Good service costs … here’s why

Christopher Burton by Christopher Burton | 19 Mar 2024

Chris burton director at claygate

Chris Burton, Director at Claygate Office

According to Property Industry Eye, there was a 53 per cent increase in searches for ‘cheap fee agents’ within the estate agent category between January 2023 and January 2024. Are online only or ‘cheap’ agents set to replace the high street agent? Of course not, says Chris Burton, Director at our Claygate office. Here he explains why.

Isn’t it always the way, the markets take a turn for the worse, people get twitchy and then begin looking for ways to cut costs (and corners). The stock market is a classic example. When markets dive, those who own shares often start to sell, when it’s really often the perfect opportunity to buy.

The property market is not dissimilar. In this case, there’s been a slight slowdown in movement – primarily due to rising mortgage rates, inflation and a persistent cost-of-living crisis – and, according to one property media title, sellers start looking for the bargain basement property marketeers as opposed to those best equipped to deal with tougher market conditions.

Our personal experience is that this certainly is not the case in Elmbridge.

Moving is a BIG deal

At this point, I should state that the same article noted above also highlights how there has been an increase in searches for ‘best estate agent’ and ‘local estate agent’ – both of which are up 27 per cent and 12 per cent respectively. It’s trite logic to state that ‘best estate agent’ and cheap fees aren’t synonymous with each other.

Objectively, Davies Property Partners falls into both camps of ‘best estate agent’ and ‘local estate agent’, and it makes sense that Elmbridge sellers would be searching for an estate agent using those terms. After all, sensible people selling a home understand that it’s a hugely important transaction – if it isn’t their BIGGEST transaction. Furthermore, the best estate agent is likely to also be the local estate agent, too, because you can’t be the best if you’re not embedded in the community in which you operate.

Moving is an important business. With that in mind, it’s important to get it done right rather than get it done cheaply, which appears to be the aim of online only or ‘cheap’ estate agents.

If it sounds too good to be true …

When it comes to online agents, they don’t appear to be doing very well.

Take Strike and Purple Bricks, for example. The two giants of the online agent world merged when Strike bought the titan that is Purple Bricks for a nominal £1, and then proceeded to drop the name ‘Strike’ and carry on the Purple Bricks mantra.  Presumably, this is the plan to expand their market share but only a negligible difference seems to have been made thus far.

The thing is, anyone can do something cheaply – but can they do it well? With a good, traditional high street estate agent such as Davies Property Partners, you have a company that is incredibly experienced in your corner at all times, which simply isn’t achievable with online agents because something has to give.

And here’s something else to consider. If it was always about money, everybody would be shopping at Lidl. Tesco and Sainsbury would struggle – and Waitrose would be the first to go! But it’s not. It’s about quality, user experience and all those things that people are willing to pay a premium for, particularly during a time of significant upheaval and huge change.

Good service costs. In our case, it’s because we invest in good people and robust processes, both of which go a long way to minimise any potential bumps in the road between the point of instruction and sale. Online agents, however, rely partly on pushing sellers into paying for ‘add-ons’, like conveyancing and mortgage services, in order for their model to work. They also need high volumes of sales, too. And when it comes to housing transactions, volume is the enemy of security.

Is an increase in the search term ‘cheap fee agents’ something that good estate agents should be worried about? Absolutely not. But picking the wrong agent at a time when you need everything to go smoothly and then getting let down is something that sellers need to be careful of.

As they say, buy cheap, buy twice. Sadly, when it comes to selling a property, first impressions count – so get it right first time.

Looking for a property partner in 2024? Contact your local Davies Property Partners office to arrange a valuation of your property.

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