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InlikeFlynn

"no Frills" Estate Agents

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I have just put my house on the market using a "no-frills" agent. They charge a small fixed fee to measure the house, write particulars, place the house on Rightmove, primelocation etc. and forward enquiries, and no commmission. My experience so far has been mixed: the entry to Rightmove was well handled but I have some doubts about the model as there is no incentive for no-frills agents to provide a solid telephone/email answering service and to close the sale.

The reason we used this agent is that the local agents didn't inspire and offered really unattractive terms. They wouldn't come out to show the house as it was "too far" and would charge for advertising, photography, preparation of particulars, entry on Rightmove, stamps etc. Then nigh on 2% (inc VAT) of the selling price! We've opted to use a fixed-fee no-frills agent in the first instance, with a generous budget for press advertising. If this doesn't work we still have the traditional agency approach available as there is no lock-in.

Has anyone else had any experience of these agents (Emoov, mypropertyforsale, house network etc.), either as a seller or a buyer ?

flynn

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I used halfapercent.com to sell my flat four years ago and their service was excellent. I wrote the sales text and decided on the price; they took photos and posted the property online. I received regular updates on how many times the post had been viewed and whether the brochure had been printed. They conducted four viewings within a week of marketing the property and sent feedback on the response. I received two offers and they continued to negotiate with the buyer to push the sale through quickly. I know this sounds like an ad for them, but I promise it isn't. They were just so much better and less obtrusive than agents I'd engaged to sell properties previously. Hope this helps...

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I used halfapercent.com to sell my flat four years ago and their service was excellent. I wrote the sales text and decided on the price; they took photos and posted the property online. I received regular updates on how many times the post had been viewed and whether the brochure had been printed. They conducted four viewings within a week of marketing the property and sent feedback on the response. I received two offers and they continued to negotiate with the buyer to push the sale through quickly. I know this sounds like an ad for them, but I promise it isn't. They were just so much better and less obtrusive than agents I'd engaged to sell properties previously. Hope this helps...

Sounds very good - a slightly different model but obviously effective. You pay more but get some help with viewings which is probably vital in an environment where everyone works long hours. halfapercent seem to specialise in the London area.

I struggle to see how, with the rise of Rightmove and the current tiny sales volume, the existing glut of traditional high street estate agents can survive. The new cheap internet -only brokers will surely hoover up a growing share of the market. They don't have to pay highstreet rents and the salaries of staff to sit in them and play freecell whilst nobody comes in.

There will always be rooom for some of the premium brokers, but the more run of the mill ones will be under increasing pressure.

Flynn

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Tried to sell my house three years ago. Owing to EAs competing for my business the home was massively over-valued and didn't sell.

One thing I did learn - which perhaps they shouldn't have told me - is that 85% of interest comes from the internet. I'm not sure that buyers (particularly younger ones) trawl around the high street looking at EA window listings or look in the local paper any more.

The whole EA model seems to be completely wrong and 20 years out of date. So long as you're home to conduct viewings, so long as the asking price is attractive and so long as messages are relayed from the internet agency, I find it hard to believe that you can go wrong.

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I saw a couple of properties through Internet EAs.

In both cases the companies responded well to enquiries and scheduled viewings with the vendor.

Though neither property sold through them and both went with traditional EAs after a few months. But they still didn't sell! One is still for sale after 12 months (and now on with a second EA) and the other had to reduce price three times to find a buyer. So I don't think them not selling was anything to do with the marketing method. Both properties were ones of niche appeal and that is more of the reason

One thing that I didn't like was that I was told by one of the companies that I should make offers direct to the owner which I felt uncomfortable with (for making low offers!), the other one didn't mention this.

tim

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I saw a couple of properties through Internet EAs.

In both cases the companies responded well to enquiries and scheduled viewings with the vendor.

Though neither property sold through them and both went with traditional EAs after a few months. But they still didn't sell! One is still for sale after 12 months (and now on with a second EA) and the other had to reduce price three times to find a buyer. So I don't think them not selling was anything to do with the marketing method. Both properties were ones of niche appeal and that is more of the reason

One thing that I didn't like was that I was told by one of the companies that I should make offers direct to the owner which I felt uncomfortable with (for making low offers!), the other one didn't mention this.

tim

Thanks for all the information, these agencies are relatively new and there is little information out there about how effective they are. I'd be really interested to know which agencies you have had contact with Tim. I am using "mypropertyforsale.co.uk", at a price and am broadly content with the servivce although I am being vigilant as they have taken on a lot of new instructions over the past few weeks and are now up to 600 odd houses. They seem to have taken on a new member of staff to answer the 'phone which is encouraging, as I mentioned above the danger of fixed -fee agencies is that they don't have much of a financial incentive to "close the deal".

Flynn

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Thanks for all the information, these agencies are relatively new and there is little information out there about how effective they are. I'd be really interested to know which agencies you have had contact with Tim. I am using "mypropertyforsale.co.uk", at a price and am broadly content with the servivce although I am being vigilant as they have taken on a lot of new instructions over the past few weeks and are now up to 600 odd houses. They seem to have taken on a new member of staff to answer the 'phone which is encouraging, as I mentioned above the danger of fixed -fee agencies is that they don't have much of a financial incentive to "close the deal".

