While the Internet has changed the way we live and carry out business, the property market was perhaps one of the last bastions of tradition to be conquered. However, over the last few years we have seen the emergence of some huge online estate agents who have disrupted the traditional business model. Why are online estate agents now so popular?
In essence an online estate agent’s website is their office. It is their front window, the first point of contact and their showroom. While there are obvious costs associated with operating an online estate agency, these tend to be significantly less than traditional office costs. As a consequence, rather than investing in office “bricks and mortar” this leaves more capital to invest in their actual business to the benefit of customers.
It is impossible not to notice the number of online estate agents offering set fees as opposed to sliding scales. In theory, property showcased online will require the same effort whether there are 10 views or 100 views. This is because many of the previous manual processes can be carried out online with no human interaction. The fact that advice may not be required until further down the line allows many online estate agents to work on reduced set fees.
The opportunity to introduce online virtual viewings of a property, using footage from a simple handheld camera was in itself a game changer. This is before we even begin to look at the drones and other new technology which can literally make you feel as though you are “in the house”. As a consequence, those who actually go to the trouble of arranging a physical viewing have in theory already made their mind up. They have seen everything online, the facts, the figures and the look of the property. In many cases an actual viewing is just the cherry on the cake – a final check.
While there are benefits in approaching local estate agents, the fact that the online arena stretches around the world is a significant advantage to online estate agents. In what could be described as something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The greater the advertising spend, the larger the number of visitors which in turn attracts more sellers, more buyers and creates something of a perfect storm. Virtual footfall on a successful online estate agent website will be a multiple of a traditional estate agent’s office.
The convenience of being able to view properties and take virtual journeys through a home in your own time should not be underestimated. Many people are busy working through the day, they may have young families to look after in the evening, so traditional viewing times may be difficult to accommodate. Logging onto your computer, checking out the latest properties for sale at 1am in the morning is now an option.
There will always be a place for traditional estate agent businesses with a physical presence which overshadows their online exposure. The ability to talk face-to-face with a local estate agent, get the feel of the market and a general impression of property prices should not be underestimated. That said, the vast majority of frequent asked questions can be covered online and communication by telephone, email or even Skype is just a button press away.