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How has the internet changed the property buying process?

The threat of new technology

Over the past thirty or forty years, new technologies have appeared and threatened established forms of communication and traditional businesses. 

The video was going to replace the need for colour brochures. The thinking was that companies would send out a video instead of a colour brochure, and people would sit down in front of their televisions and decide what product to buy. Meanwhile, Ceefax was going to replace newspapers as the way people received their daily news. 

Well, the video never replaced colour brochures, and Ceefax never replaced newspapers, and neither technology is with us today.  

However, one technology has appeared that has been changing the way we buy goods and services: the internet. 

The internet has given many people the opportunity to buy products and services online, and this has had an adverse effect on many traditional businesses which trade offline. 

One of those businesses which have felt the effects of online competition are traditional estate agents, and this has caused some to prophesise the end of the high street estate agent. 

However, despite the activity of online estate agents, some people believe the end of the high street estate agent is not on the distant horizon. They believe the high street estate agent will always be here.  

How has the internet changed the property buying process

So, what is the thinking behind this optimism? 

The case for online

One of the main things which attracts people to online estate agents is convenience. Even the so-called silver surfers or baby boomers have become used to sitting in front of a screen to look for a service or a product, and see no problem with going online when it comes to buying a house. 

The internet allows potential buyers and tenants to view many more properties on screen than could be seen in an estate agent’s window. Why wouldn’t you enjoy flipping through high-quality images of potential homes without leaving the comfort of their chair? Meanwhile, vendors are tempted by the exposure the internet can provide for the property they may be selling.  

Many are enticed by what they see as the very low fees online estate agents charge compared to high street agents. But do online agents actually provide a complete service to potential buyers and sellers?

The case for offline

There is an obvious advantage the high street has over its online competitor, and that is local knowledge. The high street agent may have sold the same property several times, and will know its history. Also, the local agent will know the area they operate in and will be able to answer any questions regarding its amenities. They can use this knowledge and experience of the area to give a more accurate property valuation than an online agent would be able to do.   

The majority of online agencies run systems where the buying or selling of a property will need to be carried out solely by the buyer or seller. They may have to arrange or carry out viewings themselves and monitor the transaction through to completion. This is fine if the person concerned has time on their hands, but this will not suit anyone with a job or a busy family life.   

Another thing to consider is the online agency’s flat fee. Because the fee is not related to the final price of the house sale, there is little incentive for an online agency to push for a higher price. There is then the question of security.  Because the online agent rarely meets either the buyer or seller, it is impossible for them to check their backgrounds. This is a concern to many people who are reluctant to let an unaccompanied viewer into their home. A vendor would probably prefer for an estate agent to accompany them.

What does the future hold?

Unlike Ceefax or video, the internet is not going to go away. And it is probable that the popularity of online estate agents will continue to rise. But there is still a bright future for high street estate agents, if they harness the power of the internet and use it effectively.  

A spokesperson for BDI Home Finders argues that the attraction of the online agent’s low fee, which leads people to handle the house-selling process themselves, will almost always result in a longer transaction, more hassle and headaches, and lower prices. The spokesperson goes on to say that most people want only two things from the selling process: as little hassle as possible, and the highest price possible for their house. 

The internet has had an impact on how many people buy and sell property, and some offline estate agents have suffered because of online agents. However, there is a role and a future for high street estate agents who are willing to face the challenge of the online competition and actively promote the advantages of using high street estate agents with local presence.   

There are still a lot of people who, despite the savings, are reluctant to conduct the biggest financial transaction of their lives online. 

If you need the services of an estate agent with years of knowledge and experience in property transactions, contact us today and find out what we can offer you.