If you’re looking to buy, sell, or rent a property, you probably have a litany of questions from how much a property is worth, to the best places to find and advertise property. While some property owners and sellers venture out on their own, others elicit the help of an estate or letting agent. Agents have the knowledge and experience to help you find a quality property for the right price and with a lot less stress!
In today’s digital world it’s no surprise that the number of online agents available is on the rise. But do online agents offer the same services and benefits as traditional agents? Which one is better and more cost-effective? We’re here to answer all of those questions and more!
Keep reading for a comparison of traditional and online agents so you can make an informed decision about your future.
Traditional Agent vs. Online Agent
Before we jump into the pros and cons of these two types of agents, let’s quickly explain what they are.
A traditional agent provides a more hands-on approach. They often have a brick-and-mortar office that you can visit and call. They physically come out to view, appraise, and show your property. They also have a presence in the local community and a pulse on the current market. While traditional agents usually cost more than their online counterparts, it’s because they tend to do more. If you know nothing about the property market or want a hassle-free experience, a traditional agent can deliver.
Online agents offer their own benefits – the main one being reduced rates. Online agents don’t charge as much as traditional agents but that’s because they don’t usually offer as many services. As the name suggests, most of your interactions with an online agent will occur online via email, chat, or text. You may also speak with them over the phone but rarely will you meet. Online agents manage all listings online, using cutting-edge technology and apps. Most property owners and buyers need to organise their own viewings, showings, and open houses.
The Pros and Cons of Traditional and Online Agents
Now that you know a little bit more about the difference between these two types of agents, let’s take a closer look at what each type offers.
If you want an agent who knows the ins and outs of the local community and market, then a traditional agent is the way to go. Traditional estate agents are often heavily involved in the local community with a storefront office, local advertising, and a strong presence in the community. If the agent you choose has a good reputation, people are more willing to work with and trust them, which will work in your favour.
In addition to having connections in the community, traditional agents also have inside knowledge which can help guide your decision. They’re often the first to know when a rent increase is imminent, where new developments are being built, and where the best streets and neighbourhoods are located. Online agents can do some research to gather information for you, but nothing replaces the first-hand knowledge traditional agents have. If the agent you choose has good relationships with local landlords, property managers, or other agents, they may get tipped off to quality listings before they officially hit the market, giving you a leg-up on the competition.
Feet on the ground
There’s no denying that advances in technology have made it easier than ever to view properties online. High-quality photographs, walkthrough videos, and even drone footage give you a birds-eye view of potential properties. Online agents are skilled in using and evaluating listings using these tools. But even the best pictures and videos can’t replace an on-site visit. Sometimes, you need to see something in person to get the complete picture. Another thing you don’t get from pictures or videos is a sense of the neighbourhood and street.
Online agents can only do so much from afar. A traditional agent will physically visit properties to get a better idea of the condition, size, value, and accessibility. They can also respond more quickly than online agents. If you see a property you like or get a lead, your agent can be on-site within hours, guaranteeing you never miss out on a prime listing.
Time is of the essence when it comes to landing your dream property or scoring a sale. You need an agent who’s on top of their game and available when you need them. If you opt for an online agent, live chat features on their website are most likely the communication method of choice.
When using a traditional agent, you have the opportunity for face-to-face meetings and discussions. Traditional agents hold office hours so you know when they’re available and at their desks. You can also schedule an in-person meeting or pop-in if you’re in the area. Face-to-face interactions also help cut down on confusion and reduce the risk of misinformation and missed opportunities. You also get a chance to build a better rapport and more personal relationship when you work side-by-side with your agent throughout the entire process.
Affordability and services
The old saying goes, “you get what you pay for” – and it holds true when choosing between a traditional agent and an online one. Online agents offer fewer services at a discounted price. If money is your bottom line, an online agent may be suitable but be prepared to do some of the legwork yourself including local advertising, viewings, and open houses.
