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Estate Agents Need to Up Their Online Game to Stay Relevant

28/03/2013 16:23 GMT | Updated 27/05/2013 10:12 BST

Buying and selling property is never an easy or simple thing, particularly if you're a novice. Reams of paperwork, costly fees bombarding you from all sides plus the differing estimates given from various estate agents can leave the average homeowner feeling somewhat confused.

The problem is confounded by the fact that right now there's seemingly so much choice out there when it comes to deciding how to buy or sell property. Portals such as Zoopla or Rightmove give up-to-date information about valuations, rentals and sales. There's also a new school of thought epitomised by sites such as Propertysell.co.uk that believes the estate agent can be bypassed completely, allowing sellers to market the properties themselves. After all, if the likes of Airbnb can cut out the middleman why can't the property market be disrupted in this way?

And when it comes to online marketing know-how, the new competition seems much more on the ball than some estate agents - which have been accused of being slow on the uptake when it comes to updating their sites, with complaints that there are properties to rent or buy being advertised that are already taken.

So can estate agents ward off the threat to their cosy high commissions and traditional marketing methods that generally work so well for them?

Robert Lazarus from West Hampstead estate agents Paramount Properties says that it's all about adapting to the market:

"We know that an experienced, local agent can achieve the best results as they understand change in the local market. However other tools are also needed to succeed, and a good website and online strategy is essential to get ahead of the competition."

With nearly 100 percent of properties being sold using estate agents it's evident that for now people don't feel that comfortable marketing their own property on DIY sites. And who would? With the multitude of issues that surround property, it's likely to be just a few confident and savvy individuals who are happy to take that first jump into the deep end.

It's clear though that estate agents cannot afford to be complacent. Improving customer service, keeping their online content strong and relevant, updating their websites regularly and contributing to relevant industry blogs is key. Ensuring their sites are keyword optimised to get high traffic should also be given priority if they want to keep on top of the competition and maintain their value.