Online agents have been good at making a lot of noise – but little else so far.
They have been around for some time, says Cheshire agent Maurice Kilbride, “but they haven’t exactly been a game changer”.
But he does warn high street agents that they should not dismiss online agents as an idle threat, must look at their own businesses and be prepared to change.
Kilbride says: “We should not under-estimate the challenge – some online agents are using technology very well and there is no doubt there is a niche in the market for them, which will grow if high street agents do not wake up and smell the coffee.
“However, there is one fundamental flaw in the online business model and it is a huge one.
“A home is simply not like any other commodity you can buy and sell over the internet.
“Estate agency is about real people and the real journeys they take.
“A computer algorithm does not know if those kitchen worktops were fitted correctly, what is underneath that newly fitted carpet or that the third bedroom used to be a garage.
“It most likely doesn’t know the motivations of the seller, upcoming planning applications in the area that may affect future values and saleability, and it certainly cannot negotiate, or feel a client’s pain or anguish.
“Good high street agents have built up an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of their patch and you can’t Google this wealth of knowledge.
“Each transaction has its own story. When negotiations become fraught or difficult, agents can be the much-needed independent, cool head to prevent emotion taking over which can easily result in a deal collapsing.
“What irks me more than anything is that most of these online / low-cost agents don’t seem to realise, or more probably care, that they are cheapening the image of estate agency, making out anybody can sell a property.
“It is easy attempting to devalue the excellent work many agents do.
“It is not all about cost – it is about value and there is a significant difference between the two.”
He adds that high street agents should make sure they look at their own business models and make any changes necessary.
“Do that,” he says, “and we can ensure that online agents remain nothing more than noisy neighbours.”
The full blog is here