Flynn

Yep, The people that said that I had to make an offer to the owner was mypropertyforsale.co.uk. I saw the property last August and it is still on RM with myproperty at the same price despite being on with two other EAs at a different price (though you have to compare pictures to see that it's the same property as it is given a different name). Though the new EAs have specified a range 15K either side of myproperty and I don't think he will accpet offers at the lower..

The other one was with move4us.com, original asking was 290K and they made 7 reductions in price before selling at 245K. This is a good example of seller optimism. They bought at peak of April 2008 for 248K and put it on the market 20% above that price in March 2010 when prices were 10% off peak. Yet they were desperate to sell.

The first seller is also overpricing and isn't encouraging lower offers. He bought in Dec 2006 and the local market is 5% down from there, yet he is asking 5% more than he paid. This ought to be within the negotiating range but my gut feel is that an offer 10% below his asking won't be accepted (hence the reason why I was uncomfortable with having to make offers direct). TBH if he had properly reduced his price 10% I might have made him an offer as I liked the property a lot, but it was very niche product and I would be worried about a resale unless I got it for a bargain price :-)

Edited by tim123

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Thanks for the info Tim, your right about mypropertyforsale, they are little more than a route for de-facto private sellers to get on Rightmove. Interesting thoughts about pricing too - I hadn't considered that buyers would be put off making an offer much below asking as they have to deal direct, but it makes sense. I hope we'll be OK with this as we have been quite careful with pricing, and have gone on 10% below the EA recommended price and 5% below Home Report (Scottish HIP - we still have them). Time will tell if this is enough.

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I started my agency on-line from home, but only managed to sell 3 properties in 2 years. I was letting properties on a weekly basis, but was still not able to afford the cost of property portal advertising on a regular basis.

To afford it I needed to sell 1 property per month. The biggest problem I found was gaining new instructions and at the end of the day it is a numbers game. You need the numbers to advertise in order to sell.

Once I moved the company to a shop on the highstreet I began to pick up the instruction numbers which now allows me to advertise on-line, in the paper and the shop front.

In all honesty we do not get many buyers through the door, but it is where we pick up the instructions and close most of the deals.

When I worked from home I did all the viewings and was basically just like any other local traditional EA. It was just too much work for little if any profit and I spent around 12 hours a day 7 days a week working. I tried all kinds of methods and I was unable to find something that worked on a regular basis. I don't see how they will survive on-line for too long. Most don't from my experience after keeping an eye on the competition and watching them shut down.

I still find most of my buyers and tenants on-line or from sale/let signs.

It costs about £500 per month to advertise on rightmove. A bit less on the other portals. If you watch any of these on-line agents closely, you may see that they are not selling too many, so how do they afford to keep the advertising going? It's possible, but there is very little profit if any.

I wish it would have worked better because I enjoyed working from home. I gave it 4 years, but it just does not work.

With regards to selling your own property. I think people should try it just to see how much work is involved. Good luck to anybody that does because if you don't try, then you will never know if you can do it.

One final note to the OP. It sounds like you live in a rural location if the EA's would not come out for viewings etc. I thought EA's had stopped charging up front for advertising etc. I'm sure you could find an independent EA that will do more than a larger chain EA. They would be happy to take on your instruction without charging in advance.

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I started my agency on-line from home, but only managed to sell 3 properties in 2 years. I was letting properties on a weekly basis, but was still not able to afford the cost of property portal advertising on a regular basis.

To afford it I needed to sell 1 property per month. The biggest problem I found was gaining new instructions and at the end of the day it is a numbers game. You need the numbers to advertise in order to sell.

Once I moved the company to a shop on the highstreet I began to pick up the instruction numbers which now allows me to advertise on-line, in the paper and the shop front.

In all honesty we do not get many buyers through the door, but it is where we pick up the instructions and close most of the deals.

When I worked from home I did all the viewings and was basically just like any other local traditional EA. It was just too much work for little if any profit and I spent around 12 hours a day 7 days a week working. I tried all kinds of methods and I was unable to find something that worked on a regular basis. I don't see how they will survive on-line for too long. Most don't from my experience after keeping an eye on the competition and watching them shut down.

I still find most of my buyers and tenants on-line or from sale/let signs.

It costs about £500 per month to advertise on rightmove. A bit less on the other portals. If you watch any of these on-line agents closely, you may see that they are not selling too many, so how do they afford to keep the advertising going? It's possible, but there is very little profit if any.

I wish it would have worked better because I enjoyed working from home. I gave it 4 years, but it just does not work.

With regards to selling your own property. I think people should try it just to see how much work is involved. Good luck to anybody that does because if you don't try, then you will never know if you can do it.

One final note to the OP. It sounds like you live in a rural location if the EA's would not come out for viewings etc. I thought EA's had stopped charging up front for advertising etc. I'm sure you could find an independent EA that will do more than a larger chain EA. They would be happy to take on your instruction without charging in advance.

