In short, the answer is yes, you can sell your home privately without using an estate agent. However, to do so, you must be willing to play the role of estate agent yourself and spend significant time and resources in preparing your home for sale and negotiating the final purchase.
Getting your home ready for sale
Just as you would when using an estate agent, your first job is to get you home ‘seller ready’. We have a full guide on how to do this, here, but, in short, it means giving the place a deep (and we mean deep) clean, ensuring all power sockets and light switches are functioning, and that any tired-looking or patchy walls are given a touch of fresh paint.
The more desirable you can make you home on a superficial level, the better chance you have of attracting buyers.
If your kitchen, for example, is old or its interior looks particularly outdated, it is worth considering paying for a full makeover before going to market. While it might seem like wasted effort – you’re about to move out so why go to the bother? – it could also be the difference between finding a buyer and not. But be sure to do your calculations – how much will the renovation cost, and how much value is it likely to add?
Set An Asking Price
Setting the asking price for your home is actually quite simple. Remember – a home has no concrete value, it is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. This means you can’t set an incorrect asking price, but you can set an inappropriate one.
When using an agent, they would come over and value the home for you, basing their decision on the desirability of the property, the state of its physical structure, its location, and the current state of the local property market.
You can do most of this for yourself by heading to Rightmove and nethouseprices and using their tools, but our in-house property expert, Russell Quirk, has an important piece of advice for you:
“Make sure you analyse historical sold prices of similar homes in your area rather than looking at the price of current listings. This ensures you’re basing your price on houses that have successfully sold instead of prices which might be far too high and have resulted in a home sitting on the listings portals for months on end.”
Once your home is looking as beautiful as can be and you’ve settled on your asking price, it’s time to start attracting potential buyers.
The first thing to do is take some pictures. As anyone who has searched for property online before knows, the photographs are the first filter used to decide if a home is worth looking into further. If your photos aren’t good, you’re going to struggle gaining any interest at all.
Most smartphones have good cameras and should be all you need. The magic comes from the lighting and the angles of your photography. You want to make each room look spacious and attractive, but avoid using any underhand tricks like a fisheye lens to make rooms look significantly bigger than they are. While this may increase the interest you get from the online listing, eventual viewers will recoil when they see the reality of the situation.
You need to write a catchy and intriguing description of your home which offers a snappy overview of what the property is all about. Is it spacious? Family friendly? Ideal for young children? Situated in a tight-knit local community? And so on.
You don’t need to channel your inner Shakespeare, but you also don’t want to sound bored. You’re trying to strike a tone similar to this example:
“Beautiful 1940s detached home, four generous bedrooms, each en-suite, and two bright reception rooms. Open-plan ground floor makes it ideal for a busy family life, and the south-facing garden is perfect for those warm summer evenings…” and so on.
When using an estate agent, the listing process is handled for you: agents can list on their own website and also ensure your home is displayed on the big portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. Without an agent, you won’t be able to take this route.
Instead, you’re going to rely on ‘for sale by owner’ listings websites, most of which will be free for you to use and will not charge a commission on your eventual sale.
And don’t be scared of getting creative with your own ideas. If you know your local area well and think that a buyer might be found nearby, maybe there are some outside-of-the-box advertising methods you could use to spread the word among your community? It could be as simple as an ad in the local paper, or as ambitious as commissioning some sky-writing to coincide with a school sports day.
By now, if all has gone well, you should have people lining up to come and view your home. This is something your agent would normally arrange and execute, but you’ve chosen to go it alone so now it’s up to you.
The good news is, it’s not that complicated. Simply ensure that you’re allowing enough time for each viewing and that you’re recording all of your viewings accurately – you can’t afford to forget a viewing only to have the doorbell ring just as you’re sitting down for dinner.
It’s also worth considering whether you are going to be present for the viewings or not. Agents will always encourage the seller to leave the house for viewings in order to make it less awkward for all involved. Because you won’t have an agent to guide the tour and make sure the house is locked up afterwards, you’ll need to strike a compromise.
Perhaps you can let the viewers in, give them a brief overview of the property, and then head out into the garden and have a cuppa, leaving them to look around on their own. When they’re finished, you’ll still be on-hand to answer any questions, but you won’t be under their feet the whole time.
For your own protection, it’s worth considering the safety implications of letting a stranger into your home. If you feel vulnerable, ask a friend or family member to come over and share that cuppa in the garden with you.
Negotiating and Accepting an offer before moving forward with the sale
It is unlikely that someone will make an initial offer which matches your asking price. They will probably come in low. This is when the negotiations begin. Are you strong-willed? Can you hold your own, unintimidated by the negotiation process? If so, great, get stuck in and make sure you get the price you think you deserve. If not, perhaps you have a friend or family member who can play the role better on your behalf?
You should have your lowest possible price in-mind before negotiations start and do not accept anything below it. When declining offers, try to do it nicely in order to keep the avenues of communication open.
If you find yourself struggling, time after time, to get an offer you’re happy with, it might be time to reevaluate your asking price, but don’t rush into this.
Once you get the offer you want, you should accept it verbally, at first, and then follow this up with an email. UK law states that no verbal offer is legally binding until it has been agreed to in writing.
After accepting an offer, the complex legal procedures begin. For this, you should definitely appoint a conveyancer. You may be fine without an agent, but if you choose to bypass the conveyancer, you’re setting yourself up for a rough ride. Unless, of course, you are a legal expert yourself.
Agents are experts and they are there for a good reason – selling your home is an incredibly important process which should be handled with utmost professionalism. This is where agents make your life much easier, but it doesn’t make them completely essential. So, if your mind’s made up and you want to try going it alone, good for you, we wish you the best of luck and hope that this article provides at least a little help along the way.
Are you selling your home without an agent? We’d love to hear about your experience – maybe it will help some of our other readers. Let us know in the comments section below.