The march of the online property agency is likely to speed up as the largest estate agency group in the UK, Countrywide, is set to launch an online service for property sales.
Alison Platt, Chief Executive of Countrywide, said there was “no going back” from a greater digital offering, although the pilot to be launched through three of its brands would likely be refined before a broader roll out.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Alison (left) said, “It’s a response to what customers want,” she said. “I take my hat off to [start-ups] who spotted the opportunity to enable the consumer — in our sector you haven’t had the level of digital empowerment and enablement that you have in most other sectors in our working life.”
Countrywide says that its online offering will includes a valuation by an agent; thereafter customers manage viewings and receive and negotiate offers online.
The fees begin at £795, considerably lower than the typical agency fee of about 1.5 per cent of the sale price, which amounts to £2,849 on the £189,900 average price for a home in England and Wales. VAT is added in both cases.
Countrywide’s fixed fee is payable whether or not a sale completes. However, Countrywide will also offer customers the chance to upgrade to its full service at no extra cost, while Ms Platt said she saw the fixed-fee service as appealing only to a minority of customers.
“There have always been those people who were involved in private sales . . . people who feel capable and able to do stuff themselves,” she said.
“But we are picking up business from customers who set off with an online player and are disappointed, finding it more different than they expected. This is a terrific risk-free way to do that.”
The digital services will be piloted through the Spencers brand in Leicestershire and Rutland; Austin & Wyatt in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire; and Frank Innes in the East Midlands.