As a result of the credit crunch, the housing market all but ground to a halt. Hardly anybody could afford to buy and nobody wanted to sell at unrealistically low prices so most people pretty much stayed where they were.
Now, though, as lenders start to slowly loosen criteria and first-time buyers begin to make a comeback, the market is starting to move again. Only, this time a new breed of buyers and sellers has emerged; they’re operating in a new frugal landscape and many of them are questioning the need to pay extortionate fees to estate agents.
On average, people hand over 1.8 per cent of the sale price of their home to an agent in return for a valuation, photographs, listing in branch and online and supplying a sale board, according to a survey by Which?. On a £300,000 property that’s £5,400.
Unsurprisingly, many sellers are starting to wonder if they could do a better job themselves. So is it possible? Here are our top 10 steps to selling your house without an agent.
1. Make the house sellable
If you’re going to do the job yourself, make the process as easy as possible. In other words, make your house as sellable as you can.
Rebecca Tucker, director of Suna Interior Design, says she is often amazed by the state in which many people show their homes.
'People don’t want to see your clutter, they want to see the rooms, and anything that will negatively detract from being able to see them clearly is a bad thing,' she says.
Tucker says while kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms that can traditionally sell houses, sellers thinking of renovating theirs should think twice.
'Unless you are prepared to do a good job on changing the kitchen, don’t change it, just tidy it up, maybe replace any damaged elements, and put a quick lick of paint over any hideous 1970s wood panelling. That way, people can see they can live with it until they can afford to change it.'
From a design point of view, Tucker says despite popular belief, there’s no need to paint everything magnolia. 'As with show homes we design for developers, you’ll be much more successful selling your home if you create an image of a lifestyle or an aspiration,' she says.
2. Set a price
With your house looking its best your next job is to set a price. It is here where you would normally rely on the help of an estate agent. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it alone. Indeed, you may be better off.
Russell Quirk, founder of online agent eMoov.co.uk, says some local agents are guilty of inflating valuations.
'It’s a cruel trick to give you false hope on value and a tactic designed to flatter you into using that particular agent,' he says. 'No agent can obtain a price higher than another. The market is the market, thanks to the power of the internet.'
Do your own research instead. Rightmove.co.uk and nethouseprices.com provide useful tools to evaluate nearby comparable properties.
Quirk suggests looking at sold price history though, not potentially expensive listings that may have languished on the market.
3. Write a description
Your price has been set and you’re ready to show buyers how great your property is. But first you need to write a few lines about your home to help entice buyers through the door. You may be tempted to write a detailed account of how wonderful it is, complete with examples of your interior design skills, but keeping the information concise and to the point is more productive.
Quirk says: 'Buyers skip through lengthy narratives. The most important elements are lots of internal photos and a floor plan.'
4. Take the best photos
Photos are pointless – and even counter-productive – if they don’t do the property justice.
Ben Fillmore, managing director of marketing and design agency ehouse, says the images used to market a home should be specific to that property.
'If it’s a remote rural property then purchasers will want to see a range of shots that show the property off – the land available, the views and so on,' he says.
'If it’s a modern property in a central location then lifestyle shots showing the fixtures and fittings may be of more interest than, say, photos of the bathroom.'
Fillmore says in almost all cases the communal living areas should be shown at their best, along with the most appealing angle of the front and a couple of decent garden shots, looking both to and from the house.
You could use a professional photographer, who will charge around £200, to take a wide range of images.
5. List the property
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 portals – including Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location – for a set fee.
Unfortunately, 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.
The deluxe package from HouseWeb, which includes your full advert with six colour photos and advertising on 350 other websites, will set you back £129. However, the prices of its services start at £47.
Houseladder’s most basic listing is free (although you won’t be able to include photos), while its Premium Gold+ package, costing £149.99, allows for 12 photos and includes a YouTube video and listings on partner sites.
Facebook and Twitter are other good tools that can help you to reach a mass audience and Tepilo, owned by property expert Sarah Beeny, offers sellers the chance to list their homes for free. The site is also packed with general property advice.
Remember though, while the internet is a major tool in the housing market, don’t overlook more traditional methods such as advertising in your local paper.
6. Arranging viewings
Estate agents are normally on hand to show your property, which is beneficial for those people who work during the day. However, to avoid paying estate agent fees, you could enlist the help of family or friends to show potential buyers around your home while you are at work. Or simply arrange viewings for evenings or weekends.
