Bypass estate agents and sell your home yourself
With demand for property currently outstripping supply, now could be a good time to consider putting your home on the market.
While most people prefer to sell using an estate agent, research suggests around a third would be open to more alternative methods.
Estate agent fees average around 1.5%, but can be as high as 2.5% plus VAT. So what options are there for people who want to bypass estate agents when they sell their homes?
According to Stephen Foden, chief executive officer at Propertydatingagency.com, which matches buyers with sellers, it is mainly younger people who are happy to go through the home-selling process without an estate agent at their side to hold their hand.
However, he says anyone can sell their homes independently as long as they are confident and organised.
Where to market your home
The internet is a great friend to people who want to bypass estate agents, not least because it is home to dozens of websites that facilitate private sales. These websites allow you to market your home directly to buyers, with the facility to upload photos and a description of the property. Although some websites offer this service for free, most require you to pay a one-off fee.
The saying “you get what you pay for” rings true when it comes to private sale websites. The free services will not allow you much space to market your home, whereas the most expensive sites provide a more comprehensive service.
You can find independent reviews and summaries of around 40 private sale websites at private-house-sales.info. This free search engine allows you to find sites based on star rating or the cost. Many websites will advertise your property on other websites, in order to gain more exposure, although you will usually have to pay a premium for this.
Propertyfinder.com and Fish4homes.com are two of the most popular external websites that are offered by private sale services. And it might be worth paying extra to have your home promoted on these sites, as the number of people using them could improve your chances of making a sale.
You could also use the internet to think outside the box. For example, you could advertise your home on websites such as eBay or Gumtree. Others sellers have been more imaginative with their marketing techniques, and posted videos on YouTube or photos of Facebook.
Away from the web, you could market your home using flyers or adverts in local papers.
How to market your home
Before you put your home on the market, you will need to get a home information pack (HIP) for your property.
Private sales don’t require sellers to have a HIP – however, in order to market your home (online, for example) to a “section of the public” you will need to have one of these so-called seller’s packs in place.
Most estate agents offer HIPs to sellers, but there are plenty of companies out there that you can commission and buy a HIP from directly. However, it’s best to pick a pack provider based on a recommendation from a friend, colleague or family member. At the very least, make sure you pick a pack provider that is a member of the Association of HIP Providers (AHIPP).
While there are many ways you can market your home without using an estate agent, taking a ‘DIY’ approach will require some effort on your part.
For a start, when it comes to settling on your asking price, you won’t have the benefit of an estate agent’s experience or knowledge of the local market.
Again, there are many websites that can help you value your home. Check out the various house price indices compiled by the likes of Nationwide, Halifax and The Land Registry. Various estate agents also offer house price guides based on asking and sale prices across the UK.
Alternatively, plenty of estate agents will value your home for free – just be aware that while there is no obligation, they will probably keep your details on record and may bombard you with marketing material.
Once you’ve set a valuation price and decided where you want to market your home, you’ll need to think about how best to ‘promote' it. Good quality photographs are vital; many experts say that kitchens and bathrooms sell a home, but buyers will also be interested in seeing the master bedroom, the front of the property and - crucially - any outdoor space.
Try to remember what first attracted you to the property – for example, it might be right round the corner from the local amenities or have a fantastic view.
Foden recommends sellers look at websites such as Rightmove to see how similar properties are described.
However, make sure you are honest about your home, while still highlighting the positives, to avoid falling foul of the Property Misdescriptions Act.
This states makes it an offence to make “false or misleading statements” about property or land offered for sale.
One of the main reasons people are put off selling their homes on their own is the misconception that it's very time consuming. However, with or without the help of an estate agent, you will have to give up your time to show people around your home – or, at least, make yourself scarce so someone else can show them round.
Having said that, you will need to be prepared to put some time in, as you won’t have an estate agent to deal with buyer enquiries and organise viewings. Having a polite and professional manner will also help.
At times when the housing market is healthy, and demand for property is great, you could consider organising an open day for viewings so you can get the process over and done with. However, Foden says that during downturns it’s probably best to arrange individual viewings.
Remember, the offers you receive on your home may well be below your asking price. Don’t take offence if people offer less than you think your home is worth – this is all part of the haggling process.
Instead, think seriously about what amount you would be prepared to accept before you start viewings – this is your reserve price. Don’t be afraid to ask for more money from buyers who offer below asking price and, equally, be prepared to drop your price if you are able to and no one is biting.
The sale process
Once you’ve accepted an offer from a buyer, a solicitor or conveyancer needs to be instructed to complete the process. While you could theoretically do your own legal work, this will clearly require a great deal of time, effort and knowledge on your part, and in the vast majority of cases it’s a false economy. Remember, there is redress available should your solicitor muck up, but none if you do.
Although estate agents are normally associated with the initial marketing and viewing stages of the house-selling process, Foden says that actually the legal stages are where they really come into their own by constantly nudging the solcitor to make sure things are moving smoothly and quickly.
If you are selling your home yourself, then it’s worth setting some realistic target dates for the completion and exchange with your solicitor and the seller. Then, don’t be afraid to check in on a regular basis to make sure things are progressing well and these target dates still look realistic.
Maintain good contact with the seller too; if problems rear their heads then it’s worth being on good terms so you can work together to resolve these.
The final job for an estate agent is to hand over the keys to the buyer once the sale completes and both parties are ready to exchange. However, there is nothing to stop you from handing over the keys yourself.
“Just make sure you don’t hand over your keys until your solicitor has confirmed that it has the money and authorises you to do so,” says Foden.
Invented by a Frenchman in 1954 and ironically introduced in the UK on 1 April 1973, VAT is an indirect tax levied on the value added in the production of goods and services, from primary production to final consumption and is paid by the buyer. Its levying is complex, with a number of exemptions and exclusions. For example, in the UK, VAT is payable on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on chocolate-covered cakes and the non-VAT status of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes was challenged in a UK court case to determine whether Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit. The judge ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake, McVitie’s won the case and VAT is not paid on Jaffa Cakes in the UK.
A catch-all phrase that can range from assessing the price of a property or vehicle before offering it for sale or the net worth of assets in an investment portfolio to the prices of shares on a stock exchange.
Everything you own: all your assets (property, cars, investments, savings, insurance payouts, artwork, furniture etc) minus any liabilities (debts, current bills, payments still owed on assets like cars and houses, credit card balances and other outstanding loans). When you’re alive this is called your wealth; when you’re dead, it becomes your estate.