With property prices rising over the past year, sellers of their homes are potentially handing over large sums of money to agents.
Fees typically range between 1 and 3.5 per cent of the purchase price, meaning a potential £8,750 outlay on the typical home.
And with the housing market being so busy, it could be argued that each customer is getting less attention in general for that cost.
Rebekah England (center) and Alex and Louise Wright both bought homes without agents
For those looking to stretch their budget to the full extent, or perhaps complaining against property agents from past experience, the nuclear option is to be agent free and take the job yourself.
Selling — or buying — a home without the involvement of an agent is completely legal. But whether this is a good idea or not is a matter of opinion.
According to Citizens Advice: ‘If you use a property agent, it will be more expensive but the property agent will take the responsibility of advertising, showing potential buyers around, and negotiating the price for the home.
‘If you want to find a buyer yourself, it will be cheaper but you will need time to do all these arrangements and deal with any problems.’
Agents argue that their expertise and negotiation helps sellers get more money for their homes.
Nathan Emerson, chief executive of PropertyMark, a property agent membership body, admits, ‘There are people who successfully sell their home without using an agent’.
‘Anyone can sell anything at a certain price, but would they have a better outcome if they used an agent and had exposure to a wider market? That is an unknown question.’
worth it? Estate agents will charge up to 3.5% of the sale price for marketing your home, but some sellers prefer to do the hard work themselves and save money.
They also say that having them handle things like seeing, negotiating and pursuing lawyers will make the process quicker and less stressful for both buyers and sellers.
‘Good agents will demonstrate care and control of the sales process, keeping in touch with solicitors and other agents,’ says agent Jeremy Leaf, based in north London.
‘This should always give a transaction a better chance of not only reaching the agreed terms, but getting to the finishing line as smoothly and efficiently as possible.’
But many people have had different experiences, as shown in our two case studies below.
They say that having their own agents gave them more control, and they were able to ask more questions and find out more about their new homes by talking directly to sellers rather than going through middlemen.
One even described the process as ‘pleasant’.
If you are determined to do your home marketing on your own, here are some steps to follow:
1. Decide How Much to Charge
There are some situations where having your own agent makes more sense, especially if you are selling a home that already has an established market value.
Leaf said: ‘It may be worthwhile not to use an agent to sell your home if you are selling a property that is similar to many others in a block of flats, or a development of homes where a moving rate is established. What is difficult to change is its ups and downs.
If it isn’t, the first port of call for sellers is often the online appraisal tool, which is offered by a lot of property websites.
These can give you an idea of how much your home could be worth, but they should be used with caution.
Figures are often based on past property sales, which can occur in different market conditions – and if there aren’t many examples to draw from, the figure you arrive at is easily less than an odd price. It is possible.
“We’ve also noticed that many vendors place undue reliance on online assessment tools, which can be extremely misleading and non-representative,” says Leaf.
It is often more useful to look at the asking prices of other, similar homes in your immediate local area.
Keep in mind that buyers often offer under the asking price, at least initially, so you might want to price a little higher than what you want.
Estate agents often offer free appraisals, although with some expectation that you will list your property with them.
It’s also worth investigating whether you’ll be able to get planning permission to enlarge or remodel your home—and maybe even apply for it.
Emerson says: ‘Owners often don’t understand planning restrictions. Agents can find out when a property can be placed in the market for a higher value because it can be increased, for example.’
2. Advertise Your Home as Much as You Can
One of the biggest drawbacks to selling your home without an agent is that you won’t be able to use the main property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla — because they only accept listings from agents.
Instead, you may want to advertise in a local newspaper, shop windows, community websites, or even on social media.
Facebook, in particular, has groups you can join if you want to buy or sell a home in a certain area.
There are also websites dedicated to selling your home, including The House Shop, which is free, although you can pay up to £50 for more prominent listings, and House Ladder which is also free but contains videos. There are premium options including things like that cost up to £150.
In general, you should use as many different methods as you can.
Emerson said: ‘Agents are using multiple marketing tools every day. People who sell themselves using Facebook, for example, are exposing themselves to only one core segment of the market.
‘When people are selling their biggest asset, you want to show it to the widest possible audience: not only to get the best price, but also to get the best buyer.’
Good things to include in your ad are lots of photos, the size of the room and garden, the cost of things like fixtures and fittings, and council taxes, and land rent or maintenance fees if you live in a leasehold property or flat.
A home’s energy performance certificate rating should also be included in any advertising.
The certificate is produced by an accredited home energy assessor, which you will have to pay for if you don’t already have one.
You will then need to access it for free, to any potential buyer.
3. Decide Which Offer to Accept
If you don’t have an agent, you’ll have to negotiate yourself. You don’t have to accept the first offer you get, or even the one who offers the most money – and you’re still free to change your mind after you accept.
Consider whether the buyer is in a chain, selling to a first time buyer or someone who has already sold their home and is renting out temporarily can be much faster.
To reduce the risk of fall-through, you also need to be confident that the offer you accept is from a buyer who is committed to buying the home and is in a position to move in.
As citizens advise: ‘You should keep in mind that when an offer is made and accepted the potential buyer may also withdraw – for example, they may not get the mortgage, or the survey shows some structural problem. could.
‘If you’re selling, it may be a good idea to have the names and addresses of all potential buyers who make offers, in case you fail to accept.’
You will want to find out if they are paying in cash, which can speed up the process, or will be applying for a mortgage.
Ask if they have found a buyer for their home, and whether their moving timeline matches your own.
They may have a certain deadline in mind, such as the start of the new school year, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your own circumstances.
Selling your home with a property agent can mean that it is marketed to a much wider pool of potential buyers, increasing your chances of getting a good price.
4. Putting the Process Together
Once you’ve got an offer, you’ll need to go through a legal process and surveys – and without an agent, you’ll be responsible for keeping the process going.
“What people don’t realize is that estate agents have a huge influence in putting together transactions,” says Emerson.
‘They’re working with solicitors and resolving issues, collecting documents, renegotiated, dealing with surveyors, dealing with the work that comes out of surveys.’
If the person on the other end of your transaction is using an agent they may take some of the burden off the feeling of continuing things – but the whole process is likely to take longer.
As case studies show, keeping the lines of communication open with your buyer is essential – so be prepared to answer questions or provide information when needed.
Becoming your own agent may be the cheapest option, but it is not likely to be the easiest.
So for those who decide to go it alone, it’s essential to weigh the effort you put in against the potential cash savings.
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