With traditional estate agents marketing and selling the bulk of properties in England, it would be an understatement to say that they play a minor role in the property market. But how crucial are their services to selling your property? Is it possible to sell your home privately without the help of an estate agent?
Yes, technically it is possible to sell your home without the help of an estate agent. And, if you have the time, experience, and resilience, you could consider this option. Selling without an estate agent and directly to the buyer is known as a private house sale.
But, before you take the plunge on selling your house privately, it's important to thoroughly research everything an agent does when selling a home. This will help you decide whether the money you save on their fee is worth the cost and stress of managing the process of selling one of your most valuable financial assets by yourself.
When you work with a high street agent, they use their local experience, knowledge, experience in the housing market, and house sales training to support your sale:
High street agents have a wealth of local knowledge and will be deeply ingrained in the local community. This local knowledge will help them set the right price for your home and market it effectively.
These agents usually have a register of buyers who have expressed interest in finding a property in your area. When you instruct a high stret agent to sell your house, your property will be marketed directly to these motivated buyers.
On top of their local knowledge and connections, these agents also have access to some of the most prominent and effective online marketing channels. In particular they'll be able to list your home on Rightmove and Zoopla - the portals where 95% of prospective buyers start their home search. Many agents also have popular social media profiles, which can also be used to promote properties to a wide audience online.
If you work with an estate agent, they will handle buyer viewings for you. Not only does this reduce the burden of home selling for you, it's also a good security measure. They will vet potential buyers based on their financial status and legitimacy before they come for a viewing. They are trained to spot time wasters and potential fraudsters before they become an issue. With an agent conducting viewings, you also won't have to worry about the security risk of letting strangers into your home. If you don't use an agent you will need to arrange viewings yourself.
After you’ve received an offer, your agent will become your negotiator. While it is possible to negotiate offers directly, having a middleman is often very useful when someone expresses interest in buying your home. Not only are they trained for house sale negotiations, agents can also act as a buffer between the seller and buyer should the negotiation get heated. A good agent will help get you the best selling price.
An agent's work isn't complete once you've accepted an offer. They also act as a point of contact for your lawyer, and help to ensure the conveyancing process goes smoothly. This is particularly useful in cases where there are several parties involved, for example, a long chain, or a leasehold property. Estate agents are really good at keeping everything moving right until the exchange of contracts.
Using an estate agent to sell your house means you'll also be protected financially and legally should anything go wrong. Most operate on a 'no sale, no fee' basis. So, if you don't end up selling your home, you won't have to pay for the time the estate agent invested into trying to sell your home, or cover any of the costs of marketing. If something more serious goes wrong, you'll be able to seek recourse from the Property Ombudsman.
While there are many positives of working with an agent, there are some negatives, including:
Like with any service, there's a cost associated with using an estate agent. This is generally a percentage of your final selling price - averaging between 0.75% and 3% + VAT.
The percentage the agents charge will depend on the size, and location of your home. Some estate agents - usually online agents - charge a fixed fee upfront. We recommend avoiding these types of property experts: if they aren't able to sell your home, you won't be refunded your fee.
There are over 18,000 estate agencies operating in the UK. Not all of them provide great service. Whether that's because they don't have the right experience, they aren't based locally, or they don't have the capacity to handle your sale, an estate agent that isn't up to scratch can really dent your chances of securing the best price for your home.
The best way to find a local property expert that meets your requirements is by comparing them. Our free Estate Agent Comparison Tool allows you to compare local agents according to experience, speed, and previous asking prices achieved.
It takes 2 minutes. 100% free. No obligation.
Similarly, there are pros and cons to selling your home without an agent.
The positives include:
One of the main reasons people choose to sell their home on their own is to avoid estate agent fees. This applies to both local and online estate agents.
The other reason some people choose to avoid working with estate agents is because they'd like greater control over the entire process.
While these positives might appeal those with prior experience of marketing and selling property - there are a number of cons that come with the 'do it yourself' method:
Taking on all of the responsibilities of an estate agent is a full time job. You'll need to find the time to arrange marketing and logistical materials (like floor plans and your Energy Performance Certificate), conduct viewings, handle negotiations, and chase all the relevant parties during the conveyancing stage.
The biggest online property portals (Zoopla and Rightmove) don't accept listings from individuals. This means you'll have to find other ways to market your property. You could start by distributing leaflets in your local area, putting up a 'for sale' sign, or listing your property on private listing websites or using local newspapers.
Putting your property on the market at the wrong price could leave you with less money overall. But, getting an accurate valuation of your property can be incredibly difficult without the help of an expert. Without an accurate value, it could be harder to set an appropriate asking price. You could ask a surveyor to inspect your property, but they will charge a fee for this.
You can read more about the different types of surveys available and their costs here.
You'll have to cover the costs of selling upfront, and you won't get a refund if you don't sell. These costs will include: professional photography, marketing materials, and advertising space. You can read the full breakdown of in our guide, 'How much does it cost to sell a house'.
