Should agents drop their fees to compete with online and hybrid agents?

Question is asked by Blackpool estate agent Ben Moore at Esme Properties after he turns down instructions from two vendors after they ask that he matches low fixed fee competitors.

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Blackpool based estate agent Ben Moore has started a lively debate on the professional social media site LinkedIn, after posting a video which revealed that he had decided to stop competing with low-cost online agencies such as Purplebricks.

Filmed in a ‘car karaoke’ style as he drives along in his company car (see above), Ben reveals to his followers that he has recently turned down two vendors who wanted to instruct him but who insisted he match the £995 fixed price fee being offered by online agents.

Esme Properties, which is ‘powered’ by the ExP UK technology platform and has been going for three months, is the latest business to be set up by Moore.
As well as working for Purplebricks as a Territory Owner he has started up two estate agencies, Smart Move and Sell Simple, and also worked for two years at Express Estate Agency.

In both cases Moore says the instruction was in the bag after pitching for the work before Christmas but, although it “killed me to do it”, he decided to turn down the opportunity.

“In a past life I would have said yes and just got on with it, but instead I turned around and said that with the amount of value we add, and that we keep our portfolio quite small by design to give the best service, [doing it for that price] didn’t fit within our model,” he says.

“A fair fee has to be fair for the seller and the agent involved.”

The video, which has already been viewed 2,600 times, also prompted a flurry of comments from fellow agents, most of whom supported his move in the face of cut-price fee competition.

“Unfortunately all we do as agents is devalue our product and profession by continuing in this fee war,” one agent from Saffron Walden chipped in.

“I agree a customer should have a fee that is justifiable and fair but that’s down to focusing your attention on the service.”

Watch the video in full.


  1. Scarcity is what agents should seek. When we chase things, they run away. When we become more scarce, we have people chasing us. The issue of fee shouldn’t arise. Those sort of vendors aren’t a good fit because they weren’t moved, enough, by your pitch. Your uniqueness as a person, rather than estate agent, is worth paying for.

  2. Of course we shouldn’t match ‘online’ fees! We have refused to match online fees many times. Sometimes we lose the instruction, sometimes the vendor will sign our agreement at our fee. Offer a great service and people will pay for it, why get involved in a race to the bottom?

  3. Excellent Ben – I’m right behind you on this. Those agents who stick to their guns tend to win the respect required to secure the business at a higher fee. Many of my clients are now charging between 2% and 3%, and so they should. Raising fees in agency has been my passion for many years!

    However, I would make three observations.

    1: As most agents do more or less the same thing, it’s not about “good customer service” (whatever that means). It’s about utter remarkability and Tweetability with elements of your customer experience delivering unexpected delight. Most agents are nowhere near this stage.

    2: It’s about your ability to persuade and to close. Persuasive agents get higher fees.

    3: Third it’s about the fact that, in addition to the obvious benefits over online agents, “real” estate agents have buyers that online agents simply don’t. These are those buyers that you have on your books, probably attracted by some other instruction, who might never have viewed the property without a nudge by you. Part of our role is to identify and harness elements of potential compromise in buyers to the sellers’ advantage.

    We should stop comparing ourselves to online agents and falling into the trap of chasing the fee to the bottom. A real agent is like a musician – I can get their music for free online, but will pay £80 for a ticket to their concert playing the same music. People will and do pay more for the product/service they prefer. Cheap is not attractive. Don’t go there. Now is the time to as much as double your fee overnight, and it’s easier than you might expect when you know how. Have a great day.

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