Is sell-it-yourself too good to be true?

Saving on commission by going it alone may not be the bargain it�s cracked up to be

Related Links

David Cameron meets first time buyers in Chiswick

BBC blow the whistle on Foxton's 'circle of deceit'

One Third of Estate Agents' Signs Illegal


Want to search for property in your area?

Click on the link above for the most comprehensive database of listings - over 16,000 searches a month

Estate Agents in West London

Faron Sutaria
Oliver Finn
Andrew Nunn and Associates
Fletchers Estates
Sworn and Co

XP Property Management

The eBay generation is comfortable using the web to buy and sell. Statistics show more than 70 per cent of home buyers begin their search online at one of the popular property portals. It is one thing to browse if you’re buying but how many of us are brave enough to sell our houses this way? Although the internet has transformed book and car buying, 94 per cent of homes are still sold through estate agents, according to the Office of Fair Trading.

SIY (sell it yourself) seems an attractive proposition because you circumvent the agent's commission, typically around two per cent of the selling price. So on an average Chiswick property valued at ₤500,000 the owner could save more than ₤10,000.

The process is simple. You register with one of a proliferating number of private sale websites to advertise your home. The system works similarly on several sites. You pay up to £400 to register a property for sale with photographs and details. Some offer extras such as For Sale boards, brochures, a professional photographer, virtual tours or accompanied viewings, but these will bump up your costs. However, some websites have so few properties that they don’t draw a critical mass of buyers.

There are several reasons why you should be cautious of going it alone, warns Nick Finn of Sworn & Co. “First you must decide on a valuation. I’d be very wary of using a company claiming to cover the whole of London. Obviously anyone can conduct a bit of research but someone on the phone at the other end of town isn’t going to have their finger on the pulse in Chiswick. I wouldn’t attempt to compete with the knowledge of local agents in Wimbledon for example, because they have the edge, just as I have the edge here.”

For this reason, DIY home sellers should interview at least three experts to get the correct market value of their Chiswick home. The agents interviewed generally won't mind if you tell them you are considering selling without an agent. The reason for this is that they know most SIY attempts fail and vendors return to one of the agents that valued their property in the first place.

Most private sale sites insist you handle your own property viewings and this is another reason to be cautious says Nick. “An agent has a pretty good idea from experience and training how to evaluate potential buyers and a comprehensive registration process. If a buyer is cagey about giving up their full details I would never allow them into a clients’ property. Also, any agent worth their salt will have a list of hot buyers ready to move quickly, that can be contacted about your property. They're also well connected to other agents who can bring in buyers.”

SIY owners must follow common-sense security rules. People wouldn’t ordinarily let strangers into their home so only allow viewings booked via the site with full contact details and a landline number. Have another adult on hand and ensure valuables are out of sight.

Sellers need to be willing to ask tough questions. If buyers refuse to answer your queries, questions their motives. Legitimate buyers will expect to answer even personal financial questions. Never give out your home phone number to buyers. If callers get no answer you are advertising the fact you’re not at home. You should always accompany buyers throughout your house at all times. This allows you to prevent theft and the unlocking of windows and doors for later re-entry when you aren’t home.

Many buyers will not start shopping around for a mortgage until they make an offer. Lots will encounter problems due to low credit scores, inadequate income, or other difficulties. SIY vendors can waste lots of time waiting for them to locate mortgage financing. Vendors must also be prepared to negotiate a price reduction as most buyers expect a discount if there is no commission to be paid.

Estate agents use their expertise to protect the seller’s interests and get the best price possible, which offsets the commission, says Nick. “An experienced agent will have honed their negotiation skills over years of dealing with property transactions day in, day out. They mediate between seller and buyer so each can act freely. Neither party should feel pressurised but obviously the seller wants the highest achievable offer.”

Most buyers are put off by dealing direct with the vendor as it can be intimidating if the owner accompanies them throughout the viewing. Buyers can be much more open with an agent. Essentially a buyer who takes the time and trouble to come to Chiswick, register their details and discuss their requirements with an agent, is more committed to buying a property in Chiswick than someone who just clicks on a link.

Nick Finn,
Sworn & Co 020 8995 3076

May 19, 2006