the Super Saver and rise to 1.95% for the Premium Package that comes with extras such as a virtual reality tour of your property, featured listings on Zoopla, Rightmove and more.
So, you don't have the set fee option, but if you're keen to sell quickly, and you want 24/7 live chat access to a sales manager then Property Solvers can be a good option.