Recently there has been a lot of online and offline column inches dedicated to privately selling your property.

Only last week we saw the OFT come out and suggest consumers consider “private seller platforms”.

We asked Steve Hatch, a director at North London estate agency Castles, who is passionate about this topic, to guest blog for us and give us his reasons on why selling privately online is a bad idea.

Prospective buyers who come to view your property could well be looking at your car, your identity, your family, and your future! Why would you risk all that to avoid paying a fee to an estate agent?

Property Details

Most people have a camera on their phone or own a digital camera these days but that doesn’t make us all professional photographers.

Your local estate agency may well use a professional photographer; or will have trained in the field of residential property photography and use a professional camera and equipment. We do this to ensure that your property – the externals and internals – are well represented and portrayed in a manner that will encourage people to view the property.

Car key theft

Where do we typically leave our car keys…near the front door. Thieves target private sellers deliberately. Professional thieves know that private sellers are easy to distract as they are so pre-occupied with trying, so hard, to sell their home.

Houses with drives are especially vulnerable (for some reason many people feel the photo looks better with their expensive car parked on the drive). An experienced estate agent will spot a bogus buyer a mile off.

Identity theft

Bank statements tend to be left anywhere within the safety of ones own home. An experienced agent will conduct and control the viewing. Private sellers often let people walk around a second time unaccompanied.

An experienced Estate Agent knows how to balance a viewing without letting a buyer out of their sight – the slightest unusual behaviour is instinctively sensed.

Just at the point of exchange…

A private seller is likely to miss all the subtle clues that an experienced agent will pick up on. How many private buyers slap themselves on the back for saving on estate agents fees only to get blackmailed out of thousands of pounds just before exchange of contracts? What are your options? Reduce drastically, or lose your buyer, plus the home you thought you were about to buy.

You are the weakest link

Add to this the pressure of everyone else in the chain of transactions not being able to move because of your buyer! Very seldom does a seller realise that by going it alone without the experience of an expert behind them, actually makes them a potentially weak link and high risk buyer in the eyes of another vendor, and especially the vendors agent who will have a moral duty to flag this up at the point of an offer.

Personal safety

A private seller will not want to get off to a strained start by asking for extra contact details, work numbers, email addresses, number plates, solicitor details etc. Add to that the sense of excitement at the prospect of the viewing! An experienced agent will not only take care of their own staff safety, but they will also do this automatically for their clients. Part of the filtering process is listening to the response to these questions. An experienced agent will sense any evasiveness.

Negotiations and Re-negotiations

A private seller is rarely polished in the art of negotiating, let alone re-negotiating when it comes to property. Property negotiations are a very different beast to general sales negotiations. An experienced agent will have built up a thorough understanding of their client, their wants, needs and emotions. These are all invaluable tools that the private seller will rarely have at their disposal.

Making the move actually happen

The vast majority of people are ultimately trying to achieve one thing when selling – the ability to move! Of course they want to do well financially, but most people simply want to move to their new home in a calm, confident and reassured fashion. In my experience, most people are prepared to pay a little extra for peace of mind, and the enhanced probability of it actually happening. Realistically this is far more likely to happen in the hands of a local professional. We know what we are doing, and take a pride in what we do, this is where the no sale – no fee comes in!

Written by Steve Hatch

Director at Castles Estate Agents – Harringay Branch

Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. Zoopla strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.

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