Etrade’s OptionsHouse is a great brokerage platform that has quite a few of the features that any trader would want under one hood. OptionsHouse relies on the tried-and-tested experience of Etrade’s longstanding position within the brokerage industry, and the expertise shows through.
If you’re a serious day trader or a frequently dabbling amateur that can figure out how to avoid getting eaten by the fees, there’s a very good chance that OptionsHouse is the right brokerage for you.
In this article, I’ll walk you through a few of the basic perks of OptionsHouse and weigh in on where I think it’d be a great platform and where it could use some improvement.
To preface this review, I want to make it clear that OptionsHouse isn’t the tool to use if you’re looking for something simple to manage your retirement accounts or your family’s long-term investments. OptionsHouse is more than capable of performing these tasks, but you’ll be better off with a simpler and cheaper tool.
Getting in the Front Door
OptionsHouse has a typical signup and login process. The basic package and fee structure mean that you won’t need to pick between several different packages to get going, but buyer beware: the fees for trading on OptionsHouse are quite high on a per-trade basis and can change depending on the trades you make and how many you make.
The “Rates” section of the OptionsHouse site couches, all its rate descriptions with the nebulous “for active traders” qualifier, meaning that your rates may be much higher depending on how you trade.
Once you’re logged in, you’re treated to the main console of OptionsHouse. By default, the central hub shows a chart with your overall value over the course of the time you specify and includes references for volatility and asset distribution.
In my opinion, the default configuration of the hub isn’t so impressive and seems to prioritize flashy visuals rather than more concrete data in tables. Thankfully, OptionsHouse is immaculately customizable, so you can configure your hub page however you’d like.
You can setup alerts, add items to your watch list, have a quick trade gadget, incorporate a news ticker or practically anything else your heart desires. Customizability is one of OptionHouse’s selling points, so be sure to dig into your configuration and experiment with the power of the platform.
Doing Your Diligence
Once you’re up and running, I highly suggest checking out the OptionsHouse research suite because it’s one of the best that I’ve encountered. The research suite has all the basic things that you’d expect: historical data on any symbol, risk assessments, a news aggregator, and volatility.
Where OptionsHouse shines is that it provides you with a very strong extrapolative charting tool. The tool (pictured above) allows for you to examine an asset’s price probability cone based off several variables which you can tweak as desired.
It goes without saying that most other brokerages don’t bother supplying their users with such a deeply analytical and predictive system. If I were an OptionsHouse user, I wouldn’t make a single trade of any kind without running several models through the forecasting tool. It’s simply too powerful to pass up.
Entering the trading house
Veteran traders will have no problem jumping right into making trades with OptionsHouse. A quick look at the trading menus was enough to impress me—there’s quite a few bells and whistles that OptionsHouse includes right out of the box.
The standout features are trade templating, alerting, account selection, and trade previewing. These features should be standard in every brokerage platform but are typically missing.
There are a few cool features that you won’t find elsewhere, too. Most traders won’t be interested in posting their trades to Twitter, but if you’re an oddball, there’s a button for that in OptionsHouse.
If you’re interested in leaving notes for yourself alongside your trade book for a given symbol or trade template, the journaling option lets you do so, and is complete with tagging and indexing for your ease of use.
Tying the house together
OptionsHouse is a great brokerage platform because each of its modules is designed with the other modules in mind. The research suite plays well with the trading suite, and the charting and modeling functionalities do too. In the OptionsHouse system, the biggest single feature tying together all the others is the alerting system. The alerting system of OptionsHouse is much deeper than other brokerages and is specifically set up to be a central part of your trading workflow.
During the research phase, OptionsHouse encourages you to set up an alert for symbols. After you’ve developed a trade template, OptionsHouse links the template to the alert. When the alert is triggered, executing the trade is as simple as pushing a button. Once you’ve pushed the button, you can go back to designing another trade or whatever else you were doing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of OptionsHouse
- Excellent customizability
- Decent integration with external APIs
- Excellent user interface and user experience
- Superlative research and forecasting tools
- Deep trade design
- Powerful alerting system
- Supports multiple accounts
- Links to other platforms on the same system
- Social media integration
- Notetaking and tagging suite
- Good learning center and platform tutorials
- Trade planning and templating
- Mediocre default hub page
- Poor default settings for most modules
- Feature overload
- Mediocre news aggregator
- Data is frequently displayed in a more difficult to interpret format than traditionally
- Requires a substantial amount of external API integration to improve on weak points
Is it worth getting a mortgage for the house?
The topic that I’ve mostly avoided so far is pricing. The fees for OptionsHouse are quite stiff and will eat most amateur traders alive. OptionsHouse is an intense platform for seasoned day traders. There’s no maintenance costs or minimum balances, but it’s downright expensive to execute trades, and it’s often hard to build a sensible estimation of how much the fees will be for a given trade before executing it. The fees seem to shift around, seemingly at random.
I get the feeling that these issues would be resolved with some time on the platform, though. If you think that you’re skilled enough to be profitable while using the OptionsHouse platform, it’s probably the right brokerage for you. If there’s any doubt in your mind, I suggest walking away. OptionsHouse is a bit like a Ferrari—you wouldn’t want anyone who couldn’t handle the speed to drive it.