With the biggest slice of your moving costs likely to go on fees to high street agents, Moneywise looks at new ways to market your property that could save you thousands.
With the average property valued at £223,257 nationwide and £481,556 in London, according to Land Registry data for June [the latest data available], paying commission to a high street estate agent when you sell up will run into thousands of pounds.
If a typical homeowner in the UK paid a traditional agent a commission of, say, 1.5% plus VAT to market their home, then they would have to find £4,018 in fees, while a Londoner would have to fork out £8,668.
These huge sums are leading some sellers to take a DIY approach, while others are picking online agents which charge a flat fee.
Here, Moneywise offers 10 steps to selling your house without spending a fortune.
1. Make your home sellable
Before putting your property on the market, you need to make sure it will stand out from the crowd.
You can pick up ideas from show homes and interiors magazines, or you could pay an interior designer to give your home a makeover. Research by estate agent Portico suggests that using a home staging company could add as much as 8% to a property’s value.
Emma Brindley, interior design manager for Redrow Homes, says that de-cluttering is her number one tip for sellers: “Clear away everything that you don’t need to hand. Less is often more when it comes to setting the scene in our show homes. Only include accessories that are useful and make your space feel like home. Store away or donate anything that’s not essential.”
Other quick fixes include upgrading your bedroom and turning your bathroom into a sanctuary.
“Fresh, crisp, white bedding is my personal favourite. Team this with textured throws, oversized lamps on the side tables and plump cushions.
“Store away your everyday shampoos and toothbrushes, and create a boutique hotel-inspired look with rolled-up, thick-pile fluffy towels, styled with spa products, candles and scents,” Ms Brindley adds.
2. Set a price
Working out a realistic asking price will help speed up a sale. Estate agents will happily pop round to give you a valuation – but you may have a guilty conscience about contacting high-street agents you have no intention of hiring.
Instead, there are plenty of online tools to help you price up your property. Visit Zoopla.co.uk/house-prices, pop in your postcode and you can search sold prices of properties in the UK. It also gives the average price of a terraced, detached or semi-detached house or flat in your neighbourhood – and how prices have changed in the past three months to 20 years. Other sites that show sold prices are Mouseprice.com and Rightmove.co.uk.
3. Write a description
Rather than boring buyers with a long description, let the floorplan and photographs tell the story. Unless you have a designer kitchen or bathroom to show off, keep it brief – and avoid flowery language.
4. Take photos and make a floorplan
Your home will be competing with thousands of listings on property portals, so you’ll need outstanding photography rather than a few shots taken on your mobile phone.
Photographer Tom Hodgson says: “Phone photo quality is getting better, but you will struggle to achieve the same results a professional would. In the grand scheme of things, hiring a photographer will pay for itself when the property sells quickly because you have quality photos that generate a high level of interest.”
You can expect to spend from £150 to £250 on professional photography, depending on the size and location of your property.
If you do have a good camera, invest in a wide-angled lens and tripod, and focus on the main items in the room, avoiding too much ceiling. Browse online for inspiration – Houzz.co.uk has plenty of interior shots with the wow factor.
Floor plans have become an essential tool in marketing a property, giving buyers a bird’s eye view of your living space and its dimensions. You can use online tools to draw your own plan. For instance, iPhone users can upload images of rooms on to the Stanley Floor Plan free app. It will work out the measurements and you can then download a floorplan for a £2.99 fee. Provide your own measurements, and PlanUp.co.uk will draw a one-off plan
5. Advertise your property
Property portals such as Prime Location, Rightmove and Zoopla are the best places to advertise – however, these sites don’t list properties that are sold privately, so you will need to pay for an online agent, which usually offers unlimited access to these sites.
The cheapest online agent we could find is Doorsteps.co.uk, which charges a one-off fee of £99 with properties listed on Prime Location, Rightmove and Zoopla, or £199 to also include a 2D floorplan and professional photos.
Alternatively, property marketplace HouseWeb.co.uk charges from £195 a year for three months’ listing on Rightmove and Zoopla, up to 20 photos and social media sharing.
