Are online-only agents the future of estate agency? We asked the Secret Estate Agent...

St Albans' Secret Estate Agent knows all there is to know about the local property market. Picture:

St Albans' Secret Estate Agent knows all there is to know about the local property market. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Let Hertfordshire’s Secret Estate Agent answer your property questions and give an insight into the world of estate agency...

Is it true that estate agents sometimes deliberately don’t respond to viewing requests for properties so they can sell them at a reduced rate to their friends?

No and no. What a sceptical question. Thankfully, I have no friends due to my occupation so will never be in this position.

What advice would you give anyone considering becoming an estate agent?

There has been quite a lot of turbulence recently so be prepared for a bumpy ride, but conversely you will have some rewarding smooth journeys with unexpected complimentary drinks and bar snacks on the way.

Do you get lots of cards and presents from clients?

Not so many these days as Trustpilot and/or Google reviews are the new norm, although they can also invite negative reviews which, if constructive, can help improve things. We have to disclose presents, although a box of chocs for the office was always welcomed.

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I used to get a bottle of Bell’s whisky from a client every Christmas year in, year out which I used to gift wrap and give an uncle of mine as I hate whisky but didn’t have the heart to say anything. Turns out my uncle stopped drinking years ago but didn’t have the heart to say anything. Lesson learnt.

I don’t see the point in using a traditional estate agent - I’m going to go with one of those online-only outfits and save myself a packet. What have you got to say about that?

In my opinion, the more ‘traditional’ agents haven’t adapted and embraced change and their business models are obsolete as buyers’ and sellers’ habits have certainly changed.

The arrival of online agents has given sellers more choice and I welcome the competition but they are not for everyone; they charge for not selling and tend not to offer the local expertise or depth of support.

The difference in commission is not as pronounced as is widely advertised by the online agents so the decision for the seller is weighing up compromising service and expertise for a saving on fee.

How negotiable is your commission?

Well I will be negotiating hard on your behalf when it comes to getting the best price for your home so don’t expect me to roll over too easily on my commission as you wouldn’t want me to be a soft touch. That’s the handbook answer.

If all the state schools in St Albans and Harpenden are so good, why are people constantly moving to be on the doorstep of the ‘best’ ones?

I agree we’re spoilt for choice out there, but in St Albans certainly Beaumont and Sandringham are the pick of a lovely bunch. I know of some examples where families have moved only to find themselves outside the traditional safe haven catchment areas.

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