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  1. Blog
  2. Online vs high street estate agents
Estate agent help and guides
22 May 2023

Online vs high street estate agents

GetAgent Team
Young woman browsing the internet on her smartphone.

Table of contents

  1. 1. Types of estate agents
  2. 2. Online agents: the sharp decline of Purplebricks
  3. 3. Three key differences between online and high street agents
  4. 4. Should I choose a high street agent?
  5. 5. Should I choose an online agent?
  6. 6. How do you know which estate agent is the best?
  7. 7. The verdict is...

There are over 18,000 estate agencies operating in the UK. Of these agents, an average of 62 different branches are listing properties in your postcode.

With such a vast number of agents available, including high street, online, and hybrid brands, it can be challenging to know which one to work with.

Are you struggling to decide? No problem - here are some tips to help you make the right decision.

Types of estate agents

To get the ball rolling, let’s take a look at the different types of estate agents operating in the UK. There are usually three:

  • High street estate agents
  • Online estate agents
  • Hybrid estate agents

Nowadays, the term ‘online’ is used synonymously with ‘hybrid’. There aren't many true online estate agents left, with many having adopted traits of traditional estate agents.

High street estate agents

High street agents, or 'full service’ agents, are real estate professionals who offer a complete range of traditional estate agent services on a commission fee basis. Typically, they are paid at the end of the property transaction, with fees typically ranging from 1.2% to 2%.

The following services are usually included as standard within a high street agent’s contract:

  • In-person property valuation
  • Floor plan
  • Professional photos
  • ‘For sale’ sign
  • Online and offline marketing
  • Vetting potential buyers
  • Agent-led viewings
  • Fielding and negotiating offers
  • Communicating information across the property chain
  • Motivating the buyer and the buyer’s solicitor
  • Transferring the keys to the buyer

High street estate agents are considered among the most popular in the UK - and for good reason. The best possess high levels of local knowledge, with independent branches having covered specific areas for decades.

Their skills, combined with their experience, are seen to more than justify their fees, with agents working hard to earn their commission and get homeowners the price they want for their home.

Online estate agents

Online estate agents are estate agents that operate completely remotely. Basic services are purchased for a fixed upfront fee, with some traditional services remaining behind a further paywall as ‘extras’. Their initial fee is usually £800 -£1600, with optional extras costing further lump sums.

The following services are included as standard within a typical online agent’s primary package.

  • Property valuation
  • Floor plan
  • ‘For sale’ sign
  • Online marketing

Additional services (usually provided as standard by full service estate agents) often come at an extra cost, or are restricted to higher payment packages - despite the fact they enhance the selling process and ensure a smoother transaction.

These include:

  • Professional photos
  • Premium property adverts
  • Leading house viewings
  • Fielding and negotiating offers
  • No sale no fee contracts

Hybrid estate agents

Hybrid agents are online agents who, in adapting to growing demand from sellers, have appropriated some aspects of high street agencies. Most online agencies are now hybrid - but old habits die hard, and most experts still refer to these agencies as ‘online’.

Online agents: the sharp decline of Purplebricks

Purplebricks, a prominent online estate agent, has gained significant popularity in the UK due to its low fees and hands-off approach, despite traditional high streets consistently ranking among the top performers. However, Purplebricks faced challenges in 2021, experiencing a sharp decline in share prices. This downward trend eventually led to the company's sale to Strike, an online competitor, for a mere £1.

Three key differences between online and high street agents

So with two opposing species of estate agents battling for your custom, what are some key differences to look out for?

1. Level of service

A high street agent offers a complete marketing package as standard, along with a single point of contact and continuing support throughout the whole selling process - from valuation to completion.

An online estate agent, on the other hand, offers a pared-back approach, giving you much more control. A standard package includes a valuation and an advert on major online property portals. The rest of the work, such as hosting viewings and fielding offers, is up to you! Hosted viewings, professional photos and sales progression are available as add-ons.

2. Quality of service

Service quality isn’t something we want to paint as black or white - both online agents and high street agents can get things wrong sometimes. However, there is a growing consensus in the homeselling community that online agents often perform much poorer than their full service competitors.

