The Seven Deadly Sins of Online Estate Agency.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Online Estate Agency.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Online Estate Agency.

My book of the moment, Thank You for Arguing, by Jay Heinrichs has me engrossed in the art of rhetoric.

Aristotle, Cicero and Shakespeare were masters in the use of argument by logic, by character and by emotion.

The art of persuasion.


And it struck me how, three thousand years later, the modern-day, supposedly disruptive estate agents use these very same techniques.

To confuse. To manipulate and to make the truth seem relative.



Part of the chapter on the use of logical argument dealt with the ability to spot fallacies and, in it, the seven deadly sins:

#1   The False Comparison.

“Just like traditional estate agents, only without the commission”.

Let’s call a spade a spade.

Online is far removed from traditional estate agency.  It’s nearer to a classified ad on Rightmove.  With an outsourced function of sales progression tacked on the end.

The no-commission ploy is just that.  A ploy.  To make the unwary vendor believe they are getting something.  For nothing.


#2   The Bad Example

Where the examples don’t support the conclusion.

Mr. & Mrs. X from Great Missenden sold with HouseSimple in 14 days.

A naïve vendor might conclude that 14 days is the ‘norm’ and choose the online agency based on this bad example.

Recent surveys indicate that six months, from instruction to completion, is nearer the mark.

Don’t be seduced by the bad example.  You’re more intelligent than they think.


#3   Ignorance as Proof.

Getting the homeowner to assume that the examples being offered cover all possible examples.

A successful sale of a flat in London for the asking price. A detached house in Leeds that sold in 21 days.

Generalisations that the online agency hopes will persuade you they can sell anything.  Anywhere.  For the best price.

When, in fact, selling any home is a specialist, rather than generalist, subject.

It requires local knowledge and a community involvement that simply does not exist on the web.


#4   The Tautology

The proof and the conclusion agree perfectly.  Because they are the same thing.

“We sold this home for £300,000 in your area.  We can sell your home.”

Begs the question, isn’t that what any estate agency is expected to achieve?


#5   The False Choice

“We’ve just sold our home”.

“Did you use PurpleBricks?”


“They’re just like normal estate agents, but without the commission”.

Cue some slapstick.  Another unfortunate vendor, it seems.

Whereas in reality, the two statements “we’ve just sold our home and didn’t use PurpleBricks” will not always lead to the portrayed conclusion.

To sell, or not to sell (with PurpleBricks) is the question. The conclusion offers false choice.


#6   The Red Herring

A distraction from the real issue.

Online agents are quick to point out that their fees are much, much less than the high street agents.

It seems homeowners aren’t convinced.  Less than 5% of vendors use an online agency.

The distraction of price is there to confuse unwary vendors.

The ‘bottom-line’ is not how much is the fee, but how much the homeowner has, in the bank, at the end of the sale.  Saving £2,000 on the agents commission has no appeal if the property sells online for £5,000 less.

A scenario that occurs quite frequently.


#7   The Wrong Ending.

“High Street estate agent fees, for too long, have been exorbitantly high.  Online agents now offer much better value”

Whereas some vendors will think that high street agency fees are exorbitant, the majority may think they are worth every penny.  The risk the agents assume, the financial outlay for possibly no return,  the investment in premises and staff that cover every eventuality.

It’s easy to claim an equal or superior service and to conclude that the competition, by default, is a worse option.

The competition among high-street agents is such that value for money is a given, these days.

A survey by Property Academy revealed that only 3% of vendors choose any estate agency on price.

And yet, the online agencies tout this very fact.  Not that they are better.

But that they are cheaper.

And that price?

It’s coming down.

Even lower.

When PurpleBricks ‘disrupted’ the market with £895 to sell a home, many wondered how it was possible.

It is commonplace now to unearth online agencies anywhere from £99 to £495.

Kind of makes PurpleBricks look expensive. In this race to the bottom.

What every online agency sells, though, is confusion.

Making it seem O.K.

When it’s not.

They are using 3,000 year old techniques, whether they know it or not, to persuade and to confuse.

They only have to confuse you once.

Then you pay.

Whether you were right, or wrong.

The internet gives equal billing to every agency.

Good, or bad.

Before you decide, it’s advisable to know some of the facts.

Argument by logic, though, isn’t just about the facts, or the rights and wrongs.

It’s a set of techniques that use what the audience is thinking.

A vendor might think all estate agents are not to be trusted. Or that they have other failings.

Online ads and the T.V ads prey on these insecurities.

They happily sow the seeds of mistrust.

And it is the vendor that can suffer the consequences.

Persuasion by logic is one of three tools employed by Aristotle.

Estate agents use it freely.

Make sure you know the counter-arguments.  Before you decide.

Next week we will look at how they use Persuasion by Character.

Thanks again for reading.

If you have any comments, or questions, we’d love to hear from you.

[email protected]

Tel: 0800 0112 678








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