More and more online platforms are seeking to disrupt the property market by encouraging homeowners to sell their house themselves rather than paying a realtor, but do they provide a better service?
As property markets boom, especially in the U.K. where a housing shortage and high demand have increased prices, property-selling platforms are poised to capitalise on the trend.
The latest disruptor is EMOH, which launched this week. The site, which has been in development since January 2015 by founders Haashim Rifai and Kamran Chaudhry, allows users to list a property for free and attempt to sell it themselves, rather than pay a realtor. This means it is the responsibility of the owner to arrange viewings, produce a floorplan and take photographs, but this can potentially save a large amount of money.
There are other, practical advantages to selling your home yourself: research by eMoov found 53 percent of buyers preferred to be shown around a property by the owner, rather than a realtor, as they will know more about the building and the local area.
"EMOH was born out of frustration with the current estate agency model," a spokesperson for the company told CNBC via email. "The founders recognised that there needed to be an alternative for consumers. After all it is the homeowner who knows their home best and is best-placed to sell and market their home."
While listing a property is free, EMOH generates revenue by providing sellers with optional services: for instance, getting professional photography costs £99 ($151.89), while a property valuation costs £19.95 ($30.61).
EMOH is similar to the more-established U.S. site ForSaleByOwner.com, which claims one house was sold every 52 minutes through its site in the first six months of 2015.
"Homeowners who use a service like ForSaleByOwner.com reap the benefit of lowering or eliminating significant fees associated with the cost of using an agent," said Lisa Edwards, director of marketing for ForSaleByOwner.com, in a press release. "For instance, a homeowner who sells their home for $300,000 can save on average $18,000 in real estate agent fees."
However, the model has come under some criticism.
"For sale by owner (services) such as EMOH has been proven to fail in the U.K.," Russell Quirk, founder and CEO of online estate agent eMoov, told CNBC. "The consumer requires the might of the coverage that Rightmove and Zoopla offer and private sellers are not permitted to list on these portal sites, hence an agent is needed."
Online realtor, such as eMoov and Purple Brick, provide a more traditional service, but give the seller more control over the process. According to Quirk, lower fees and better accessibility are key aspects of what online realtors offer.
"eMoov encourages our sellers to contribute as much or as little to the process as they want, keeping them updated throughout and allowing them to change their asking price, property advert, schedule viewings and much more at the click of a mouse, 24 hours a day," said Quirk.
On Purple Brick, sellers can list their property and receive assistance from a trained property experts, but do not have to pay upfront. A fee of £798 ($1204) is charged once the property is sold. Purple Brick allows sellers to manage viewings, receive feedback and negotiate offers themselves.
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