With advantages including greater control and the potential to save money, exclusively online estate agents are giving power to the people.
In the past 15 years, there has been a revolution in how we buy and sell our homes.
It began with the arrival of property portals such as Rightmove, the online shop windows that 98 per cent of us now turn to when we are thinking about moving.
And this year a new breed of online, fixed-fee estate agents is disrupting the property market and challenging traditional agencies with high-quality, flexible and transparent services at a fraction of the cost.
Potential vendors are turning increasingly to online estate agents as they establish a reputation for offering what clients want. Online agents now carry out more than 5 per cent of all property sales in the UK, according to one estimate.
Property consultant Kate Faulkner says: “Unlike the previous internet boom, we’ve got people coming to the market who are proper estate agents as opposed to just sites that you sell on directly. These sites are offering a service rather than you having to do everything yourself.”
Daniel Attia, managing director of online agency YOPA, echoes this view. He says: “We wanted to provide the same service as traditional estate agents while drastically cutting the cost to consumers.” Set up by estate agents with more than 30 years’ experience of sales and negotiation between them, YOPA says it offers the newest way to sell your home, giving the vendor complete control of the transaction while offering round-the-clock advice and support from an established local property expert.
These sites are offering a service rather than you having to do everything yourselfAttia continues: "YOPA's hybrid model gives sellers the best of both worlds: the reassurance of a dedicated local estate agent to guide them through the sale, and the cost efficiency and transparency of an online service."
It takes less than 10 minutes to add a property to the YOPA website.
Within 72 hours it is given maximum exposure by being added to all three main property portals: Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location. Vendors can then manage every aspect of the sale, from setting viewing times to chatting with prospective buyers through the integrated messaging service and receiving updates on the easy-to-use YOPA account dashboard.
YOPA says this allows vendors to arrange viewings at convenient times and show prospective buyers around themselves, which is popular as the majority of us prefer to deal with would-be buyers direct.
It proved particularly convenient for Ricky Dew, 49, who sold his house at Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex this spring. He says: “It meant I was able to arrange viewings at times that suited me, which was great because I work long hours as a driver.”
Dew, who was looking for a bigger house for him, his partner and son, decided to try YOPA’s service after spending a frustrating year attempting to sell through a local estate agent and receiving no offers at all.
He says: “I found the people at YOPA very friendly and easy to deal with — and placing the details with them was simple and quick.”
Dew was contacted by potential buyers within days of placing his property with YOPA on March 12, and secured an acceptable offer of £230,000 just over a month later. Dew said he was delighted with the level of support he received: "I was able to contact the agents at YOPA around the clock. They were keeping me updated and were available for advice all through the sales process.”
The YOPA team of estate agents can be contacted on the phone from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week or 24 hours a day through the website. Their service begins with a free valuation of the property, although they emphasise that the vendor can change their recommended price at any time. They also check buyers’ ID before viewings, validate every offer to ensure it is authentic, and then negotiate, accept or decline it on the vendor’s behalf.
Once the offer is accepted, YOPA handles the “fiddly bits” – drawing up a memorandum of sale and monitoring conveyancing through to exchange and completion. The huge advantage of hybrid estate agents, in addition to the convenience and control that they bring, is the lower cost. Traditionally, estate agents who are selling a home charge the vendor a percentage of the property price, which can be one to three per cent.
Lloyds Bank estimates that estate agents in London charge £10,402 on average. Hybrid estate agents like YOPA work differently, charging a set fee with no hidden extras. The main difference is that vendors have a choice to conduct viewings themselves (or they can pay £150 extra for a local agent to host the viewings) — but many have readily come to the conclusion that it is well worth the savings. YOPA’s set fee means that the higher the property price, the greater the potential saving. Dew was happy to save £2,975 in estate agent fees on his sale.
Alison Reynolds, 57, placed her home in Wandsworth, south-west London, with YOPA on March 30. On April 9, less than a fortnight later, she accepted an offer of £615,000, making an even bigger saving on her higher- priced property. “I have saved £11,825 by using the online service rather than a local agent,” she says. “But at the same time, I found YOPA’s customer service just as good, if not better.”
98% of Britain's buyers use the internet to search for new homesReynolds was delighted to receive such a speedy offer. “I needed to sell my home quickly as I am moving abroad. I was astonished how fast it all happened. The offer was made by one of the first people to view it. There was around a week of negotiations, which YOPA took care of for me, and I was very happy with the end result.”
The sale of Reynolds’ home is heading towards completion and she says that she is still benefiting from YOPA’s service. “We have been able to arrange a convenient completion date that suits everyone involved,” she says, “and YOPA is monitoring the conveyancing to make sure it is all going smoothly. I can now get on with organising my move, knowing exactly when it is going to happen.”
She concludes: “I would recommend anyone thinking of selling a property to try YOPA out.”
Online estate agents versus high street estate agents
Online estate agents usually charge a fixed fee. At Yopa this is £839 (or £1,140 in some London postcodes) payable up front or deferred for six months at no extra cost.
High street estate agents however charge fees are calculated as a percentage of the property value and are usually between 1 and 2 per cent. A 1.5 per cent agreement on a property selling for £300,000 would cost the vendor £4,500 in fees.
Vendors have direct contact with potential buyers when they sell their property online. The vendor can show them round at times that work for them – although there is also the option to have an agent conduct viewings.
Where high street estate agent control who sees the property and when. Professional estate agents can have greater knowledge of what adds value to a house, but are less able to answer specific questions.
Online agencies offer the seller more freedom to have direct contact with buyers, and are on hand 24/7 to deal with any queries. Yopa will also handle the “fiddly bits” getting from an offer through to exchange and completion.
A good relationship with your high street estate agent is essential as they control who comes to see your house. They will see the process through from offer to completion.
Marketing to the public
With Yopa, house details are on its own website and three major portals: Zoopla, Rightmove and PrimeLocation. There is the option to have a For Sale board outside too.
Different high street agents will market your property through different online portals, as well as directly to customers who come into their shop and through a board outside your home.
Sell the YOPA way
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