As global investment company questions future of estate agency, the online experts at HouseSimple offer advice on going mobile

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As 90% of property searches now begin on the internet, HouseSimple director Sophie Cronin backs a global investment company's theory that online estate agency could be the future of UK house sales.

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What is vital is to be searchable on Google, and you can’t do that with an app. Unless your agency has a substantial marketing budget a mobile version of your site is a much better investment.

The recent warm weather gave the housing market a much-needed boost in March, reported The Independent earlier this month. April, however, is living up to its reputation for showers – but this does not worry Sophie Cronin, director of online estate agent HouseSimple. Not only do 90% of property searches now begin on the internet, but global investment company IPIN has recently posed the question: “Could online estate agents be the future of UK house sales?”

Of course it’s the future, says Cronin. The internet has become a massive part of everyday life in the last 20 years and buying and selling property is no different. But there are right and wrong ways to go about it and the benefits of selling a house online via an agent far outweigh those of doing it privately.

Up to 97% of properties for sale in the UK are listed on the ‘big five’ websites – Rightmove, Zoopla, Find a Property, Primelocation and Globrix. None of these websites allow private sellers to list their homes, because estate agents are legally bound (in a way that private sellers are not) to provide accurate information about properties. So to appear on the any of the ‘big five’ sites, properties must be listed with an estate agent.

This doesn’t mean that sellers have no option but to pay the 1-3% commission typically charged by a high street agent. HouseSimple and other online agents operate a different business model – one that doesn’t involve maintaining a string of high street offices and company cars or conducting accompanied viewings. Instead, they charge a low fixed fee and they focus on effective marketing strategies using the internet.

‘Effective marketing strategies’ differ, but to Cronin it means utilizing a wide range of networks, offering as standard professional photos and floorplans and options to upgrade to ‘premium displays’ on sites such as Rightmove. Despite the trend towards mobile spend and app development, she doesn’t think apps are effective for property market, suggesting that estate agents are better off developing a mobile version of their website instead. HouseSimple is currently investing hundreds of thousands of pounds into website development and online system efficiency, which Sophie is confident will finalise the company’s intention to revolutionise the property market.

“A mobile version of your website will work on all smartphones, whereas an app for an iPhone or similar will only work on that device. Based on current smartphone sales figures, that’s a maximum of 18% of your potential market. Apps are said to boost brand loyalty but, actually, there is little research to show whether once downloaded, customers continue to use apps or simply uninstall them. What is vital is to be searchable on Google, and you can’t do that with an app. Therefore, unless your agency has a substantial marketing budget, a mobile version of your site is a much better investment.”

About HouseSimple:
HouseSimple is an online estate agency service combining the most valuable tools to sell a property that a high street estate agent provides with the power of internet marketing – and all for a much lower fee. So make the right move, if you're thinking of selling a property, think 'HouseSimple'.

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Alexander Gosling
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