If you are going to show 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.
7. Negotiating a price
When it comes to the financial dealings of home selling it’s important to keep a clear head and not become intimidated by price negotiation.
Decide how much you are willing to accept beforehand and don’t go below that figure – regardless of how nervous you may be or how anxious you are to sell the house.
If you turn down an offer always try to do so in a friendly manner; you want to be able to leave the door open just in case you do decide to accept the offer further down the line.
Keeping communication friendly also means the buyer will feel comfortable approaching you should they decide to increase their offer.
8. Accepting an offer
When you’re ready to accept an offer do it verbally in the first instance and then via email or post. But remember nothing is legally binding until the exchange of contracts, which will be several weeks down the line.
9. Instruct a solicitor
Once you’ve accepted an offer, you’ll then need to instruct a solicitor or conveyancer to sort out the legal work. Just as you would when employing the services of any professional, be sure to do your research in order to find a good one.
'Choose carefully,' advises Quirk. 'Licensed conveyancers tend to be cheaper and do the same job as solicitors. Shop around and try to gain recommendations from friends as to who they may have used.'
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (clc-uk.org) has a search facility that you can use to find a local conveyancer near you. DirectGov is another useful site (direct.gov.uk) and The Law Society can help you find nearby property solicitors online at lawsociety.org.uk.
10. Deal with renegotiations
Once a buyer has instructed their own surveyor they may want to renegotiate the price of the property. If they have found something wrong with the property they may feel their original offer is no longer fair.
'This happens a lot,' says Quirk. 'Ensure the buyer shows you the survey report. If it genuinely lists areas of concern that have to be addressed then aim to split the cost. Often though, it may turn out to be a ruse to beat you down on price, so stand firm.'
What traditional estate agents offer
While it is possible to sell your home without using an agent, there are some benefits that estate agents will provide.
Bob Scarff, managing director of Countrywide – the parent company of many high street estate agents – says a good agent with the right network of branches and marketing expertise will expose your property to a wide audience of potential buyers.
'An estate agent will have good knowledge of the local housing market conditions, the types of properties already on the market in your area and know the sorts of buyers who would be interested in purchasing your house,' he adds.
Scarff says sellers must think carefully before choosing to sell without an agent. 'Wouldn’t it be false economy to sell for 5 per cent less just to avoid paying an estate agent fee, which is typically less than 2 per cent of the property’s sale price?' he asks.
'We sold our home without a high street agent'
Alistair Rhind, 55, and his wife Rebecca, 46, are both life coaches and counsellors and live in Brentwood, Essex. The couple sold their family home in June for £250,000 through the online estate agent eMoov.co.uk.
'Rebecca and I are both very internet-savvy,' says Alistair. 'Our profession allows us to work remotely and we do some of our shopping online too, so using the internet to sell our cottage seemed the best way forward.
'In the past, I’ve sold three properties through high street estate agents, so I know how much they charge – usually around 1.5 per cent. We paid £299 to eMoov and only had to conduct two viewings before we accepted an offer.
'We saved £3,451 by using an online estate agent, rather than a high street agent, and – now our children have flown the nest – we’ve been able to put that money towards buying an American style RV to travel around Europe. So it’s really had multiple benefits for us.'
Online estate agents
Online estate agents are a new style of agent. Rather than operating from a high street office, they have an online presence only. This means they have lower overheads and can therefore provide their service at a reduced cost.
Online agents can provide most of the services of high street agents – including valuing, listing and marketing your property. The only real difference is they do not host viewings for potential buyers.
There are several online agents and each of them offers a variety of packages. The table below outlines the services the three most well-known online agents provide their clients in order to justify their fees.
Online agents – WHAT DO THEY OFFER?
£349 + VAT
A home visit, photos, measurements, floor plan. Listing on all major sites including Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location.
£199 + VAT upfront and
A home visit, photos, floorplan. Listing on Hatched.co.uk,
£525 + VAT
Listing on Find a Property and Zoopla and other network partners as well as a premium listing on Rightmove. Professional
Keep up to date with all the latest personal finance news and investment tips by signing up to our newsletter. Email subscribers will also receive a free print copy of Money Observer magazine.
Subscribe to Money Observer Magazine
Be the first to receive expert investment news and analysis of shares, funds, regions and strategies we expect to deliver top returns, plus free access to the digital issues on your desktop or via the Money Observer App.Subscribe now