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How to sell your house without an estate agent – and save thousands

a young couple holding a for sale sign and looking happy as they are selling their house themselves
a young couple holding a for sale sign and looking happy as they are selling their house themselves

Moving home is regularly rated as one of the most stressful things you can do. It is also expensive.

On top of stamp duty, legal fees and moving costs, you’ll first need to pay an estate agent to sell the property you want to move from.

Agent fees can be over 3pc of the property sale, although they differ depending on which agency you use, and can often be negotiated down. Based on the average UK house price, this would mean a hit of around £8,550.

But could you sell your home without using a third party? Selling your property yourself is legal in Britain, and there are plenty of online services that offer packages to support you.

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Here, Telegraph Money explains how much these services cost, and what extra legwork you’ll need to do if you use them.

Where to list your home yourself

Once you have decided to sell your house yourself, you need to first decide how you are going to do it.

Online property portals have become ubiquitous with buyers as a way to view and find properties, so getting your listing on them can be a key way to get eyes on your home. They can also provide a way to organise viewings and secure a sale.

However, this may not be necessary if you have found a buyer off-market. Off-market deals take place in private, meaning you can avoid publicly advertising the property. Maybe a friend or family member knows you are selling your house and is keen to buy, or a neighbour is looking for a different property in the area and shows interest.

Some buyers using buying agents may also seek out off-market deals, but these tend to be reserved for more expensive prime properties.

Selling a house off-market can be useful if you’re selling a property wrapped up in probate, and need a quick sale, and if the property needs work.

“If an investor saw a property that looked neglected and presented an opportunity, they may put a note through the door naming a price and saying they are willing to pay cash,” said Katie Orme, assistant director of the virtual team at Purplebricks.

Once you’ve found a willing buyer, you can agree a sale without the need for an agent, and then take it to conveyancers who can sort the legal arrangements.

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Decide where to advertise your property

For those needing to list their property on the market, it is important to get the advertising right. Buyers commonly go to sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla to find properties, but you’ll need a registered agent to list your property – you can’t do it alone.

Online selling services such as Yopa and Purplebricks offer basic packages ranging in price from free to £1,000, which include portal listings. Some also include extras, such as a property valuation and professional high quality photographs to put on your listing – but these services will usually cost extra.

You can try to list your property elsewhere, but it’s unlikely to get in front of the same number of people. Holly Regan, an agent for Yopa based in Chester, said: “I have seen people list properties for sale on Facebook and put up their own for sale sign, and it hasn’t tended to work as that is not where people look for properties.”

However, another option is websites that let sellers list their properties themselves for free, including thehouseshop.com and houseladder.co.uk.

They are less well known, but you will still get greater reach for your property among the right people, and can list without using an agent.

If there is a lot of interest in properties in your area, or you get a lot of people walking or driving past the house, it may be worth investing in a quality for sale sign to stand up outside your home. These usually cost between £20 and £50.

Presenting your home in the best light

Whether you have decided to advertise your home, or you’re going straight to off-market viewings, it’s time to get the property looking as presentable as possible.

The basics are important; making sure the house is presentable and is in a state that allows viewers to easily imagine themselves living there.

A good way to approach it could be to think about what initially attracted you to the property, and how you can highlight its best features.

It may be worth giving areas a new coat of paint and, if you have a garden, don’t skip it in the retouches. A mowed lawn and tidy patio can go a long way to making the property look inviting.

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If you’re getting the property ready for photos, and have bought a package that includes a photographer, it is of course just a matter of arranging a time for them to come round.

However, if you want to take photos yourselves there are some things you can do to improve the quality.

Remove any clutter from the area being shot – both inside and outside the property – suggests website Your Move. If possible, choose a sunny day for the best lighting. Don’t be afraid to move furniture around to make rooms look more spacious.

According to Ms Orme, a common mistake is uploading portrait rather than landscape property photos. “You want to be able to see the whole room, so you could use a wide lens. It is not to make the property look bigger, it is to show more of the property off,” she said.

She has seen some disaster photos where tenants haven’t tidied a property before a photographer has come round, or sellers simply misunderstanding what they are aiming for. On one occasion she said a seller simply sent a photo of a shower head.

At this stage it is sensible to fill out a property information form with an inventory list of fixtures and fittings, so buyers know what they’re getting and to avoid repeat questions.

Arranging your own property viewings

Setting up viewings is obviously a crucial part of arranging a sale, and without an agent it will be up to you to arrange and conduct these.

An old estate agent tactic is to line viewings up close together, even overlapping slightly, to give the impression of there being a lot of interest.

However, you also want to get as many people through the door as possible so it’s worth being flexible. The Homeowners Alliance recommends holding viewings when it suits potential buyers – often, this will be in the evenings and at weekends.

