Moving house has an option throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but with high street estate agents closed for large portions of the year, many people have turned to online alternatives.
While nothing beats a good bit of window shopping for your next home, the processing of selling real estate can often be simplified by heading online. In many circumstances, they can also save you a significant amount of money.
Like with any emerging sector, it's not always clear what you should be looking for in an online estate agent. With that in mind, we've compared six of the most popular options to see what's on offer.
Online estate agents vs the high street
Under normal circumstances, the main difference between the two is that you can meet a high street agent face-to-face just 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, expect in-person meetings to return to popularity at some point.
The second big factor to consider is that online agents tend to be much cheaper to use. This is due to a different approach to commission and the kind of services on offer. While high street agents will take a small cut of the final selling fee of any house, online agents usually charge a set fee. This is usually up front and can therefore lower their drive to sell your property, but no decent agent is going to be in business long if they have customers complaining about their inability to achieve sales.
Part of this lower fee comes from the fact that 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 getting your property listed on Rightmove and Zoopla. Most online agents offer these services, but often at an additional cost.
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 with prices and other relevant information.
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 be more patient, you can save quite a bit more money choosing the online route. Conversely, if you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of work, 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, up to £1,499 for London and surrounding areas
- Dedicated app
- High rating on Trustpilot
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. So, it seems that many people have already found it to be a useful service.
- 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 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 the house 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.
- Cheap £99 starting tier
- No commission
- Handles buyer negotiations
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.
As Doorsteps is still a young company, it hasn’t managed to amass the same amount of reviews as the likes of Purplebricks. Nonetheless its 4.7 star ‘Excellent’ rating on Trustpilot from over 3,600 customers at the time of writing is an indicator that things are going well so far.
- 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 4.7 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot. However, while this might be true it’s only drawn from 417 customers, making it slightly less impressive than those of Purplebricks and Doorsteps.
- Pay monthly 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) Core service, you’ll get a valuation, pro-level 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.
- 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. It's a great option where speed is of the essence as it 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 is a good option.