Thanks for your very full reply SwanseaPA. Always good to hear how things are from a different perspective. If we were in a city I would use a local estate agent like you, however the house we are selling is in the Scottish Borders - a very big area that draws people in from all over Britain. There's no obvious way to reach buyers beyond Rightmove and advertising in The Scotsman, or going through one of the big national chains with a large database of potential buyers. The shop front seems to have little effect here. The main deal breaker for me is that the business model many of the larger agents are using is based on charging a range of fees for producing plans, photos, particulars etc. and some random extras including a registration fee and cash for stationery! They then wanted to charge through the nose for all the viewings, which is probably fair enough as we are more than 30 minutes from their offices. My experience with Estate Agents in the past has been broadly positive, so I'm not trying to prove a point, but in my case I need national reach and local service and that just isn't on offer where we are now. I quite agree about the amount of work involved, however I have some time on my hands at the moment so can take the slack. The process has been instructive, a lot of work and about two viewings per week, which probably isn't bad, but few of these viewers are really in a position to move as they have unsold houses on the market. We priced below valuation and below EAs recommendations as I felt they were optimistic. We've been on the market for nearly a month and the rightmove hits are dropping, the initial rush was probably the village having a look!

All the best

Flynn

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Thanks for your very full reply SwanseaPA. Always good to hear how things are from a different perspective. If we were in a city I would use a local estate agent like you, however the house we are selling is in the Scottish Borders - a very big area that draws people in from all over Britain. There's no obvious way to reach buyers beyond Rightmove and advertising in The Scotsman, or going through one of the big national chains with a large database of potential buyers. The shop front seems to have little effect here. The main deal breaker for me is that the business model many of the larger agents are using is based on charging a range of fees for producing plans, photos, particulars etc. and some random extras including a registration fee and cash for stationery! They then wanted to charge through the nose for all the viewings, which is probably fair enough as we are more than 30 minutes from their offices. My experience with Estate Agents in the past has been broadly positive, so I'm not trying to prove a point, but in my case I need national reach and local service and that just isn't on offer where we are now. I quite agree about the amount of work involved, however I have some time on my hands at the moment so can take the slack. The process has been instructive, a lot of work and about two viewings per week, which probably isn't bad, but few of these viewers are really in a position to move as they have unsold houses on the market. We priced below valuation and below EAs recommendations as I felt they were optimistic. We've been on the market for nearly a month and the rightmove hits are dropping, the initial rush was probably the village having a look!

All the best

Flynn

You could well be right about the viewings so far. You could ask the agent to delist the property for a day and put it back up. Many agents seem to do this once interest dies down. Re-listing it will put it back to the top of the listings as a new property on the market.

I find that signs are the most effective advertising, but this will only attract those nearby or those driving around an area of which they wish to buy in and look for signs.

You could always do some on-line advertising yourself. You can still use the agent to deal with negotiations etc. Try websites such as gumtree, vivastreet and house ladder etc.

There is of course the INEA. Maybe you could find an agent that is linked with them and it would not matter where they are based has all agents with them can offer the property to all other members for part of the commission. You would probably need a member agent to be based close by for viewings unless you were prepared to carry out viewings just like you are now. This way your property can be advertised in agents offices all over the UK and on their websites plus all the portals that they all use. You could end up with it being listed on RM or Zoopla a dozen times.

Most if not all members are independents and so far there are around 800 agents onboard. We have recently joined and once we can get round the data feed issues, we can then increase our advertising by 800% I suppose.

Worth checking out if you don't get anywhere with the no frills EA. You would be able to continue to use the no frills agent if the INEA member is happy to do that. Most are.

I'm not touting for business here by the way, but if you have no luck in the next 4-6 weeks which is the period that 95% of the interest will be, then feel free to get in touch with me. I would need to check on where the INEA members are based, but I bet one of them could help out.

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EA selling fees were commonly 1% back in the days of the boom, but I'm under the impression they are somewhat higher now on average. I heard Foxtons charge 3%. Explains how they can keep going despite the low number of transactions.

The whole EA model is way out of date. They have diversified with FA/mortgage services too, but this needs to be taken much further.

Edited by Van

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Many of the larger EA's near me are now earning money from several sources like EPC's, floorplans, video tours and the like.

We have always charged 1% and no VAT, but due to all the other EA's close by charging around 2.5% + VAT with a minimum of £1,800 + VAT we have now decided to increase our minimum fee to £1,500 from £999.

However, we do not charge for any of the extra's. Our sales completion figures have risen every month since we launched 18 months , but sales is not our primary business. Currently sales are just a bonus for us. Maybe if we became like other EA's and needed to drive sales, then no doubt our advertising would increase massively and fees would need to rise.

With sales we would need to advertise in the property paper which is about £1,000 per page. Basically we would need 1 sale a week to cover just this form of advertising. Larger EA's take up several pages a week and from the figures I'm seeing I have no idea how they can continue to advertise in this way for much longer. I suppose they have cut back to every other week now and advertise letings on the alternate weeks.

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