The group also suggests keeping personal items, such as photos, to a minimum. You want buyers to be able to picture themselves in the property, and keeping it as neutral as possible will help.

If you are showing people around your home by yourself, it is also worth thinking about your own security. Maybe get a friend or family member to be there with you.

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Setting a price and negotiating a deal

Getting an official valuation for your home is a normal step in the selling process, but you don’t need one to set an asking price.

If you’re not sure where to start, going on Rightmove or Zoopla and looking at similar properties in your area can be a good guide to where you should set the price on your home. There is also the more traditional option of looking in the windows of estate agent offices to see what prices are like. You can also make use of online valuation tools to give you a steer.

The Homeowners Alliance suggests setting your asking price at 5-10pc above what you would accept, to allow for negotiation.

Although price is the most obvious consideration when agreeing a deal, and how willing you are to negotiate, Citizens Advice says there are other factors to consider, such as the type of buyer you are looking for.

For example, first-time buyers won’t be burdened by being part of a chain so are likely to be able to complete more quickly. For an even quicker sale, cash buyers will be ready to go without needing to wait for mortgage approvals – but will be rarer.

If you aren’t happy with an offer you receive from a potential buyer, you can go back and negotiate. Make sure you have a price in mind when you enter a conversation so you don’t lose out.

If you are not a confident negotiator there is a risk any savings you make by not using an estate agent could be lost through a reduced sale price, warned Ms Regan.

Another area you could struggle with is getting proof that a potential buyer is in a financial position to purchase the property – without this, you could face difficulty during conveyancing.

“Making sure that the buyers are in a position to process. At Purplebricks we will check people have proof of funds and an agreement in principle to make sure they are ready to make an offer on the property,” said Ms Orme.

Buyers who are keen to move forward on a deal are likely to be happy to provide proof of funds, but it could be a red flag for the deal if they aren’t.

Accepting an offer and instructing a solicitor

Once you are happy with an offer, it is time to accept. You do this first verbally and then in writing – either by post or email. Once there is written confirmation you need to get the lawyers involved.

Conveyancing is a specific area of law that deals with the transfer of property rights from an owner to a buyer and this is often the most time consuming part of the sale process.

It is worth doing your research before committing to a lawyer to handle the sale. A recommendation from friends or family  is always a great way to find someone. However, if this isn’t possible the Law Society has an online search to help you find the right people, as does the The Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

It is always important to check their online reviews to see what others have said about their service before signing up.

Renegotiations and getting the deal over the line

As part of their own due diligence, buyers may ask for a survey to be completed. This is a report they pay for completed by a professional that provides an idea of the value of the home and what repairs, if any, are needed.

If the report reveals previously unknown issues, there is a chance the buyer will want to renegotiate. This isn’t unusual. If repairs need to be done it is often the case that either the seller agrees to carry them out before completion, or the price is knocked down to account for the money the buyers will need to invest.

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If you are worried about this you could pay for your own survey to offer prospective buyers so they aren’t any nasty surprises. They may still get their own report, but it could prevent any significant markdown in price during the process.

Your conveyancer will be the main driving force in moving the sale forward but it helps if you have all your documents and information ready to go and can accommodate the buyers as far as possible it will go far in helping get it over the line.

Should I sell my house myself?

While there are benefits to selling your property yourself – principally, the money you could save – it is not without risks.

Valuing your property without professional help could put you at a disadvantage, suggested Simon Nosworthy, property partner at Osborne Law. “Estate agents value properties all day long, they have access to Land Registry records that show what properties on a road or in an area have sold for, and know how homes compare to others in the area,” he said.

He also warned that managing negotiations for the sale could be difficult without prior experience or training, particularly as you are likely to be emotionally tied to your own home.

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“We know that in the market the price could be chipped at any point, and unless you have experience on how to hold the line on something like that it could be really difficult for you to weather the storm of how to deal with that price reduction.

“The good thing about using an agent is you don’t have to have that embarrassing conversation with the buyer.”

And, by managing a sale yourself, you are also likely to miss out on the relationships and trust built up between conveyancers, estate agents and often mortgage brokers that can help move a deal forward.

As agents know the process inside out they can identify any sticking points and work with the others to smooth things over in a way that isn’t possible if you are doing it all yourself.

“They will have systems in place and they can tick things off as you go through,” Mr Nosworthy added. “They are doing this stuff all the time, and have built relationships with the brokers as well.”

Estate agents, he said, can also help to hurry the process along: “Estate agents also love setting out timescales for transactions and getting everyone to agree. I think that is tricky for someone to do if they are selling on their own.”