Three years ago I put every single penny I owned into my first property, a little Victorian one-bed flat in West London, but now I need somewhere bigger so it's time to sell it and move on. I bought my flat through a real life estate agent but as a millennial who uses Uber to get anywhere and Deliveroo when I'm peckish it seemed almost ludicrous for me not to be using an online estate agent. But selling a house is new to me and people have done it for years through the traditional method, so is using an online estate agent the right thing to do?
The way I view it, anyone buying my flat will be a bit like I was when I bought it. So they'll probably be a first time buyer, using RightMove and Zoopla to search for properties and won't be forming relationships with agents. They'll just see anything in budget which looks liveable and in the right area. Taking advice from my parents I called a few online and a few offline estate agents to come round and value my flat as a starting point. A procession of suited and booted agents came round and gave me valuations, all of which were virtually the same, but their sales pitches were very different.
The real life estate agents all mentioned that the fact they were local was a strong reason as to why they should market my flat. They showed me glossy brochures for similar properties they already look after, the sort of brochures I remember looking at and then throwing away when I was searching myself. They all wanted around 1% +VAT to sell my flat, a fairly standard rate, but London being London that will be costing me between £4000 and £5000. A lot of money for some pieces of paper and doing some viewings.
While I can see the advantages for a traditional agent, especially outside of London, I can't justify that much extra money being spent when I'm pretty sure anyone who wants to buy my house will be looking online for it anyway and the offline agents will be mainly just doing viewings and acting as a middleman. Add into that the amount of times I've tried to view a property only to be told I can't because the agents don't have anyone free to show me it and the world of online estate agents seems like the right answer, especially when it could be as much as £4000 cheaper.
So using a digital estate agent seemed like the right answer not only to save money and the environment based on the amount of paper handouts they love to give, but also because I feel like there's no one better to sell my house than me. Where traditional agents will send someone to show you round a house the usual rule of thumb for the online ones is that you do it yourself. The performer in me is delighted in taking on the role of 'seller of house' and the magician in me is constantly thinking of tricks to perform on potential buyers to help them fall in love with the flat I love. Surely watching someone getting sawn in half in the living room is a reason to buy?
For some people this could be the huge downside to online agents, which is why a few of them offer a viewings package so you can pay for someone to do it for you, but for me this is such a huge plus. I've lost count the amount of times on viewing a place I've asked a question only to be told the agent doesn't know the answer. This way I know I can answer any questions, show off my flat to its best ability and paint a picture of what it's like to live here.
So the decision to using an online agent rather than a traditional one came quite quickly. Yes the older members of my family think I should be using the traditional route and found it odd that you pay up front rather than paying on completion, but for me, I see it as a service I'm paying for now and one which'll save me in a fortune. As long as they list my flat on the right sites, carry out professional photos and floorplans and are equipped to make sure offers progress through to completion then it seems like the obvious choice.
The next big question to answer though is what online agent to use. I decided on using Hatched and I'll tell you why in the next instalment. If you want to read it, click here and scroll down to see all the pieces I've written for The Huffington Post.