What is an online estate agent?

Since we moved to the online estate agency model in the second half of 2013, we’ve been asked a lot about what it actually means. How does an online estate agent differ from a High Street estate agent in the UK? In fact, in a survey carried out by Ipsos Mori for online agency, eMoov concluded that over half of Brits weren’t even aware that an alternative to the traditional model existed, but once made aware, most said that they would consider it as an option.

In a nutshell, an online estate agent is one that doesn’t have the overheads of lots of shops, but instead operates entirely via the internet and by phone. Most online agents have a national coverage, too. As a result of reduced overheads and greater scale, the service is less expensive to run and the savings can be passed onto the vendor. Online estate agents also generally tend to work on a flat fee rather than a commission.

Beyond that, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the core services that an online agency and a high street one provide. In short:

  • We abide by the same legal guidelines around ensuring that customers are fairly treated.
  • We physically verify each and every property that we sell. This means that we send round a representative to speak to each vendor and check that they are who they are and what they are saying is accurate.
  • We give you the option to have an EPC carried out (this is a legal requirement but we find that people often already have one so we don’t insist you pay us to create another one for you).
  • We can provide For Sale boards, photography and a floor plan. But again, we feel that agents shouldn’t force these on people. If you don’t want them or need them, we won’t charge you for them.
  • We’ll promote your home on property portals such as Rightmove. At Tepilo we’re also investing a lot in advertising ourselves, which in turn will help those people who have trusted us to promote their property.
  • We help put together the property particulars – the main difference being that we provide an online tool for vendors to manage how this is shown. We’re here to help if needs be, but we find that most people who use us are keen to point out their home’s most sellable features, themselves.
  • We book viewings and provide feedback (again, this is mainly through the online platform we have built, but we’re also always at the end of the phone, too)
  • We’re also there to help facilitate the sales process.

An online estate agent:

  • Is not a place where you sell your home yourself.
  • Is not a service that simply aggregates properties and offers to stick them on a property portal.
  • Is not an advertising board for properties.
  • Works with the customer from the time it is contracted to the point at which the sale is completed.

Using an online estate agent isn’t the only alternative to selling your home. Many people choose to sell their home privately either to friends or by using an online product. And indeed Tepilo began life as a place for people to sell their home directly to the end user. However the difficulty with selling your house privately (or For Sale By Owner, as it’s sometimes called) is getting your home in front of enough people.

Clearly, as an online-only agent, what we don’t have is someone locally on the ground, and for some people this local knowledge is worth paying extra for. Online estate agency is an option that won’t appeal to everyone and we feel sure that there will always be a place for good local agents, especially where they are selling an unusual home or perhaps for an elderly relative who wouldn’t want to show people around their homes themselves. But for many others, managing some of the elements of the sales process themselves and the ability to use technology to cut out the costs is an appealing alternative.

We think Tepilo brings certain advantages over our competitors in the online-only sector. Firstly we have invested heavily in a technical platform that is second to none in our industry. It means that using the system to sell or to buy makes life very simple. No need to leave messages with an estate agent and wait for them to get back to you, you can manage all your bookings using our online tool. Plus, as more and more people are accessing the internet using a mobile, our site adapts to be easily read on all screens. Secondly, we’re a trusted brand. We won’t deny that it helps when you have one of the country’s best-known property experts as an owner of the business, but we still think that trust comes from our actions, too. Although our fees are considerably less than you’d find on the high street, we’re still talking about a lot of money to hand over and so people need to feel confident that that money represents a good investment. Thirdly, we have ambitious plans. We’re a well-backed company with plans to grow rapidly over the next few years. We’re not the only ones who think that the online estate agency market is going to become far more significant very soon, and we’re determined to make sure that Tepilo is considered to be one of the best online estate agents out there.