While traditional agents cost more than their online counterparts, they also offer a lot more for their money. Not only do you get the same services as an online agent including listings on popular portals like Zoopla and Rightmove, but you also get additional services. These include local advertising, a sale board for your property, on-site valuations, viewings, and all the related paperwork. Traditional agents also offer peace of mind and save you countless hours of work and stress, which most people consider priceless.
If you’re a renter or landlord, traditional letting agents can also help with property management including finding and referencing tenants, maintenance and repairs, inventory, rent collection, and evictions. Many traditional agents know reliable property managers or double as letting agents willing to let the property for you. This is an ideal option if you plan to purchase a property in a different location from where you live.
Online letting agents are skilled at connecting prospective tenants with reputable landlords but their services often end there. If it turns out that the tenant you choose has poor credit or a bad reputation, you have to start from scratch. You’ll also be responsible for collecting rent, performing all repairs and maintenance, and dealing with any other issues that arise. Some property investors don’t want to be bothered with the particulars or confrontations with unruly tenants.
Established names offer security and stability
There’s a reason why some larger estate and letting agencies have been in business for years. Because they’re good at what they do. These larger companies offer stability and security. Buying, selling, or renting a property is a major life decision and not one to take lightly. If you want peace of mind that the agent you choose comes from an established agency with a good track record, you may want to go the traditional route.
Many traditional agents pride themselves on sticking with the same company for years. They become invested in the local area, gaining experience, knowledge, and skills over time. Because the world of online agents is relatively new, many of these brands are start-ups with little to no experience. These types of agencies are at a much greater risk of failure, putting your money, time, and future in limbo. Although many of these online agencies offer incentives and discounts to attract business, you’re also running the risk of getting an inexperienced agent from a company that might flounder before closing your deal.
While most property sales and purchases are a “one and done” type of arrangement, landlords, tenants, and property managers are always looking for new opportunities and properties. When you hire an online agent, chances are they’re located hundreds or even thousands of miles from where you live or are looking to invest. They can’t possibly offer you the same first-hand knowledge and expertise of the local area as a traditional agent who may have an office right down the block.
Traditional agents are often the first to know when a new property hits the market or a big development is underway. If you want to stay ahead of the competition and expand your reach or investments, a traditional agent can help. Let the agent know what type of property you’re interested in, your budget, and the desired location. They may even be able to get you a discount if you plan to invest in more than one property at a time. The opportunities are endless when working with a traditional agent who has a constant pulse on the local market.
Use of technology
Today’s world runs on technology. From social media to Google, if you’re not online, you’re missing out. And the same holds true when marketing or shopping for a property. In 2018 alone, nearly 93% of people searched for properties online.
In the modern era both online and traditional estate agents are making the most of technology. Both types of agents are highly skilled in using the internet to market and find quality listings, with most advertising on Zoopla and Rightmove, among other property portals.
But agents don’t just use tech for advertising. Letting agents use tech systems to track the rental process. These systems help find rental properties as soon as they become available, advertise tenancies, and find and reference tenants. While this is a great feature for many users, those who are not so tech-savvy might find this process intimidating and difficult to follow. This is where traditional agents might be more preferable. With a high street presence, on site visits can take place to assist sellers & landlords not comfortable with the technology involved in the sale and letting process.
Choose the Best Agent for Your Needs and Budget
There are a few basic factors that determine whether you use a traditional agent or an online agent. The two most common and important are your budget and your needs. If you want an agent with local knowledge and strong ties to the community, a traditional agent is the way to go. These agents also offer a hands-on approach to buying, selling, and renting property. They handle all the particulars so you can focus on other things like planning your future.
Online agents bring their own benefits to the table, mostly surrounding price and tech tools. If you’re working on a budget and don’t mind performing some of the work yourself, an online agent is a viable option. Just know that you’ll receive limited support throughout the process and may not hear about new opportunities or receive insider knowledge.
Sites like Rentround can assist landlords and sellers to compare agent fees, services and promotions. The platform is free to use and a comparison takes less than a minute to complete.
Sit down, crunch the numbers, and figure out what your time is worth before choosing between a traditional or online agent for your next property endeavour.