The online estate agency model is still relatively new, and Connells Group bought “Hatched” in 2015, with the intent of running it as a separate entity to their traditional high street agency. As a large corporate business, it's typical to experiment with placing eggs in different baskets, and testing to see what parts of the business can be profitable, which parts of the business merit further investment, and indeed identifying which baskets are not actually the best place to keep your eggs!
It is interesting to note that after significant investment and expansion since purchasing Hatched, that the Connells Group have come to the same conclusion that we have held for a long time; “An up-front fee obligation – payable irrespective of whether a property sells or not – is not the right solution for the customer” were the words from the chief executive.
We would add that the concept of an up-front 'advertising fee' (for that is realistically what you're paying for) with no incentive scheme to actually sell a client's property creates a business model that simply relies on signing more and more people up.
The true professionals of the estate agency industry understand that there is much more to selling their client's home or investment property. Crucially, we actually have dedicated, trained sales people who network with a bank of buyers looking to match people to property through local knowledge and genuine human interest. For some reason this incredibly important part of selling property is neglected by the (so-called) online agents.
Also, as shown by recent studies, when it comes to selling (or letting) such an important asset, 75% of people would rather have the opportunity of face-to-face communication, often in the local branch, rather than just right or left-click!
Ultimately, it comes as little surprise that that Connells Group have reached their conclusion following their experiment of the online model. However, other 'on-liners' will continue to expand as long as investors pour cash into this business model. It will be interesting to see if their returns reflect the beliefs that we hold as truly local, independent and dedicated estate agents.