As a result of the government’s Help to Buy scheme together with a relaxation of lending criteria, Britain’s housing market is now booming. More sales will be recorded in 2013, than at any time since the 2007 boom. The increased demand for homes has, according to the Halifax, resulted in the ninth consecutive monthly rise in house prices, up 0.7% in October and up 6.9% over the last 12 months. The Halifax reports that the average UK home is now valued at £171,991. It has never been an easier to sell a home and estate agents are cashing in on the easy money, charging around 2% of the sale price. This can be a total of £6,000 (including vat) for a home that can sell for £250,000 in a matter of days, sometimes before they even put the property in their window!
However a growing number of sellers are choosing to avoid the traditional method and are marketing their homes online and saving several thousand pounds in the process. Most online services charge flat fees between £200 and £900 depending on the services offered and optional extras. With many homes selling in a matter of days, people thinking of selling their home are starting to ask themselves why they need an estate agent at all. The RICS say that around 5% of all completed property sales arise from low-cost online agents and private sale websites.
What estate agents say to justify their high fees!
- Estate agents provide a valuation (you can normally get this free without using them), compile property details, take photographs, list the property in their branch and online, and supply and erect a For Sale board (which also advertises their own business!)
- Estate agents claim they can give sellers an accurate price by using their local market knowledge, but there are many websites and online tools that enable you to do this for yourself.
- Estate agents claim to have a list of willing buyers on their books, but most people start looking for a new home online anyway, so this is now of minor relevance.
- Estate agents will say they are available to show buyers your property, which may be useful for sellers who are at work during the day. To avoid paying estate agent fees, you could enlist the help of family or friends to show potential buyers around your home when you are not available, or you can simply arrange all viewings for evenings or weekends. Remember that many sellers who use an expensive estate agent often end up doing most of the viewings themselves anyway!
- Estate agents claim they can weed out time wasters and check that people who ask for a viewing are in a position to buy – known as “qualifying” in the trade. There is nothing to stop you asking if potential buyers have a property to sell and if they have mortgage finance agreed in principle.
- Estate agents will say they can help with legalities such as arranging for energy performance certificates (easily done online!) and will be able to “negotiate the best sale price.” This translates as “playing both sides off against the other” to get a quick sale, at any price.
- Local estate agents do come into their own if a particular property is tricky to sell, perhaps because it is near a railway or busy road, as they may be able to point out its redeeming features during a viewing.
- Most traditional estate agents belong to the National Association of Estate Agents who must be “qualified professionals and must follow strict rules of conduct.” From October 2008, all estate agents are required to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme that has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). These investigate complaints against estate agents. The Property Ombudsman (tpos.co.uk) is one of the schemes approved by the OFT. Sellers and buyers have the chance of redress if anything goes wrong and the Ombudsman may make awards of compensation for financial loss and/or aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The service is free of charge for the public.
- Estate agents offer other services such as in-house mortgage brokers. (they do and they make commission on those too!)
How to sell your home yourself
Setting the price: You can get three local agents to value your home but be aware they can be guilty of inflating valuations to give sellers false hope in order to get the property on their books. Remember no estate agent can achieve a higher price than any other can, the market ultimately decides how much a home is worth. So do your own research. To get a realistic valuation for your home, check on property websites on the internet such as Zoopla, Prime Location and Rightmove to find the latest values of local comparable properties.
Description: You may need to write a few lines about your home to help entice buyers through the door. Don’t be tempted to include a detailed account online, as many potential buyers will skip through lengthy details. You can always provide full details in a pdf online link or by e-mail. Look at how other properties have been advertised and be guided by the online agent’s recommendations.
Photographs: Take photographs both inside and out on a sunny day. If you have paving or a block-paved driveway it will look better in the photographs if it is wet. Use a wide-angle lens which will make rooms look larger and you can fit more into each picture. Take photographs of the garden, both from the house and looking back to the house. Remember the images used to market a home should be specific to that property. Don’t forget to take pictures of any views the home benefits from too. More advice for selling your home can be found at Selling your house yourself
Viewings: You will have to be prepared to show prospective buyers around your property yourself, but this can be an advantage as you know your home better than anyone and are in the best position to sell it. In a buoyant market it can be a very good idea to host a couple of ‘open days’ for viewings. This means you can prepare the home beforehand, making sure everything is clean and perfect in the knowledge that you have several prospective buyers coming. You could consider providing some refreshments to offer people during busy periods if they have to wait. It is also a good idea to make it clear from the outset that the asking price is the price and that offers below that will not be accepted. That way those that do come will be more likely to be able to afford your price. When showing your home yourself be sure to consider the safety implications of allowing strangers into your home. If possible, have a friend or partner with you.
Choosing an online service: There are many websites that offer services to help you sell online. When it comes to listing your property for sale it pays to use an online agent that can advertise your home on all the major property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location, either included in the price or for a set fee. Private sellers are unable to advertise on these sites directly so if you do want to go it alone you’ll have to rely on ‘for sale by owner’ websites, such as houseweb.co.uk and houseladder.co.uk.
What the online agents offer: (Prices correct at time of publishing)
- sellahouseonline.co.uk Fully inclusive £399 (includes vat!) one time fee. Alternatively £899 “no sale no fee” only payable if the property is sold. A “Pay As You Go” is available at £99 fee and £599 on completion.
- emove.co.uk £395 plus vat. A home visit, measurements and floor plan, Listing on all major websites Rightmove, Zoopla, Prime Location, viewings, offer negotiation, and sale progression.
- hatched.co.uk £225 plus vat up front and £225 plus vat on sale. As emove.co.uk above.
- ownmove.com From £395 plus vat. Listing on Rightmove, Zoopla, Prime Location, professional photographs and floor plan. For £525 plus vat you get listing on, Zoopla, Prime Location and other network partners, and a premium listing on Rightmove, professional photographs and floor plan and an energy performance certificate.
- nesthunter.co.uk FREE
- housesimple.co.uk Prices start at £114 (or £21 per month). For this you get a home visit, photographs, measurements, floor plans and viewings organised. If you want your property listed on property websites, including Rightmove and Zoopla, it costs an additional £150 for 6 months. With all the necessary ‘extras’ added the overall cost equates to £474 including vat.
- houseweb.co.uk The deluxe package, which includes a full advert with six colour photos and advertising on 350 other websites, will cost £129. However, the prices of its services start at £47.
- houseladder.co.uk The basic listing is free (although you cannot include photos), while its Premium Gold+ package, costing £149.99, includes 12 photos and a YouTube video and listings on partner sites.
- myonlineestateagent.com From £299 plus vat. Includes listing on major websites Rightmove, Zoopla, Prime Location. Extras include: Floor Plan £45 plus vat and Professional Photos and description £50 plus vat.
- littlehousecompany.com From £29.99 a month, but expect to pay more for floor plans, photos and listings on the main property websites. Full online estate agent service including listing on major websites Rightmove, Zoopla, Prime Location £395 including vat.
As well as the internet do not overlook the more traditional methods such as advertising in your local paper. You may also be able to advertise your home in local shop windows too for a minimal outlay.