Online-only vs the high street – Viewings

estate agents viewing

Online-only vs the high street – Viewings

 The popularity of online-only estate agents and their promise of cheap fees has prompted speculation over recent years about the future of the high street estate agent. However, it seems the cheap service has been tried and tested by enough home-movers over the last few years and, although there is a place for the online-only firms, the tables are firmly turning back in favour of the high street.

 In this series of articles, we explore the differences and the evidence towards a winning high street agent.


Viewings are one of those marked differences between the different types of agency.

Arguably the single most important stage in the entire marketing campaign, viewings are regarded by traditional high street estate agents as the prime opportunity to get a real feel for what buyers are actually looking for, which helps all parties – sellers don’t want people traipsing through their home if they’re not really interested in buying it, buyers don’t want to waste their time looking at properties they’re not likely to buy, and the information is an extremely useful aid for estate agents to do their job of matching homes to buyers.

As much as potential buyers will have told the agent what they’re looking for in their office or over the ‘phone, the comments (and the faces) they make when they’re physically walking around a property provide much more insight and are therefore invaluable to the estate agent in identifying and focusing on the features that are particularly relevant to the them.

Of course, sellers can show potential buyers around their own homes, but an estate agent enjoys a degree of professional detachment and objectivity, which with the best will in the world no homeowner can match, and which buyers tend to feel more comfortable with. Bought face to face with a proud owner, buyers often feel uncomfortable looking inside cupboards, unable to ask important but perhaps sensitive questions or pass comment for fear of causing offence.

For all of these reasons, high street estate agencies and hybrids with local premises aim to accompany most viewings as part of their all-encompassing service. They hold a key securely on their premises and aim to give 24 hours’ notice of any appointments.

Onliners and online-hybrids still do not include accompanied viewings as part of their fixed fee service, charging an additional £300 – £400 for a viewings package.

For sellers opting to pay for the service, viewings are arranged online and accompanied by either their ‘local property expert’, or someone from an out-sourced viewings service, and keys are either held at the local property expert’s home or are left in a key safe outside the property, arranged by the seller. We’ve heard that some onliners have relationships with a local agent where keys can be stored, that the agent conducts the viewings and the onliner pays them a fee per viewing, but we would question this method as with everyone involved getting paid in any case, no-one actually has any motivation to sell the property!

Of course, we would argue that this is all rather impersonal, with no relationship building and no degree of matching people to property; somewhat going through the motions in order to deliver a perceived ‘service’ which should actually involve so much more than someone just being there.

In our next article, we’ll explore the negotiations process.

The Experts in Property network is made up of local, independent estate agency offices in villages, towns and cities across the South West

. To find your nearest, visit the Agent’s Directory at


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