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Husband and wife from Rochester aim to transform house buying market with first ever online estate agent comparison website Compare Online Agents

29 August 2014
by Chris Price

Property developer Francesca Marchesini-Ashley punched the details of her two-bedroom flat in Rochester into her new website Compare Online Agents.

Looking for the cheapest way of selling, she selected the website’s pay-as-you-go option – one of four payment options – and watched the results come in.

“All the agents that appeared in the four comparison categories I selected contacted me,” she said.

Robert Ashley and Francesca Marchesini-Ashley have launched an online estate agent comparison website

Robert Ashley and Francesca Marchesini-Ashley have launched an online estate agent comparison website

“The one who stood out the most for me was Zevizo, a Welsh online agency, as they provided me a full detailed valuation report for my property.

“They uploaded the property to Rightmove and Zoopla in no time and organised the viewings for me.

“They sent me emails with details of the buyer, and also reminders in a text message, which for me was great as I could save them directly to my calendar in my phone.

“I didn’t have a For Sale board outside because I had already had seven viewings by the time the installer was due.

“They organised around 16 viewings within the first two weeks and I had seven offers for the full asking price and over, straight after.

Robert Ashley and Francesca Marchesini-Ashley think their website could transform the way people buy houses

Robert Ashley and Francesca Marchesini-Ashley think their website could transform the way people buy houses

“I chose a nice old lady because she was a cash buyer.”

Although biased about her positive experience as the website’s co-founder, Francesca believes it solves a long-running problem for the housing market.

The Italian native launched the venture with her husband Robert Ashley in January from their home in Rochester.

Having put her flat on the market in April, she sold it quickly in July for £129,000.

Yet the real wow factor was the money she saved. The average estate agent charges 1.5% + VAT, which would have stood at £2,322.

The online agent she used charged just £80 per month including VAT costing just £240 and saving more than £2,000.

The Compare Online Agents website

The Compare Online Agents website

“We thought it was very expensive to sell and thought ‘if only there was a site which compares all estate agents’ so we decided to create one ourselves,” said Francesca, 41.

“We think high street agents are still good but it depends if you find an agent that gives you a good service. The difficulty is looking round them all takes so long.

“People don’t have time to go on the high street and move from one agent to the other to hear what they can offer.

“We thought it was very expensive to sell and thought ‘if only there was a site which compares all estate agents’ so we decided to create one ourselves...” - Francesca Marchesini-Ashley

“Our product is for people who want to try something different but the end result is the same.

“The property still goes on RightMove or Zoopla but you will get a sale at the best rate.”

The website runs with four payment options: pay-as-you-go, fixed, split and commission.

The company started the year with about 50 agents listed but Francesca says she has whittled this down to 20, based on the quality of service they offer.

She said: “We don’t want to suggest something to our customers and then them not get the right service because it is a bad agent.

“Since we have launched we have had a good chance to get to know the different agents and we only compare the best.

“We are still getting approached by new online agents who want to be on our site.”

Details at www.compareonlineagents.com.

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