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Business survey shows strong backing for traditional agents over online rivals

A survey of 1,000 members of the public suggests that 60 per cent of people would prefer to buy or sell a home through a traditional estate agent - with scarcely half that number favouring an online agent.

While six in 10 backed the traditional agent only 34 per cent preferred an online service, with six per cent ‘don’t knows’.

In the survey, conducted by telephone answering service Face For Business, the characteristics most associated with traditional agency were local market knowledge, access to local buyers, and experience to make the most of a property’s unique selling points. Online agents were characterised as having lower fees, a wide reach and more flexibility for sellers wanting to pick and choose services.


The survey details reveal that the older the respondent, the more likely they were to favour a traditional agency; across all age groups, slightly more women favoured traditional agents than did men.

The ‘swing factors’ in favour of traditional agents were strong communications and face to face meetings, as well as local knowledge and experience.

The survey also investigating the 1,000 respondents’ feelings about general estate agency customer service.

The most likely subjects for complaints concerned incorrect or unexpected fees, conflicting advice, ill-informed or unhelpful staff, and difficulties getting through to agents or being kept waiting on the telephone.

  • Chris Arnold

    I'm surprised that the support for traditional agencies isn't much higher. Vendors want to trust an agency and there is no empathy, shared values, beliuefs, or human interaction online. It's simply about being cheaper - not better. Try as they might to persuade the public otherwise, online agency has a niche future.

  • Glenn Ackroyd

    You will always get customers who focus on price, over service. And these are precisely the customers you don't want.

    Online only only with no local accountability is the modern equivalent of 'For Sale By Owner', or private sales.

  • Paul Collier

    When people are looking to sell their property which is usually their most valuable asset they want a quality service they can have confidence in and an agent who will get the best price for their property. Agents (whether traditional high street or other models such as ours) should spend more time focusing on the quality of the service they offer to their customers and not join in the race to the bottom on fees - which in the long run is unsustainable.

    Algarve  Investor

    Agreed. Well said. As long as quality is kept us, who cares what fees are charged? I always say this, but just because an agency charges high fees doesn't automatically make it of a higher quality than one charging cheaper fees.

    I'm always a bit wary of these surveys, because how can they in any way be representative. We don't know who was asked, how old they were, what demographic they fit under. And if you asked another 1,000 people they might tell you something different.

    Sara Parker

    Hi Paul/Algarve Investor, I had the survey commissioned to find out what people thought of the service they receive from estate agents today. It was prompted by the launch of On The Market, and we (at Face for Business) were curious to find out what impact online estate agents were having on the property market. The survey went to 1000 homeowners, so the the results are pretty representative. We provide a telephone answering service for estate agents - online and traditional, so have an interest in the trends. For more info, please feel free to visit us here: http://ffb.co.uk/clients-like-you/estate-agents

    Algarve  Investor

    Hi Sara, thanks for the explanation. Very fair points. Still not sure if 1,000 can be truly representative, but it's a decent chunk of homeowners and throws up some interesting results. Thanks again.

  • icon

    ''scarcely'' 40% WOULD engage an online agent - hardly ''scarcely'' in my view more ''a substantial''

    I agree with the consensus here - its about the overall service whether online or branch.

    for what its worth 'owner sales' fall over much more often as many buyers and sellers quickly start hating each other - that the value of an agent!

  • icon

    Any chance of seeing the link for the actual survey report?
    Can we see the questions asked?
    Where they framed, leading etc?

    Sara Parker

    Hi Nick, I had the survey commissioned on behalf of Face for Business (www.ffb.co.uk), a telephone answering service. The survey went to 1000 homeowners, so people who have had experience with the housing market. We composed the questions. If you would like to view the data for the purposes of producing an article, please get in touch. Thanks, Sara

  • Anna  Dickson

    Both online and traditional agents could learn a thing from each other it seems, although the findings here hardly seem representative.

    Service, service service is what agents should really be focusing on, instead of tearing to shreds each others models.


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