Different ways to sell a house (without an estate agent)
With an increasing variety of ways to sell property in the UK, more people are starting to look at the alternatives to estate agents
Putting a property on the market through an estate agent is by far the most common way to sell. In recent years however, there have been an increasing number of alternative ways to sell property. Some of these have been born out of dissatisfaction with the status quo and others have been created to serve unmet needs in particular markets.
Rightly or wrongly, the reputation of estate agents is that they are high on fees, and low on honesty. In the 2020 Ipsos MORI veracity index, only 30% of people say they trust estate agents to tell the truth, which worryingly, is even lower than politicians (32%) and bankers (33%). This is a shame for the good, honest estate agents out there who get tarred with the same brush as their less honourable peers.
Using an estate agent isn't the cheapest way to sell a property in the UK. The amount of commission that an agency takes is typically between 1.5% and 2% of the value of a sale, which could mean paying them tens of thousands of pounds, depending on how much your house is worth. Although they are usually only paid when they sell the property, and it is therefore in their interests to see it through, estate agents sometimes take the blame from frustrated owners if they can’t sell it or even if a sale falls through. There might be cases where that could be justified, but if you are not getting any offers, or even any viewings, there could be other reasons why you can’t sell your home that fall outside of the agency’s control. If this is the case, switching estate agents is unlikely to help, and you may need to explore other options.
Do I need an estate agent?
You don’t need an estate agent to sell a property in the UK, but there are many advantages of using one. This includes having a professional looking after your interests, saving you time, and reaching the most potential buyers.
To maximise your home’s visibility in the market, it helps to be where the most potential buyers are. That means on the top websites like Rightmove and Zoopla, which are regularly searched by thousands of users, many of whom have email alerts or app notifications set up to let them know the moment a listing appears that meets their search criteria. Advertising on these sites can usually only be done by agencies, with one or two exceptions which we’ll cover below.
A good estate agent will also have a contact list of interested local buyers they can instantly call or email. This will usually consist of other sellers looking to buy at the same time, people who’ve previously made offers on similar houses, and go-to investors who are always in the market. And of course there will be walk-ins from people who have been quietly browsing the agency’s window display. The contact lists that agencies build-up over time can often make them very good at selling houses of a specific type in a specific area. Estate agency comparison site GetAgent is a useful tool for comparing which one has the best record for selling properties like yours.
Agents also act as an effective buffer between you and prospective buyers of your home. They take the emotion out of negotiating so you avoid making mistakes such as sounding desperate or walking away offended if you receive a low offer. Instead they can keep the buyer interested with a counter offer. It also avoids having to deal with rejection directly, and agents can diplomatically turn negative comments about your home which could be taken personally, into constructive feedback. They will save you from time wasters too, using their experience to separate the dreamers and chancers from those who are genuinely interested and have the funds in place.
Ways to sell a house without an estate agent:
If you don’t want to use an estate agent, or you have already been unsuccessful in using one to sell your home. Here are the alternatives you may wish to consider:
Private sale by owner
If you want to sell your house privately to someone who is willing to buy it, as long as you are both happy with the price, your solicitors will be able to take care of pretty much everything else. Without an estate agent you will need to do your own research to value your home, but by far the biggest drawback to a private sale is actually finding a buyer. It’s possible that someone in your network of friends or family might be interested in buying it, or know someone else who is, but if you want to spread the word a little further, you will need to advertise.
Advertising as a private seller, you won’t be able to list on Rightmove or Zoopla so you will have to find other ways to reach interested buyers. While it might be a cheaper way to sell than using an estate agent, it usually still costs money as well as time, including taking calls at all times of the day and making yourself available for viewings.
Selling your property on eBay
Selling a house on eBay works differently to other types of listings. Unlike other eBay categories, listing your property is not a legally binding agreement to sell it. According to eBay’s property policy, it’s simply a way to advertise your property and meet potential buyers. Neither party is obliged to complete the transaction.
Fees for property listings are different from typical eBay items too. Instead of being based on the final sale price which is usually between 2% - 10%, depending on the category, all property listings are charged a flat £35 fee, which is significantly less expensive.
If you want to list your house on eBay, you have the option to set a ‘Buy It Now’ price and disclose the amount you would accept, or create the listing as an auction if you would prefer to see if interested buyers bid-up the price even higher. However, these "auctions" are simply a way for sellers to advertise their properties within the auction-style environment familiar to eBay's members, and there’s nothing to prevent a buyer from backing out or renegotiating afterwards.
