The way we buy, sell, let and rent property has changed dramatically over the past decade as new online alternatives and hybrid models have shaken up the status quo. Until relatively recently, traditional High Street agents essentially owned 99.9% of the market and it was commonly accepted that if you wanted to sell or let your property, you would pop down to your local High Street agent’s office and have a chat with a suited and booted estate agent. However, today sellers have more possible routes to market than ever before, and traditional estate agents will need to adapt or suffer the consequences.
Online estate agents have become increasingly popular and now 2 clear groups have emerged: the low cost online-only agent, such as Settled, and the “hybrid” online agent, such as Purplebricks. Cheaper online-only estate agents offer their services from as little as £200-£300 which is a very attractive price to get customers through the door, but they don’t offer much by way of help and guidance.
“Hybrid” online agents, on the other hand, charge a higher fee, usually around $700-£1000 and provide experienced local property experts for all their customers – meaning you benefit from the knowledge and expertise of a traditional agent, without paying the hefty commission. Industry experts have predicted that the “hybrid” model will be the way forward for the online agency sector, and that smaller online agents will struggle to survive when competing with the multi-million pound budgets of the big boys such as PurpleBricks and HouseSimple.
Things are changing in the property portal market too. In January last year a group of established High Street estate agents clubbed together to form Agents Mutual and launched their agent-owned portal, OnTheMarket. OnTheMarket was meant to take on Rightmove and Zoopla who have dominated the UK property market for many years, but over a year after the portal was launched, serious doubts are being raised about the success of OnTheMarket.
Another new challenge to the major property portals is the introduction of free to list property websites and property classified ad sites such as TheHouseShop.com. Many traditional estate agents are re-evaluating the way they market their clients’ properties and smaller agents especially are diversifying their marketing efforts so that they don’t rely so heavily on pricey Rightmove and Zoopla subscriptions – so we should expect to see a boost for free to use portals and property websites over the next couple of years.
With online estate agents moving closer toward the style of their High Street counterparts, there is now demand for a true, DIY, private sales service. Property classified ad sites will accept listings from private individuals, online agents, high street agents and developers, but we are now seeing more sites dedicated purely to private sales. Property website Cubbyhole.co.uk was launched this month and claims to allow homeowners to sell their property for £60 per month, but we will have to wait and see if consumers will take a punt on the new service before we can evaluate their chances of success.
The next couple of years will be an interesting time for the property industry and I imagine we will quickly discover which of these new models are the real deal, and which are doomed to disappear.
Homesgofast.com take a look at overseas property portals at