Home movers are increasingly willing to consider alternative methods of buying or selling a home, according to new research from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
While the large majority of sellers still use a traditional estate agent, more than a third said they initially considered selling privately, using an online estate agent, or selling at auction.
In particular, interest in using an online estate agent was found to have increased markedly since the last time the survey was conducted in 2004.
Meanwhile, consumer satisfaction with the services provided by estate agents has also improved, with 88 per cent of both buyers and sellers happy with the service they received.
Interestingly, the majority of consumer complaints in the sector were about the individual buyer or seller on the other side of the transaction or their solicitor, rather than with the estate agent involved.
Nineteen per cent of buyers said they had experienced a purchase falling through after they had made an offer that the seller had accepted.
The most common reason for a sale falling through was another buyer made a better offer, followed by the buyer withdrawing after a survey showed problems with the house, and problems elsewhere in the chain.
Also covered in the research was the question of fees received by estate agents on services provided to buyers such as referrals for mortgages, surveys, legal advice and other services.
On average, estate agents made recommendations about the providers of such ancillary services to 65 per cent of buyers, with 36 per cent of buyers taking up these recommendations and going on to use at least one of the services.
Heather Clayton, OFT Senior Director of Infrastructure, said the research showed the enormous potential for new internet-based business models in home buying and selling.
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