Putting your house on Facebook Marketplace
Similar to the above, you can’t technically “sell” your house on Facebook, but you can advertise it for sale there. One advantage over eBay is that it’s free to create a property listing on Facebook Marketplace.
Enquiries to your Marketplace listing will come through Facebook Messenger, which is convenient and means you can check out the buyer’s Facebook profile to see if they are someone you are happy dealing with. However, anyone who looks at your listing can also see your profile – whether they make an enquiry or not – so you may want to adjust your security settings. When you are showing off your home and everything in it, be cautious about giving out your address and telling people when you will be in (and potentially when you won’t). This doesn’t just go for your direct communications with potential buyers, but your general Facebook status updates too.
Although listing a property on Facebook Marketplace is free, if you want it to reach more people you can pay to ‘boost’ your advert. The higher your budget, the more people will see it on their news feed and/or the longer the ad will run for. Facebook has very sophisticated ways to target ads toward potential buyers, and it’s been suggested by some in the property industry that Facebook Marketplace could be a threat to Rightmove’s dominance as the place to buy and sell houses in the future. However as a platform for advertising property it is still unproven and does not come close to the industry leaders, yet.
Online estate agents
Online estate agents offer many of the same services as traditional high street estate agents do. The main difference is that there is no physical branch or individual agent. This creates various advantages and disadvantages that you will need to weigh up. The best known example of an online estate agent is Purple Bricks, although there are many others with different offerings and prices to compare.
Sellers tend to choose online agents because they are cheaper than high street agents. Basic packages usually include advertising your home on Rightmove and Zoopla, and use of the online platform to schedule viewings and receive offers. Other services you would expect from a local agent, ranging from providing a for sale board, a professional description, photos and floorplan, to an actual visit from a local valuer, your own dedicated agent, pre-qualifying of buyers, and accompanying viewings, are often upgrades that cost more.
Whereas most high street estate agents work on a no sale, no fee basis, online agents often charge a fixed fee upfront so you pay the same whether you sell your property or not. Some let you delay the payment for several months to give you time to sell, or allow you to pay a portion of the fee after completion, although this is usually more expensive.
Online agents who offer a complete range of services are sometimes referred to as hybrid agents, since they combine the online services with those offered by more traditional estate agents. They tend to have local property experts who can assist you, however they often cover a comparatively wide area or region, so not have the same local insight as an experienced high street agent would.
A property auction is one of the most common alternatives to selling through an estate agent. The biggest advantage of selling a house in an auction is the sheer speed of the process. The strict conditions and timescales that buyers must adhere to make it a good option if you need to sell your house quickly.
When selling your house through a property auction, contracts are exchanged as soon as the hammer falls so there is no waiting around like in a traditional sale. This is legally binding so it protects you from the sale falling through because it means the buyer would be liable to cover any losses you might incur if they backed out. There is also a fixed deadline for completion, usually one month after the auction date. Remember, this legal obligation extends to the seller as well as the buyer, so once the hammer goes down, you won’t be able to change your mind either.
Auctions are becoming increasingly mainstream but it does still cater to a much smaller market than traditional sales do. That being said, auctions attract buyers with cash who are looking for projects so they can be a good place to sell a property that needs a bit of work and/or is unmortgageable.
Going to auction is not without risk and there is a bit of luck involved in the price you achieve. If the right kind of buyers aren’t in the room, your house might sell for less than you need it to, however where there's risk there's also potential for reward. Competitive bidding between interested buyers can drive up the price and bidders who get caught up in it can sometimes pay more than a property is realistically worth.
If you have a minimum price you can accept, you can place a reserve amount on the property to prevent it from selling for less. You should think carefully about the reserve though because if it doesn’t reach this amount, you may find yourself on the back foot having to revise it afterwards. Depending on the terms you've agreed to, you may also have to pay auction fees even if the house doesn’t sell.
Fees for selling at auction vary and depending on the auction house. Some charge commission based on the sale price, others charge a flat fee and some even have an option not to pay any fee at all. However, the lower the cost to you, the higher the fees usually are for the buyer which can put people off, or at least be factored into the amount they will be willing to bid.
Modern method of auction / Conditional auction
Also known as a conditional auction, the modern method of auction is used to create a sense of urgency and gain financial commitment from a buyer. This type of sale is offered by some estate agents and auction houses, but is very different from a standard property auction that you might be used to seeing on Homes Under the Hammer. There is usually an auction date, or deadline by which all bids must be received, although in reality if it doesn't sell, this often just gets extended until it does.
