Private Sales in All But Name

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A long-established private sales website has said that a number of online agents in today’s market are essentially nothing more than For Sale By Owner Sites, dressed up to look like agents to secure listings on the leading portals. Lines are being blurred at this end of the market, as home-owners wanting to ‘sell their own home’ are increasingly being sold an online agency package to by-pass the portal’s ban on private listings.


As with so many other industries, advances in technology and the scope of digital business have opened a host of new avenues, not only to private sellers, but to estate agents as well.


You would assume that private sellers would benefit the most from innovative new ways to market a property online, as it dramatically increases the scope and reach of their marketing efforts. However, this was not the case, as the digital dominance of the leading portals expanded ever further, sellers considering a private sale were increasingly put off by the inability to list on these key platforms.


Major portal’s refusal to accept private listings hinges on the fact that their business model relies on charging the agent representing the property, and not the seller. Partly because of this, the relationship between leading portals and private sales providers has been frosty at best, and confrontational at worst.


So as a private seller in today’s market, wanting to avoid the involvement of an estate agent, but still secure a listing on arguably the most valuable property platforms available, what does one do?….


Enter the Online Estate Agents – facilitating a listing on the leading portals, without involvement of a traditional agent.


OEAs supposedly represented a middle ground between the all singing all dancing high-street service at one end, and the DIY, pure, private sales approach at the other. However, in reality, a number of these online agents offer little more by way of service and support than a typical pure private sales website. The House Shop for example offer much the same services you would expect from an OEA – EPCs, floor plans, viewing arrangements, descriptions, photography, advice etc. – with the exception of the ill-defined ‘sales progression’.

So what really is the difference between some online estate agency sites and private sales sites? The answer is very simple. One will secure you a listing on the leading portals. The other will not.


Would it be fair to call homeowners selling through an online agent ‘private sellers’?


It could be argued that if the leading portals accepted listings from private sellers, the private sales market in the UK would expand dramatically. Currently private sales account for a tiny proportion of the market, but if you included all sales made through an online agent into the same bracket, we would reach numbers comparable to larger foreign markets.


There is clearly demand from consumers to explore digital alternatives, as demonstrated by the sudden influx of press coverage focusing on ‘selling online’ and ‘selling your own home’. However ‘selling your own home’ now appears to mean listing with an online agent. In some cases the online estate agency has become the acceptable face of private sales, offering an FSBO service in all but name.


Demand for the much maligned private sales approach is out there – and a number of online agents are increasingly advertising themselves online under ‘private sales’ terms in search engines. Pure private sales providers will have to fight their corner against the onslaught of online agents, snapping up potential private sellers at the expense of private sales.


Read Rosalind Renshaw’s take on the article in Property Industry Eye here



Franki Chaffin-Edwards

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