Buying and selling a proeprty
Sun 01 Mar 2015
Spring is the traditional time for a boost in property sales, fuelled this year by Stamp Duty Charges. Teri Harman examines the practicalities of buying and selling.
Since 1974, when Harold Wilson was elected Prime Minister, property prices in the UK have risen on average by around 1780 per cent. Back then, the average property price was just under 10,000; in 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics, it was 176,581, obviously with wide regional variations.
Many readers will have already been on the property ladder when prices were this low and their home will now be their biggest financial asset. Whether you plan to downsize, relocate to a new, maybe less expensive area or move to be nearer family and friends, we look at the best way to buy and sell a home.
The tried and tested way to sell a home is to call in a local estate agent who knows the market well and will almost certainly have potential buyers already on their books looking for the type of property you wish to sell. Obtain quotes from at least three agaents and decide which you trust and feel the most comfortable with. High street estate agents work on commission, typically around 1.5 per cent, which equates to about 4000 for each sale on average throughout the UK, although in London fees can be higher.
It is, however, a highly competitive business in many areas with several agents often vying for the same properties, so fees are negotiable. A local agent in my part of south London quoted us 2.5 per cent but when we rolled our eyes and said it was too much, he immediately offered 1.5 per cent, which didnt inspire much conifdence, adding to the impression that he was pushing his luck.
However, if you want to try something different, and cheaper, it is worth considering one of the many online estate agents which have proliferated in recent years. Websites such as Housesimple, Housenetwork and emoov will sell your home for a fraction of the cost of using a high street estate agent. It would seem to make sense if you believe the recent reseach that suggested a massive 96 per cent of prospective home buyers begin their search on the internet.
Typically, online agents market your home on websites such as Zoopla, Rightmove and Prime Location, also used by high street agents. It is difficult to generalise about costs - it's a case of looking at the individual websites - but you can expect fees to be hundreds rather than thousands of pounds.
There is generally a list of 'core' services and, depending on which package you chose, additional ones such as a dedicated account executive and negotiator. Many offer add-ons for an extra cost from a menu of options. Some also offer flexible payment methods, so you can pay the whole fee up-front or a deposit with the balance payable on completion.
Online estate agents have been able to capitalise on poor reputation which high street estate agents traditionally have. Figures from the Property Ombudsman Scheme show rising complaints against estate agents - up 24 per cent in 2013 and a further 14 per cent in the first half of last year.
"Estate agents are well and truly coining it again," says emoov.co.uk founder and chief executive Russell Quirk. "No wonder people have it in for them. Home sellers are forced to shovel more and money at them and, in return, are receiving poorer and poorer service. It's hardly a fair exchange. The perception that the average estate agent is unable to justify their charges seems to be backed up by hard evidence. The house-selling public deserve a much fairer deal."
High street estate agents, of course vehemently disagree. Peter Rollings chief executive of Marsh & Parsons, vigorously defends their role.
"People think all we do is take a few pictures and stick them on a website, but that's no more than five per cent of what we do to sell a property. We are lookingfor that one buyer who'll pay top-dollar for your home, someone who'll pay the asking price or preferably more, and then we'll see everything through to exchange and completion. We are part salesperson, part psychoanalyst, and part hand-holder; we'll be tough when we need to be and empathetic when required."
Peter concedes that some homes sell quickly and the deal goes through smoothly, which is after all what most sellers want. However, he says that when market conditions are tough, as they have been since midway though last year, a good agent who'll pull out all the stops to find you a buyer - cajoling people on their books, suggesting to come who might otherwise not look at your property to consider it - is worth their weight in gold.
"Your home is almost certainly your biggest asset," he says, "so surely it's false economy to sell it through the cheapest means without considering whether you are getting value for money."
Of course, there are good and bad high street estate agents, but Peter insists a really good one will beat an online one hands-down every time.
Readers might feel more comfortable dealing with a local agent, especially if they havent bought and sold for many years, need advice and generally a more personal service, or they are not internet-savvy. If you decide to go with a local agent, get more than one valuation, choose one that sells properties similar to your own, and remember that commission is negotiable. Personal recommendation is useful and, if you are buying in the same area as you are selling you'll get a sense of how good an agent might be at selling your home from the way they market other properties to you.