There's always a security risk when it comes to inviting strangers to look around your home. If you choose to sell your house by yourself, you'll need to make sure you take adequate precautions during viewings.
If you're working with an estate agent and things go wrong, you have financial and legal protection. You won't have this if you choose to sell your house by yourself - and small mistakes can have big ramifications and legal fees can add up. For example, if your floor plan is inaccurate you can legally be sued by the buyer for misrepresentation.
Valuing a property is an art form. If you underestimate the value of your home, you’ll end up losing money. On the other hand, if you overvalue your property, it won't sell. Potential buyers will get suspicious if it looks like your home has been on the market for too long.
There are three main ways to approach valuing a property without an estate agent:
There are a number of online tools of varying quality that claim to be able to provide an estimate of how much your home is worth. Because no one is coming to look at your property, house price calculators are limited to providing a valuation based on data that can be accessed online, and the information you input about your property.
While the effectiveness of online valuation tools is limited, some are definitely more precise than others, but these tools typically offer a free valuation. For example, Zoopla's estimates don't allow you to update your property's information, so you can't add extensions or developments to reflect your property's value. With our online valuation tool however, we ask for extensive information about your property in order to provide an accurate figure. You can read more about the accuracy of Zoopla's valuation tool here. Or you can try our free House Valuation Tool - get an instant house valuation by entering a few details about your property.
Probably the most accurate way to get a valuation without using an estate agent is to pay a surveyor to examine your property.
You could also attempt to value your property yourself. To do this, you would have to undertake an extensive analysis of the property market in your area, before carefully examining your own property within this context. We go into more detail about how to value a property here.
Thousands of people visit Rightmove and Zoopla each month. Around Christmas, the number of people surfing property portals consistently reaches into the millions. Clearly, the most popular property portals are vital tools in your marketing arsenal if you're looking to sell your home.
Unfortunately, if you decide to sell your house without an estate agent you won't be able to advertise on these sites. The most popular property portals - including Rightmove, Zoopla, and OnTheMarket - will only allow you to post an advert on their site if you're working with an estate agent.
Because of this, if you decide to sell your house without an agent you'll have to consider alternative marketing channels. More often than not, you will end up doing much more work to achieve the same results as a Rightmove or Zoopla advert.
In most cases, you won't save money by avoiding an agent and selling by yourself. You'll find that working with a traditional estate agent is better value for money than trying to sell your home on your own.
There are two reasons for this:
Research by The Advisory found that, on average, high street estate agents were able to achieve a 5% higher asking price than simply selling a house online. This more than compensates for the fee that they charge.
While you won't have to pay a commission fee, if you choose to sell your house without an estate agent, you will still have to pay for many of the things that the fee covers. This includes (but not limited to):
Remember: Most local estate agents work on a no sale no fee basis. This means there's less risk if you don't end up selling. If you're on your own, you won't get back any of the money you spent on upfront selling costs if you don't end up selling.
While 'do it yourself selling' is a common way of avoiding working with estate agents, there are other alternatives to consider too. These include:
Properties that need doing up, have potential to extend, or are not attractive to the average buyer (because they are hard to mortgage, or the lease is short) get the most interest at auctions. Auction houses will usually charge both a non-refundable entry fee and commission.
To read more about selling at auction, head here.
Most professional house buyers are property investors. They are looking to buy properties at below market rates to 'improve' them through renovation and extension. They can then sell these on or rent them out for a profit.
To read more about selling to a cash house buyer, check out blog, 'Should I sell my house to a cash buyer?'.
A part exchange home scheme is where you trade the value of your property against the value of a brand new property. New build part exchanges aim to make substantial gain, which is why you'll never get the full price for your valuation. You can read more about how part exchange schemes work in our blog on part exchange.
None of these options will leave you walking away with the full market value for your property - in fact you're pretty much guaranteed to not - but the benefit of these methods is that you'll sell much quicker than if you try to sell your home by yourself.
You don't need to use an agent if you're selling your house to a relative or if you know someone who is seriously interested in buying your property. Selling to a relative means the sale is likely to complete as they know your home and have familial ties. As you won't need to market your property, you can even avoid paying fees. However, we still recommend choosing a conveyancer to help complete the sale even with private house sales. The legal process can be complicated and a conveyancer can help with the workload.
While you can sell your property for any amount you wish, selling your property below market value to a family member might cause complications. HMRC assess the value of the property when selling rather than the price paid. If you sell a high value property below its market value, this could be viewed as an attempt to avoid taxes like Capital Gains, Stamp Duty and Inheritance.
Whether you decide to appoint an agent or manage the sale on your own, the choice is in your hands. If you feel you have the time and expertise to handle the sale, this could be a good option. We would recommend against selling without an estate agent due to the benefits they bring.
However, if you're unsure about all the little details and laws regarding the home selling process, or you're worried about the security risk of hosting viewings with strangers, it’s likely a high street agent is the best option for you. So, Do you need to use an estate agent? - no, but should you use an estate agent, we would say yes you should.
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