Buyers and sellers alike have been urged to put their faith in traditional, High Street estate agents like Lawson as a number of the new wave of online/hybrid alternatives continue to face a rough ride. With one online agent going into administration in April and the more recent news that the founder of another, high profile brand, had quit causing a sharp fall in share price, has left some industry observers raising their eyebrows. Many customers of the collapsed firm, who paid marketing fees in advance, the common model for the online and hybrid agents, could now be left out of pocket – their only hope of recouping cash laying with administrators.
Chris Mervyn, Marketing Director at Lawson’s Plymouth City Office, said it proves the potential perils of upfront payment for services that may not be successfully delivered. “I think it is fair to say that, right now, there are serious questions about just how solid the foundations of the modern ‘no commission’ sales model are compared to the traditional independent route, “said Chris. “We believe the commission model is still as safe as houses, and the preferred option for the majority of customers who can see the added value offered by an independent agent with expert staff and a physical, well established presence in the heart of their communities.” Chris warned those customers looking to put their property on the market to carefully consider which method of selling gives them the best guarantees – and the greatest confidence. Research in March last year showed that less than one in ten people choose online agents over their High Street counterparts, adding weight to Chris’s claim that the traditional agency route is still the tried and tested one. He said Lawson prides itself on delivering a service that always goes above and beyond for clients, backed by a cast iron money back guarantee, benefits that show the value of using a commission based sales model. Add to that the fact Lawson has staff with proper local knowledge, unlike many online agents who often have so called ‘local experts’ who are actually based many miles away. But it is the payment of upfront fees that Chris still believes is the biggest negative factor and means, unlike Lawson staff for example, the online agent has no incentive to work hard on behalf of their client.
“You have to feel sorry for those people who have paid up front and will almost certainly have lost their money, now that the firm has gone into administration,” said Chris. “Let’s not forget though that even if the agent in question had not gone into administration, the customer would still have had to pay that fee, even if the agent failed to sell the home. “That’s the big Achilles Heel of upfront fees in our view…and always will be”