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Online sector is running out of vendors keen on their estate agency model

Research by Property Road found that relatively few vendors are happy to do their own viewings or pay fees up front and most prize price achieved, not low fees.

Nigel Lewis

purplebricks estate agency

Up-front fees charged by Purplebricks and many of its smaller competitors have reached a plateau of acceptance among vendors, new estate agency research suggests.

Just 17% of those selling their homes prefer up-front fees compared to those paid after a sale has completed, a survey of 2,717 people by property advice website Property Road reveals.

“We’ve seen the market share of online estate agents stagnate and even drop slightly over the last few years and these results may explain, at least partially, why that might be,” says Paul James, its founder says.

And even among the more tech-savvy vendors who use online estate agency firms, only 40% are prepared to pay fees upfront before the property sells.

Property Road says that, despite the growing cost-of-living crisis, vendors still value performance over cost when it comes to their most valuable asset, with half believing the ability to achieve asking price is the most important feature of an estate agent.

Estate agency speed

This is compared to 25% who prefer speed and 12% who value ‘good customer service’ the most. On the other hand, ‘low price’ is important to just 9%.

But one influence online agents have had on the public is to shift attitudes to viewings.

Just 28% of those canvassed said they want their estate agent to do all their viewings, while 26% are happy to do some and the rest are keen for their agent to do all the viewings.

“While we have seen many of the big players begin to offer a choice between upfront fees or payment on completion, there are still some, most notably Purplebricks, that seem reluctant to change their approach,” adds James.

May 20, 2022


  1. Given Purplebricks lists more property than any other agency in the UK, I am not sure what data is being used here.

    At present all agents are listing less inventory, that is due to the larger amount of completions last year, so fewer looking to move, super heated market place, interest rates increasing and the cost of living squeeze, in recessionary times people hunker down.

    I think by the end of the year online agents will still have their normal collective share of the market, but the actual properties listed will be smaller as with most agents.

  2. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the online agency model – simply the very poor execution of it by those that imagine they’re disrupting with low fees.

    The consequence of poor marketing, poor customer service and a desire to scale beyond their competence with other people’s money is that the business model is deemed a failure.

    Technology doesn’t turn the poor agencies into great agencies.

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