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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 20-Apr-12


Friday 20-April-12

Selling the house

After living in England for nearly thirty years, we're selling up and moving back to Wales. With writing and consulting, I can work anywhere and my wife is retiring from teaching, so we going back to our roots.

The next question, of course, is how we are going to sell our house.

The traditional way of buying a house in the UK is that you go around the retail outlets of the local estate agents. You tell them what you want and then they give you a pile of printed house details. You then take home the big stack and start whittling them down. Then you maybe drove around the area looking at houses from the outside before contacting the agent.

These days, you go to an online aggregator such as Rightmove (the UK gorilla), Primelocation or Zoopla (or a host of others). All the local agents put their houses on most of these, so a search of one website will show you most houses. Better, I use Rightmove on the iPad, where I can look at a map and see what's available where. I then go to Google maps and streetview to review the area. Only then do I contact the agent for a viewing.

Which begs the question of what value the local agents add. Mostly it seems to be showing people around and negotiating, which I'm happy to do myself. Agents typically charge 1.5% to 3% of the sale price for this, which can easily add up to a five-figure sum (especially when the 20% tax is added).

Unsurprisingly, there are also now online agents who offer a range of packages at far lower prices. Typically, the basic offer is around ?500 to put your house on Rightmove etc. and often includes agent services such as a call centre for booking visits and price negotiation. Sometimes at extra cost are things such as photography, floor plans, energy certificate, printed brochures, etc.

So I did a review of the online agents. Housenetwork is the biggest. It's also more expensive with plenty of 'extra cost' items. I also tried 'being a buyer' to explore that experience and found an irritating form-filling exercise. Hatched is also larger, but has a 'the low cost estate agent' as a part of its logo. As a seller, I don't want to tell buyers I'm a cheapskate. 'Low cost' for buyers also means 'cheap house' or 'negotiate it down'.

Eventually I found Housetree. They're smaller and more active up north, where they're based, but they have a good website, a credible logo and easy buyer experience. I gave them a call and spoke to someone who sounded like they knew what they are doing. They also are open and on the phone seven days a week. And their prices are competitive. So I'm putting my house on with them. I've got strong input into the marketing copy, which I like. I'm also a keen photographer and spend a couple of days doing HDR photos around the house with a wide-angle lens. I even did a night photo.

So watch this space. I'll write again about my experiences, but I'm hopeful.

Your comments

....from some of my own research, observations and experience from across the pond:

The Agent may charge more than, say the Surveyor or the Lawyer but they are marketing the property. If for example they can find a customer that will pay 10% more for your landscaping or custom interior - then the 3-5% is easily paid for.

However they may be licensed as a real estate salesperson but the marketing feature may not be as enforceable as may be performance of the Surveyor or Lawyer or Title Searcher. \"Title Insurance\" may be worth checking out. You may find that they ( Sales Agents) download a lot of responsibility on other professionals.

Some Agents are only trained to sell, some to both Buy AND Sell.

Caveat Emptor AND Venditor! Do not get stuck with closing the deal on your new house and the one on your existing house falls through. Two, count them, TWO mortgages with more pressure to sell your first home cheaper!

Hot markets give big windfalls, but in the hurry to close the deal the paperwork may be shoddy. Watch for "Robosigning" - rapidly signing a stack of documents without reading them - a phenomena which has been highlighted in the recent sub-prime mortgage fiascos. Make sure you have the right survey plan if your new neighbourhood has many similar lots.

You must be happy to get back to your ancestoral land - but hang onto your Urban Street Sense! Good luck!

-- Peter S.

Dave replies:
Thanks, Peter. It seems selling/buying agents act very differently in different countries. Even within a country they vary, especially in 'pushiness' (a method that puts me off). By and large, agents are there to take your money and if you will not use them again, there is little motivation for them to build a real relationship with you (though of course they can easily fake it, trying to create obligation in you to accept a deal that is better for them).

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