Property professionals in Plymouth have warned house sellers against opting for internet only estate agents saying their cheap fees promise didn’t necessarily mean a better service.

The Plymouth Area Property Professionals Association (PAPPA) has urged customers to choose a professional, locally based High Street agent to handle the sale, ideally one that is industry accredited like PAPPA’s members.

PAPPA’s warning follows an investigation this week by the BBC’s consumer programme Watchdog into online agents Purple Bricks, after the TV show received complaints from a number of sellers.

Customers who contacted the programme said they felt misled by Purple Bricks and its agents concerning their flat rate fees and sales support.

One client who deferred the fee discovered he had been signed up to a credit agreement that had not been explained to him – and the so called ‘local expert’ valuing his property lived almost 30 miles away.

Another customer complained about a lack of communication from the online agent, who she said failed to tell her the original buyer of her property had dropped out. She complained to the property ombudsman and was subsequently awarded £200, telling the BBC she wished she had used a traditional agent in the beginning.

While Purple Bricks apologised on the programme and pledged to be more transparent in certain areas of its business, Jeremy Glover of Plymouth estate agents and PAPPA members Alan Cummings said it always pays to use a High Street agent.

“With the ‘No Commission’ service, internet agents are constantly promoting, many people feel like they are making huge savings, but as Watchdog has shown, that can come at a cost,” said Jeremy.

“What people must remember is they will pay the flat fee even if the agent doesn’t sell the property and with additional charges to organise viewings in some cases, the costs soon add up. “

James Clarke of fellow PAPPA members Lang Town and Country in Plymouth said that for those agents who charge commission there is always an incentive to work as hard as possible for the customer to secure the best possible sale price.

“You are also paying for their experience, expertise and perhaps most importantly their extensive local knowledge,” said James.

“Our advice would always be choose the agent with both the local presence and local knowledge. All PAPPA members have to be accredited by their respective industry bodies too, so you can trust in their ability to deliver an open, honest and transparent service.”