June 13, 2024
Finance

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By Ollie Cooper, Money team

Estate agent fees are one of the big expenses in selling a house – but rule changes and the rise of private sale websites have made it more common for people to go it alone.

But how easy is it – and what do you need to know? We spoke to industry experts to find out.

Firstly, what do estate agents do for their money?

An estate agent will typically charge in the range of 1%-3.5% of the sale price. 

That means for the average house price (£284,691 from December) you could pay anywhere from £2,846 to £9,964 in commission fees.

“When you use an estate agent, their fee includes taking professional photographs, advertising your home, conducting property viewings, and negotiating a price on your behalf,” says Jack Smithson from the home ownership site Better.co.uk.

In addition, an estate agent will compile comprehensive details of your house, including room sizes and descriptions of fixtures and fittings. 

“They will also provide a concise write-up about the local area, highlighting amenities, schools, and transportation links,” Jack adds. 

And they’ll conduct checks on buyers for you (more on this later).

It sounds like a lot, but…

“Selling your home yourself can be a manageable process with a few key steps,” Jack says.

Preparation 

You should begin by thoroughly researching house prices in your area, using websites like Rightmove and Zoopla – but seek free valuations from local estate agents to ensure you have a realistic asking price in mind.

Next, you want to take high-quality photos of your house.

Jack advises using tutorials on YouTube to learn new shooting and editing techniques that can take you to the next level.

You then want to write down what makes your home unique.

“While browsing other listings for inspiration, take it a step further by emphasising what you love about living in your home and the surrounding area,” Jack suggests.

“Whether it’s the refreshing scent of the coastline or the tranquil sounds of village life, incorporating these details can help potential buyers visualise living there,” he advises. 

Like using YouTube for photography tips, you can use free tools such as ChatGPT and Grammarly if you need help with your writing, Jack says. 

Advertising

This is probably the biggest perk of going through an established estate agent – your home is much more likely to be viewed because they will have an established audience and a market. But it’s very possible to do it alone. 

“When it comes to advertising your home, explore a variety of avenues including local newspapers and social media,” Jack says.

“Consider using websites like Strike, which allow individuals to list their properties for free on platforms like Rightmove,” he suggests.

Viewings 

Once you’ve secured some viewings, you’ve got the opportunity to make it a bit more personal than estate agents ever could – a real advantage. 

“Explain the reasons behind your decision to purchase the property, highlight its unique features, and share the aspects of your neighbourhood that make it a desirable place to live,” Jack says. 

The small things matter when showing people round – so try to take an objective look around before you bring anyone in.

Do the things you’d do normally – make sure it smells nice and it’s clean and tidy.

“Lastly, it’s worth knowing that you must legally provide potential buyers with a free Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).”

The sale itself

Perhaps the most daunting aspect is the physical exchange of contracts and money. 

An estate agent would typically oversee the process of the initial offer acceptance to the transfer of keys to the new owner.

However, if you go it alone, you’ll need to become the central point of contact – bridging the gap between your solicitor or conveyancer and the buyer and their legal representative.

“Once you’ve accepted an offer on your property, your first task is to draft what’s called a memorandum of sale,” Jack says.  

This document is a written confirmation of your acceptance of the offer and details the agreed price along with any specific conditions you’ve both agreed to.

“It’s then recommended to engage the services of a solicitor or conveyancer to ensure all legal obligations are met,” Jack says (of course, you’ll need to do this even if you have an estate agent).

The cost of hiring one typically ranges from a few hundred to over £1,000, depending on factors such as fixed fees, hourly rates, the complexity of the sale and additional costs like property searches or land registry fees.

“In the absence of an estate agent, you’ll be responsible for keeping your buyer informed about the progress of the sale. This involves regular updates on the status of legal procedures and any relevant developments,” Jack says, before adding that this can actually be a good thing.

“By taking on these responsibilities independently, you’ll have greater control over the sale process. However, it will require you to be exceptionally organised, and you’ll need to be very good at communicating too.”  

Any risks to be aware of?

Rita Patel, legal director at law firm Browne Jacobson, tells us the biggest risk for people selling their properties without an estate agent is the lack of a vetting and verification process of the potential buyer.

Estate agents will verify the buyer’s identity and check the buyer’s proof and source of funds – without this, there’s no way to assess the buyer is legitimate and can afford to buy.

“Whilst this process is something lawyers can help with, this is often at an additional cost, and you’ll need to start from square one if there is an issue with a potential buyer’s identification and/or financial eligibility,” Rita says. 

More generally, selling without an agent can extend the time it takes to sell. 

“Zoopla suggests this timeframe is normally around 17-34 weeks, but with no one on hand to consistently promote and drive the property sale at all stages, going solo drags this process out,” Rita says. 

“Agents can also help mediate any potential breakdowns in communication between the buyer and seller – reducing the likelihood of having to go back to market and start again.”

The advantages

Laura Owen-Brown, a PR manager from Gloucestershire, tells us she is set to sell her house without an estate agent in the near future.

“My disappointment with estate agents stems from their lack of familiarity with the properties they attempted to sell me when I was buying my current house,” she says. 

“They couldn’t tell me about the details that truly matter, like the optimal times for sunlight in the garden, how much council tax I’d pay, what the roof was made of, the places I could walk my dog off lead or the impact of post-football match traffic on Sundays.

“These types of details can shape the experience of living in a house for years and are just as important as the square footage, EPC rating or how many bedrooms a property has,” she adds. 

She says the current “transactional” approach to selling houses feels “impersonal and outdated” to her. 

“Yes, I’ll have to handle more admin, but the savings in both money and time will make it worthwhile. Liaising with buyers and solicitors directly without a third party slowing everything down will mean I can be in control and have transparency throughout the process, especially during negotiations,” she says.

All in all…

As Laura says, it’s very much a case of whether you can stomach the admin and are happy to take the risks on background financial checks. 

If you are aware of all the above and willing to take on the organisational burden, you could save yourself a serious chunk of cash. 



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