The main difference however, is that unlike a traditional auction, with the modern method you don’t exchange contracts immediately. Instead, once you have accepted their offer, the buyer pays a reservation fee to the agent, which is non-refundable. This gives them exclusivity to purchase your property at the agreed upon price within a set amount of time. If they don’t, they risk walking away with nothing (unless you are generous enough to grant them an extension).
The deadlines can help you avoid the delays that often happen during a traditional sale and reduce risk of a sale falling through, but it will take longer to sell through this method than at a standard unconditional auction and the buyer doesn’t have quite the same obligation. On the upside, the slightly longer timeframe makes it more accessible to people who require a mortgage to buy.
With modern method of auction, the majority of an agent’s fee is covered by the buyer’s reservation fee. However there may still be costs that you will need to pay as the seller, such as for admin and/or preparation of a legal pack.
Part exchange for a new build
Many housing developers in the UK, such as Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Homes, offer part exchange schemes – often called PX – where they will buy your current home from you if you are purchasing one of their new build properties.
Most developers say that they will offer fair market value, based on independent valuations, but it is always worth doing some research yourself into what your home is worth and not just taking their word for it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you're getting market value for your current home, you may be paying over the odds for your new one, so be prepared to negotiate on both what you are buying and selling for.
The advantages of a part exchange scheme are that there's no chain, no fees and you can move into your new home as soon as it’s ready. The disadvantages are that you are restricted to buying a new build and your property may only be eligible for PX if it is worth no more than 70% of the price of the one you are buying from them. That might be fine if you want to move up the property ladder, but if you’re downsizing then not so much, so be sure to check their terms and conditions. Furthermore, developers usually only offer PX on properties they think they can sell on again easily, so may exclude properties that are more difficult to sell, such as unmortgageable houses or leaseholds with less than 80 years remaining.
Property finders / sourcing agents
Property finders and sourcing agents work like estate agents in reverse. These are businesses who work on behalf of homebuyers and investors to go out and search for properties that meet their client’s criteria.
Property finder companies are often employed by individuals who are relocating from outside the area or from abroad, or those who don’t have the time to spend hunting for their new place. Similarly, property sourcers use their local knowledge to scope out potential investment properties on behalf of people who invest from a distance or are just looking to save time on viewing lots of properties themselves.
These businesses will look at properties that are already listed for sale, as well as using targeted advertising to find places that aren’t. This means if you come across their marketing, there is a good chance they have buyers already lined-up for properties in your area.
It should be said that if property sourcers have buyers lined up, there is a good chance that local estate agents will too. The advantage of a property finder or sourcing agent over an estate agent is that, as the seller, you usually don’t have to pay them anything, because they charge all fees for their services to the buyer.
Cash property buying companies
Instead of helping you find a buyer like an estate agent does, cash buying companies can purchase your house directly from you. This saves a lot of time as they are in a position to complete a purchase very quickly, some of them within a matter of days. Many of them also cover all the selling costs, including solicitors, so you don’t have to pay anything.
The catch is that cash buying companies make their money by purchasing properties at discount prices, so the offer they make you will be a lot less than you could potentially get for it on the open market. Some of the difference will be offset by the savings you make in legals and holding costs, but by no means all of it. Property buying companies are therefore a good option for people who need a quick guaranteed sale but aren’t too worried about the price.
Most will buy any type of property in any condition, so it can be a way to offload a property that needs work, however this will be reflected in the price they offer you. Be aware that if you have a mortgage on your property, selling your house below market value to a cash buying company could leave you with a shortfall if you don’t have enough equity.
The flexible way to sell your home
Each of the various options above has its merits, and which route is right for you will depend on your circumstances. However, none of these solutions is particularly flexible in terms of the process or the demands of the market. The needs of potential buyers and the estate agent or auction house can often work against you when it comes to the price, fees and/or timescale to complete.
Betterplace is the flexible way to sell your home. Rather than following a set process, we create the process around you, and where others find problems, we look for solutions.
Depending on your needs, we can purchase your home directly from you or help to find a suitable buyer. If you need more than the current market is willing to pay, or are in negative equity, we can even lease your property from you until the market picks back up again and agree a purchase price and timescale in advance.
Whereas other buyers and agents fall short of caring that you get what you need from the sale, and what happens to you afterwards, we make sure your needs are met, and that selling your home does not leave you in the lurch.
With Betterplace, there is no fee for selling your home. There’s no hard sell, and if we think your needs would be best met selling through one of the other routes above, we’ll tell you so.
If you would like to know more about how our flexible solutions can help you sell your home, please call us on 024 7736 0020 or fill out our quick contact form.
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