With the stamp duty holiday due to end on 31st March, the rush is on to buy new homes and take advantage of the substantial tax discount. With surging demand, a backlog is forming and it’s starting to look like many hopeful buyers are going to miss the deadline.
While this backlog is being created mainly by the conveyancing process – there aren’t enough surveyors and conveyancers to meet demand – estate agents are also playing their part.
The vast majority of agents are doing everything they can to push sales through before March, only to be thwarted by the legal processes. However, some hopeful buyers are still aware that the process of choosing an agent and finding the right property takes time. Time that, at the moment, they cannot afford.
One way in which people are trying to slash their buying timelines is by buying off loved ones, friends, or acquaintances and bypassing the agent.
Good friends, no agents
Finding the perfect home is the hardest and often most time consuming part of the buying process. So if you can skip it entirely by purchasing a home you are already familiar with, you can substantially reduce the time it takes to complete a purchase.
A child, for example, buying their parents’ home. Or maybe you have a friend who is moving away and you’ve always fancied buying their home.
In such instances, do you still need to appoint an agent to facilitate the sale? The answer, in its simplest form, is no.
What’s the home worth?
You are able to negotiate the sale directly with the owner, but without the expert knowledge of an agent to help, you will first have to agree on how much the property is worth. You can come to a mutual decision by yourselves by conducting some simple market research and looking at historic sales data – Zoopla et al can help you with this.
Alternatively, you can appoint an agent or two to come and value your home without feeling obliged to take their business. It might feel a little cheeky to get them along under false pretences, but it will give you an easy avenue to agreeing on a price without too much conflict.
It’s not a silver bullet
Bypassing the agent is not a passport to a swift, efficient, and cheap purchase. Just because the agent is out of the picture, you’re still going to have to hire a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal aspects of the purchase.
Given that this is the part of the journey which is currently causing people to miss out on the stamp duty holiday, cutting the agent out won’t necessarily help you get over the line before time runs out. Furthermore, just because you think you know the property well already, the conveyancing and surveying processes can still bring unexpected, nasty surprises and extra costs.
Mortgages, too, are still a requirement unless you’re able to buy with cash, so all of the time and resources involved in securing one remain whether you’re using an agent or not.
Does it save time and money?
Buying direct from the owner can save time because you’re not wasting weeks or months searching for the perfect home, you’ve already found it. But, as mentioned above, you’ll still be at the mercy of conveyancing timelines.
As for money, however, it’s only the seller who benefits because they’re the one who would usually be giving the most money to an agent.
It’s important to mention conflict and disagreement. A good agent is also a good mediator, helping facilitate smooth decision making between buyer and seller. The homebuying process is riddled with things that have the potential to cause conflict, especially between friends and family.
From the very beginning, something basic like agreeing on a price can cause disagreement. So when the surveyor finds significant damp in the property and suggests that it deserves a reduction in the price, things can get really precarious.
If this is something you want to avoid, we suggest you don’t enter such a complex and important financial arrangement with friends. And, if you still decide to do so, try to carefully and clearly set out some rules from the very beginning.
This doesn’t necessarily mean legal documents being drawn up, it can be as simple as agreeing to be 100% vocal with each other whenever any concerns or disappointments arise. Make it clear that you both believe the friendship must come first.
It sounds silly, but good and honest communication is a great way of avoiding conflict altogether, or at least navigating it as smoothly as possible while creating the best opportunity for a mutually satisfactory conclusion to be met.
Yes, you can buy a home without an estate agent, but it’s only easy when you have an existing relationship with the current owner. If not, you’re going to enter a complex arrangement with a stranger and without any expert guidance.
And just because you can buy without an agent, it doesn’t mean you should. If speed is your greatest concern, the conveyancing process can still hold you up. If cost is an issue, going it alone only saves the seller money, not the buyer.
We would only recommend buying without an agent in very rare and specific instances.
If you’re thinking about buying a home without an agent but would like some advice first, our property expert, Russell Quirk, is happy to help. Just drop us a message in the comments section below.