Support, Advice and Experience within the Property Market

Online or Traditional Letting Agent

From Robert Ulph on February 8, 2016

This week I wanted to talk about what kind of service to choose when looking to let your property.

There has been debate for some time now in the industry about online or traditional agents, but this has mainly been about the sales side of estate agency and the differences between a traditional estate agency with a local office or using an online agent.

As you’d expect the big topic is around the fees and the point has been raised that traditional estate agents can be seen to be expensive and not always providing value for money by charging up to 3% commission to sell a house and online agents are charging considerably less.

The problem with this argument seems to be that much of the debate is often focused on the London market and not locally in Suffolk and my home town of Ipswich where you can get fixed discounted rates to sell your house at a lot lower rate than the figures quoted, which reduces the argument locally.

The online agents will say, of course, that this is the issue and that they are there to re-write the way we all will sell our homes in the future. They have a place and they provide choice, but that’s exactly it – choice. It is up to clients to decide if they are getting value for money for the service they receive.

What is more interesting is how online agencies hope to move into the letting market and if as a Landlord, you are looking only for a way to advertise your property online then this could be a good route to take. It is my experience however that most of the Landlords I come into contact with are looking for more than that and actually appreciate advice, assistance and help with the legal aspects of tenancies. Landlords appreciate a good local knowledge of an area, especially with proposed investments and also, of course, may be looking at ongoing management of the property too.

Further support with professional looking photos and details is also important and how the property is then marketed locally still counts for a lot. As well as online enquiries, there is still a significant amount of interest that comes through our regular adverts in the local newspapers and individuals walking into our local offices, who have seen a property advertised in the window or are coming in to check for availability.

I would also raise a warning over fees, as what can start off looking like a great deal with an online agency may have a very different looking final bill. The initial fee for an online agency may look very attractive but may not include all elements which may be ultimately charged for.

Most high street agents don’t charge a penny until the property is let. In fact I would be horrified if any local agent charges anything to market a property upfront, it just doesn’t happen. But with some research I have done, online agents can charge upfront and once you have added in extra costs to the initial fees, the online – and supposedly cheaper – option can end up costing you, as a Landlord, more money than you would have paid with the traditional high street letting agent and with a lot less ‘bells and whistles’.

There has been a lot of talk about the online agent taking over from traditional agents, but I really don’t see it happening. It’s great to have choice and I definitely believe there is room for both traditional and online agents to exist together.

I do however think that for a first time investor Landlord or even a Landlord who has let properties for many years but is not maybe up to speed with all the new legislation that has come into force recently they should really consider looking at a high street agent (and preferably ARLA agents) to assist. It can be a minefield now in the letting market and I have seen many a seasoned professional Landlord come unstuck recently due to not following new procedures.