Last year, we interviewed a group of homesellers who had worked with an online estate agent. Over half said that the online estate agency they'd chosen was poor value for money, while 40% of respondents told us they'd spent longer than expected managing the sales process.

3. How fees are paid

Another difference comes in the way in which fees are paid. An online agent charges a fixed, non-refundable, upfront fee for their services, with different payment packages for differing levels of service.

In contrast, a high street agent charges a commission fee based on a percentage of your property’s final sale price. Should an agent prove unable to sell your home, or you're unhappy with their service and switch to another, you don’t have to pay them.

It should be noted that hybrids offer similar ‘no sale no fee’ services. Purplebricks for example, offers a ‘money back guarantee’. Unfortunately, this is only available with certain stipulations - for example, you must not have received an offer within 90% of your asking price, and you must be available for most viewing requests the agency sends you.

Should I choose a high street agent?


  • A high street estate agent consistently sells properties quicker than an online one.
  • A high street estate agent leads house viewings as standard.
  • Offline marketing is also included as standard.
  • Good high street agents have extensive local knowledge, experience, and connections.
  • Single point of contact for the duration of the home sale process, with physical offices.
  • 'No sale, no fee' contract - you don't pay your estate agent until they sell your home.
  • Commission fees encourage local estate agents to get you the best possible sale.


  • Normal office hours can limit contact availability.
  • Commission-based fees - you only have an estimate until your property's sold.
  • Traditional agency contracts usually have a fixed term length. You have to wait till the end of your term to switch agents if you're unhappy with the service.

Should I choose an online agent?


  • Fee is a flat and upfront - you know exactly what service you're paying for.
  • Standard fee for most online estate agents is lower than that of a local estate agent.
  • If you don't mind doing the work yourself, this might be an inexpensive choice.
  • Out of hours contact available.


  • Basic packages leave hosting viewings, vetting buyers, and offline marketing to you.
  • You might have more than one point of contact throughout the sales process.
  • Online agents don't have extensive knowledge about your specific neighbourhood.
  • Properties sold by online estate agents usually take longer to sell and sell for less.
  • In their standard packages, an online agent's fee is payable whether you sell or not.

How do you know which estate agent is the best?

Analysing an agent's performance in your local area is a great way to see who is going to sell your house quickly and for the best price. But where should you start?

You could begin by trawling through the Land Registry and property portals, searching for the following information:

  • How many properties each agent has listed in your area to get an indication of the agency's experience and involvement in the local property market.
  • How long it usually takes each agent to find a buyer. If they are able to achieve a sale much quicker than others, it could indicate that their marketing strategies are particularly effective.
  • What percentage of the asking price each agent usually achieves. This demonstrates the agency's skill at valuing and negotiation.

Don’t have the time?

GetAgent's free Estate Agent Comparison Tool does it all for you. We analyse data from hundreds of thousands of property sales across the country to give you an objective analysis of the best performing agents in your area.

Compare estate agents

It takes 2 minutes.

The verdict is...

In almost all cases, working with a good local agent will provide the best outcome for your home sale, with local branches having much higher success rates than nationwide, online agents (50% of their listed properties remain unsold after a year).

Further research conducted by The Advisory has shown that the best high street agents achieve asking prices over 5% higher than their online counterparts. With an achievement such as this, the 1.2% fee charged by local agents can seem a greater return on investment than the savings made through a cheap online service.

But don't take our word for it - like any product or service, agents should be compared using reliable data. To get started, use an impartial, trustworthy data comparison tool like GetAgent's.

Thinking about
selling your home?

Picking the right estate agent is vital for a successful sale. GetAgent makes choosing simple. Discover the best performing agents in your area.

  • Free
  • Data-driven
  • No obligation

Thinking about
selling your home?

Picking the right estate agent is vital for a successful sale. GetAgent makes choosing simple. Discover the best performing agents in your area.

  • Free
  • Data-driven
  • No obligation

Compare estate agents

It takes 2 minutes.

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