Only use self-regulated on-line property agents

publication date: Nov 24, 2014
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

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Buying and Renting Homes through Online Agents

When Sarah Beeny is given a Channel 4 show on telly to help promote her on-line property selling site: Tepillo, it’s quite possible that more people will think about selling a home themselves with the support of an on-line agent.

Will it work? Well it just might start working now. In the past 15 years many companies, including Tesco and Google have tried propositions to sell houses on-line, but even these giants have crashed and burned.

So if you do fancy selling or renting a property yourself? Do you just go for the cheapest or what should you look for?

As with pretty much anything in life, you get what you pay for! And on-line agents are no different. There are effectively three types:-


Real agents who are affiliated to essential property organisations

The key reasons for choosing an agent to help sell your most important and probably most valuable asset is to make sure they understand the law.

Whether you are selling or renting, there are lots of laws to abide by. For selling you must have an Energy Performance Certificate when it goes to market and the same for renting. When describing your home on-line, it needs to meet criteria set by the ‘CPRs’ (Consumer Protection Regulations).

This means you need to:-

  1. Ensure anything you say about your home is accurate.

  2. Not missing out essential information about your property that could affect people making an ‘informed decision’.

  3. Let buyers take their time and not ‘rush’ them into a decision

Any on-line estate agents need to belong to a ‘redress scheme’ and any letting agent now needs to belong to a property Ombudsman.

So you should look out for on-line agents which are members of one or more of the following:-

Estate agent redress schemes

  • Ombudsman Services
  • The Property Ombudsman Services

Letting agent

  • National Approved Letting Scheme
  • Association of Residential Letting Agents
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

If you don’t, it maybe there is no complaints procedures against these companies and there are no guarantees you will be guided through the selling or renting process by a company who knows the law – and that could leave you open to fines.

Example of agents which are affiliated to approved schemes include Rentify


How will they market your home?
How you promote your home is essential to make sure it sells or rents properly. Not being on the likes of Rightmove can mean the majority of buyers don’t get to see your property, so don’t know it’s up for sale in the first place.

Secondly even though most people start their search for a property on-line, it is vital to have a ‘for sale’ board as this catches people locally who are most likely to buy your home in the first place, especially outside of London.

And it’s not a matter of just putting your home on-line to get seen. Buyers are more discerning these days. A minimum of 20 photos is the ‘rule of thumb’ to get buyers to look at your property and then consider viewing.

Many on-line agents don’t offer you enough photos in my view and many, if they are ‘advertising’ your property as opposed to being a properly trained agent, you won’t get your property seen on the like major property portals where buyers go in the first place as they don’t take private ads.


Choosing the right price or rent
One of the major reasons of choosing a qualified agent is to help you set the right price for your home. As a buyer you will know when looking around properties which ones are over-priced – and you will probably avoid them.

Selling or renting your home at a fair price which compares well to other properties is essential. I’ve worked in the industry now for 15 years and the worst possible thing you do is over price a property for sale as it tends to:-

  1. Sit on the market for up to 8 months or more, when most are selling in under 3 months

  2. Potentially end up selling for less than it would have done if priced accordingly

  3. Mean the seller ends up getting quite despondent and loses out on other properties they could have bought


Never over price a rental property!
When renting, over pricing is a death knell for landlords. A landlord makes their money when they collect rent. Imagine you over price your property at £525 when everyone else is renting a similar property for £500.

Contracts in renting tend to be for a minimum of six months. So if you miss out on a month’s rent because you overpriced, you lose £500, plus you have to pay other costs eg council tax, water bills etc.

If you had rented at £500 in the first place, all you would have lost over a six month period is £25 x 6 months = £150, and no bills to pay and the property is safer too as it’s not empty.


For more information about renting your property on-line read our checklist:

Rentify - How to rent your property through an online agent

All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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