Buying or selling a property has never been a 2D experience

Monday, March 31, 2014 by Ed Mead


Comparisons between online and full service agents are missing the point, the limitations of what the internet can and can’t do surely make the argument for us.


We should all welcome competition and given the way the world moves we might all be expected to move with it. Except for one thing, what we sell isn’t a commodity bought on price and it hasn’t changed for thousands of years. As buyers we set parameters, often wrongly, but we buy on emotion and emotion isn’t conveyed in pictures however cleverly delivered.


My concern for the business of buying and selling property is that the internet services our needs as buyers and sellers to a point BUT as a medium is overselling itself in the whole process. If we were all living like battery hens then it might be a different story, but luckily human beings require a human touch.


Let me use an example - when I started photos on details were a rarity and floorplans a distant dream. As for area you’d have an idea where you wanted to be but were a little bit flexible. Anyone calling [probably with c. £25k back then!] would be invited in and would spend an afternoon looking at what they thought they wanted and end up buying what they needed. The latter would very often be miles away, metaphorically and geographically, from what they started off looking for and would be because they’d taken the time to look around. Modern day searchers will go onto a big portal and simply put in a list of their priorities and wait for their inbox to fill up. This has a two corollaries; one that they will usually only see what they think they want, NOT what they really need, and two that the agents simply become keyholders and lose the ability to actually advise people.


Many see looking for property on huge monolithic portals as a universal panacea, but with up to 40% of properties selling without seeing the web this is obviously not the cure all we may think.


Finding the right property is all about knowing the locality you want to live in and having someone there unearth the right thing for you, and this has always been, and will for quite some time I think, be the preserve of estate agents. A good one will open up a real new world to you, not one limited to a PC screen.


Online agents are welcome to some of the action but a central office with a dozen agents looking after the whole country may be cheaper - £500 odd upfront vs average fee of £2500 IF sold not the bargain it appears though? – but it can never replace the local knowledge that the huge majority agents use to both their buyers and seller’s advantage every day.


The internet is a tool designed to help humans. Buying a property is an emotional process and until the internet can communicate that you write off full service local knowledge estate agency at your peril.