A free option is Houseladder.co.uk, which lists 10 photos on its site or you can pay £30 for 30 days for a ‘featured property’ – but with no listing on property portals.
If you have a good following on social media, you could produce a video of your property and upload it on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
This summer, Shanty Helim, from Rainham in east London, sold her three-bedroom bungalow for £467,000 via Facebook Live – with viewers watching the 360° tour of her home. They could then ask questions and make offers via the site’s Messenger app, which was managed by online agent HouseSimple.com.
Another enterprising homeowner recently raffled his six-bedroom Georgian house in Melling, Lancashire. After renovating his house in 2011, Dunstan Low, 37, who was a sculptor before working in online marketing, found that he was struggling to pay the mortgage and his home was about to be repossessed. He came up with the idea of a raffle, selling 500,000 tickets at £2 each, providing him with £1 million to cover the value of the house, stamp duty, legal fees and his expenses, plus donations to charity.
Mr Low is now planning to help others raffle their properties.
He told Moneywise: “We have had more than 300 enquiries ranging from a £70,000 terraced house to a £5 million castle and £12 million buy-to-let portfolio. Interest has been worldwide from Scotland to the Seychelles and Australia.”
Another possibility is eBay – advertising a property costs just £35. As classified ads run for 28 days, there is plenty of time to arrange viewings before the bidding ends.
However, eBay property listings are not legally binding; they are simply a way for sellers to advertise their property and meet potential buyers. At the close of the auction, the seller and winning bidder are not obliged to complete the transaction.
6. Arrange viewings
Even when using traditional agents, sellers often prefer to show potential buyers around.
Russell Quirk, chief executive of online agent eMoov, explains why: “Sellers feel they have more control of the process and their property isn’t undersold by an agent who isn’t local to the area, doesn’t know answers to important questions and can often leave buyers underwhelmed. It’s also a chance to build a good rapport with potential buyers, which can be invaluable further down the line.”
If you live on your own and are worried about safety, most online agents can arrange for an agent to attend viewings – for an extra fee. Doorsteps.co.uk, for example, charges £66 per viewing, while HouseSimple.com charges £35 per viewing or £295 for all your viewings on top of its minimum price of a £495 fixed fee.
7. Negotiate the price
It’s important to calculate what is the lowest offer you will accept to afford your next move – and stick to it. Don’t be too quick to agree to a lower figure – there is currently a shortage of properties for sale.
Mr Quirk adds: “Although the housing market is slowing, it certainly isn’t a buyer’s market. Latest data from Halifax and Nationwide show that prices have started to climb ever so gradually again and are still up on an annual basis, so there is no reason why a seller should feel they need to lower their expectations.”
But try to end negotiations on friendly terms – you may change your mind further down the line.
8. Accept an offer
If you accept an offer verbally, follow this up in writing straight away. Ask to see proof of ID and any mortgage offer or bank statements if an agent is not handling the transaction. Encourage your buyer to arrange their mortgage valuation/survey within a few days as this will reassure you that they are serious buyers.
9. Hire a solicitor or conveyancer
Once you have a buyer, you’ll need to instruct a solicitor or conveyancer to take care of the legal work - although it is possible to do it yourself if you are a cash buyer or own your home outright. Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations, and get a few quotes.
Licensed conveyancers are usually cheaper than solicitors as they have undergone less training. To search for conveyancers in your area, visit the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (Clc-uk.org). Similarly, you can search for a local solicitor at Lawsociety.org.uk.
You could also pay £45 to join consumer group the HomeOwners Alliance, as membership includes a 10% discount on conveyancing, which it says will typically save over £90 in fees.
10. Handle renegotiations
Don’t be surprised if your buyer tries to renegotiate the price once the survey has been carried out.
Ask to see the survey to check if there is a genuine problem that needs remedial work. If this is the case, you could get a few quotes and offer to split the cost with your buyer. But don’t reduce the price if your buyer is quibbling over repairs that are simply down to wear and tear.
You're quite right. Thanks for pointing this out - I've amended the article.