Thanks to the shortage of properties on the market, home sellers across the UK are now in an excellent position to take advantage of the upward trend in house prices that has defined the last few years.
And with prices in commuter towns up by as much as £130 per day in 2015 (according to the latest Zoopla research), an increasing number of homeowners are looking to maximise their profits by bypassing the high street altogether, and selling their homes online.
As well as the benefit of limiting estate agent fees, selling online also means a greater degree of control over the transaction, and a refreshing level of transparency. For those weighing up the high street versus the online alternative, here's a quick look at 10 things estate agents are likely to keep under their hats.
1. How your viewing numbers compare to other properties
Competition between agencies is intense, so sellers will find agents are usually very keen to keep you on their books. If a rival's property in your area is getting more viewings than yours, this information will (unsurprisingly) be kept quiet.
2. It's all about the property list
While agencies will usually be keen to sell your home, there's a chance it may not be the most pressing priority. In some cases, the focus is to persuade you to list your property with them, with individual agents receiving commission based on new properties listed, rather than actual sales.
3. It's not all about getting the best price
Earning commission for listings means there isn't necessarily a huge incentive for individual agents to secure the best possible deal. The focus is more on encouraging sellers to agree on a sale so that they can quickly move on to the next listing.
4. The fees aren't always fixed
It's a common claim that estate agent fees are fixed, though these claims may be somewhat exaggerated. By quoting a lower price from a rival agency, you may find that the 'fixed' fee drops down a notch or two.
5. Your valuation might be inflated
A common practice is to be 'generous' with the valuation of a property to encourage the seller to list with an agency. However, it's worth keeping in mind that although a high asking price may sound promising, it can also be off-putting to potential buyers – and eventually result in dropping the asking price anyway. 50% of high street agents urge customers to drop their price, many within the first two weeks of putting their property on the market.
6. Feedback may be sugar-coated
Passing on negative (or even constructive) feedback from viewings can be awkward, so it's no surprise that some agents will gloss over feedback or skip the details. However, this information can be invaluable to sellers – particularly for identifying common issues that are an easy fix.
7. Ready-to-go buyers aren't guaranteed
Some agencies may suggest that they have established relationships with a number of ready-to-go buyers. However, often they're simply confident that by advertising your property on popular channels, they're likely to attract ready-to-go buyers. A small but significant difference.
8. Newspapers aren't the best medium
With so many potential buyers now searching for properties online, newspaper ads aren't as effective as they once were. So, if an estate agent recommends a print ad to market your property, this may be an exercise in boosting their brand profile, rather than your sale prospects.
9. What percentage of their stock they sell
Estate agents are unlikely to share exactly how much of their stock (properties on their books) they successfully sell. However, the latest data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RCIS) revealed that, in 2015, estate agents shifted around 40% of their stock, leaving a significant proportion of properties unsold.
10. Never mind the advisor
Some estate agencies may recommend that you speak to their in-house mortgage or insurance advisors when using their services, as uptake of financial products can boost their commission. However, as with any service, it's best to compare offers and prices elsewhere to ensure you get the best (and most suitable) deal.
For homeowners seeking transparency and savings, selling online might be the better route. With crystal clear fees and customer service levels to rival the high street, HouseSimple.com save vendors an average of £5,247. Visit HouseSimple.com to find out more.