There are over 1 million property sales every year. Traditionally, house sellers have had to use estate agents to manage the sale, but with typical commissions charged of £5000 many people have looked for cheaper alternatives, believing these commissions are very poor value for money. It is possible to sell your house privately, but is this for you?
Why have people traditionally used estate agents?
Before the rise of the internet, estate agents were just about the only way that you could advertise a property for sale. The estate agent would take photographs, prepare a floorplan, and then advertise the property – their high street shop window, local brochures and newspaper advertising were the main way in which people found houses to buy.
Rightmove changed all of that! By providing an online portal to list available properties, househunters no longer needed to trawl the high street – a connected computer was all that was needed to search for the ideal home. This has massively reduced the value that estate agents provide – although their fees haven’t reduced! – encouraging people to seek cost-effective alternatives.
Is it possible to sell a house privately?
In a word, yes! There is nothing requiring you to use an estate agent. If you already know somebody that wants to buy your house, or are prepared to advertise it yourself, you can eliminate agent fees altogether. You will need to use a qualified conveyancer to legally transfer ownership, but these fees are relatively modest.
If you want to go down the private sale route here are some tips:
- Invest in high quality photographs (a smart phone is rarely good enough). Poor imagery massively reduces the interest from house-hunters – first impressions really do count.
- Buy a “For Sale” board from a local printer (they are not that expensive). It promotes your house to passing traffic, and makes it easier for viewers to find you. But, a poor quality, home-made board will have the opposite effect – first impressions again, and will suggest to viewers that you are doing things cheaply, and they will reflect this in any price they offer.
- Use different advertising channels, and work them. Advertising your house is hard work – you have to keep at it. Selling your house online is a good place to start – use social media, try different routes. Be aware that advertising also becomes stale very quickly, so where possible monitor the level of interest in your property and keep on updating photographs and descriptions, and promote in different ways, such as open house weekends.
- Vet your viewers to see their potential as buyers for your home and to avoid time-wasters and nosy parkers! When you get a genuine viewer make sure you engage them as much as possible. Make them feel at home, leave them to view alone after an initial show-round, give them a high quality printed brochure, and follow up with them after the viewing. Offering incentives (such as paying their legal fees) can be a good way to encourage an offer, so long as you don’t lose your negotiating position.
So why don’t more people sell privately?
In essence, it is all about advertising. If you want to achieve the best price for your property then you need to advertise it to the widest possible audience. This is where Rightmove, Zoopla etc comes in – they provide a website where properties can be advertised, and they get huge volumes of people searching on their sites and via their mobile and tablet apps – in excess of 90% of all property searches start on these portals.
Whilst this sounds great, Rightmove and Zoopla do not allow individuals to advertise directly through them – they require an estate agent acting on behalf of the seller. Although this may seem to be collusion, it is not, but rather is driven by law – it is a legal requirement for a property advert to be accurate and not misleading, a law introduced to stop unscrupulous estate agents using clearly inaccurate and exaggerated property descriptions. If Rightmove and Zoopla were to allow individuals to list their properties for sale, they would need a mechanism to check the accuracy of descriptions and photographs – this is not what they are about, so pass this responsibility to estate agents.
Of course, there are other websites available where individuals can list properties independently, and if you want to sell privately these can be used. But – and it is a very big but – the amount of website visits and the amount of potential buyers who will see your property is a tiny fraction of that received by the major portals. Rightmove can attract 100 million site visitors a month!
So, if you want to maximise advertising of your property, you are still stuck with using estate agents.
Online Estate Agents – an affordable alternative to high street estate agents
Recent years have seen the rise of online estate agents such as www.myonlineestateagent.com. These have been set up to challenge the way in which estate agency services are provided. They recognise that you no longer need a high street presence to advertise a property, which comes with very high branch space and people costs. They operate centrally, with investment in technology, allowing a far cheaper alternative. But – and this is critical – online estate agents still advertise on Rightmove and Zoopla – so you can get the same advertising awareness without the high fees.
Most online estate agents provide a menu of services, so that you can choose to buy what you need. A basic package will include Rightmove and Zoopla advertising (including checking the accuracy of the property description) plus management of viewings and negotiations of offers. Additional services, such as professional photography, For Sale boards, premium advertising etc is also available, for pre-agreed fees.
£500-£1000 are typical online estate agency fees, compared to the £5000 paid to bricks and mortar agents. Whilst the fees for using an online estate agent might be higher than selling privately, you are getting a near-full service for a fraction of the price.
Just think what else you could spend those savings on – a holiday, home improvements, new car – the choice is yours!