Selling a House Privately Without an Estate Agent
Selling a house privately involves finding an individual or company that will buy from you directly, effectively ‘cutting out’ the estate agent.
Every year there are tens of thousands of private house sales across the UK.
Indeed, selling in this way is by no means a unique phenomenon and has happened for centuries – long before agents and brokers even existed in fact!
Why Sell Your House Yourself (Without An Estate Agent)?
Particularly in Greater London and the South East, whilst the workload is arguably higher for estate agents, the fees are too steep for some sellers to accept.
Furthermore, with countless reports of bad estate agency experiences, the idea of dealing directly with a house buyer sounds like a great plan.
Yet, it’s worth weighing the ups and downsides before going down this route…
Private Sale of House – Pros
Selling your house privately usually means the following:
- You’ll save on house sale costs – mainly the estate agency fees;
- If the property market is hot in your area, you should be able to find a legitimate buyer quickly without too much hassle;
- Conversely, if the market is slow, you can still find private buyers and work towards a more tailor-made sales solution;
- You are more in control of the sale;
- Private sales eliminate the risk of ‘Chinese whispers’ and you, as the seller, can decide on the terms you’re willing to accept;
- You can ensure you’re getting the best price (rather than rely on speculative, biased and sales-driven outcomes);
- Once you have agreed to sell privately, the right solicitor can undertake the necessary checks to make sure there’s nothing untoward;
- Although there’s a lot to do on your own, the actual process of selling a house requires common sense more than anything else;
- Nosey neighbours will not have to know about your house sale or life plans (say you’re divorcing, selling an inherited property, trying to stop repossession or going through other personal issues);
- You (usually) won’t have to put up with countless viewings;
- When it comes to moving, you may be able to come to more flexible arrangements with the buyer;
- If you’re selling to family or friends, there’s no real need for an estate agent (you won’t need to market the property, conduct viewings, deal with offers etc.). This, in our view, is the best way to sell a house privately.
Private Sale of House – Cons
It’s worth bearing in mind the following truths about selling property privately:
- Good estate agents can guide the process from start to finish. They’re able to navigate through much of the stress and hassle that come with every house sale;
- It’s time-consuming. Could you be better spending your time elsewhere and leaving it to the professionals?
- Whilst conceptually simple, the private sale process often involves a fair amount of ‘plate spinning’ to get a successful outcome;
- Estate agents will have the back-end systems to support sales, verify prospective buyers and undertake a range of other tasks a lot quicker than private sellers can;
- You’ll be entirely responsible for the whole process (apart from the legals). Miss certain things, and you could end up back at square one;
- With the growth of online estate agencies (like our own), the average sales fees have actually decreased over the last decade or so. The savings may not be as high as you first think;
- You’ll need to find the time to organise / handle viewings yourself and undertake a range of other administrative tasks;
- It’s worth noting that, as estate agents ourselves, we’re well accustomed to viewers who are (frankly) time wasters;
- Without being alarmist, allowing non-vetted buyers (not from a professional private house sale company) into your home can be risky;
- If your local market is taking a bit of a hit, a good estate agent can help you navigate through the choppy waters;
- Competent estate agents often have appropriate industry contacts if the property has challenging legal issues (such as complex restrictive covenants, boundary issues / negative easements, party wall issues, like wallpaper broken there. So need install new murals wallpaper..);
- Unless you know what you’re doing in terms of legal checks, you could be prone to getting scammed;
- Particularly compared to auctions and sealed bidding scenarios, you may not achieve the best outcome by restricting a competitive price raising environment;
- From organising surveys to handing the keys to the new buyer, good estate agents will help make sure things are moving in the right direction once the sale has been agreed upon. This can be crucial, especially there is a complex chain situation;
- Related to the above, there may be some conveyancing solicitors who may not be comfortable without an estate agent involved.
You can always give a private house sale a go. If things do not work out, you can use an estate agent as a ‘plan B’. In this scenario, however, it’s best to leave the property off the market for a few months before remarketing.
How to Sell Your House Privately Without an Estate Agent
- STEP 1 Valuing Your Property
- STEP 2 Get Your House in Order
- STEP 3 Pre-Advertising Your Property
- STEP 4 Market Your Property for a Private Sale
- STEP 5 Listing Privately on the Property Portals
- STAGE 6 Property Viewings
- STEP 7 Negotiation + Proceeding with an Offer for a Private House Sale
- STEP 8 Survey
- STEP 9 Conveyancing
- STEP 10 Communication is Key
Valuing Your Property
It’s never been easier for you to see how much your house is worth (for free). Indeed, most estate agents would be looking at the same places online and coming back to you with similar findings.
Here’s the Property Solvers 4-step valuation process:
(1) Apply Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyor (RICS) Standards Using HM Land Registry Data
Alongside HM Land Registry sold price data, we would suggest following RICS ‘Red Book’ guidance. Whilst technical in nature, using this methodology means that you’ll be examining the property’s value in the same way a professional does.
It’s also a good idea to see what properties similar to yours are on the market for, especially those that are marked as Under Offer or Sold Subject to Contract.
Note that this is not truly reflective of the sold price (as there’s often a disparity between the advertised (asking) and actual sale price).
You can often tell a lot about the market by seeing which properties have not sold. This, by and large, means that they are overpriced.
Related to this, seeing properties that are taking a while to sell is usually a sign of overpricing.
From a broader perspective, make sure you’re on top of new infrastructure / transport projects, interesting developments, amenities and other ‘macro’ factors that will often have a net positive effect on house prices in your area.
You can also present this information to prospective buyers during the viewing process.
(2) Check Comparable Property Sizes
Closely related to the above, it’s well worth checking the sizes of nearby properties (typically within 1/4 of a mile of your own). You can then see how they have been priced and use it to gauge yours in comparison.
Bear in mind, however, that most streets in the UK have different types of houses and buildings and it’s not always easy to compare like-for-like.
For example, yours may have a larger garden and/or a back or roof extension. Whether you have extra land (preferably with outline planning permission) or convertible building space also has a major influence on value.
(3) Property Condition
The current state of the property (and, to a certain extent, its age) is likely to have a strong correlation with value.
For example, if you have recently refurbished the property and/or significantly improved its appearance, a higher price (within reason) is justifiable as buyers would not need to undertake these works themselves.
Conversely, a property that has not been touched for years will require the new buyer to invest funds to bring it to a habitable standard. At Property Solvers, for instance, we come across houses and flats that landlords and property portfolio holders are selling that often need to be priced lower to attract buyer interest.
(4) Overall House Market Conditions
With houses prices almost a national obsession, you don’t have to go far to get a broader understanding of the wider market ebbs and flows.
At the same time, try and avoid the ‘clickbaity’ headlines and uninformed sources that you’ll often see online.
Whilst you may be aware that the property market works in cycles, there are regional changes happening all the time.
Prices in London, for example, may appear to be flat or stagnant at a certain point in time whilst the opposite may be true in the Midlands and North. These trends can often change within the space of a few months. However, generally speaking, property is not as volatile as other asset classes such as the stock market.
Get Your House in Order
Presenting Your Property for Private Sale
In order to maximise the price you eventually get, it’s important to focus on how your property will appear to the private buyers’ market.
Much will depend on the existing condition but, in most cases, you do not need to invest a huge amount of money.
Clearing the property, a fresh lick of paint and a deep clean can work wonders. Adding some nice indoor plants, making sure your windows are clean and getting all those minor repairs sorted will also help things along.
If, however, the main parts of your house are dated, you may want to consider waiting a few months (or more, depending on the extent) to get on with renovation works.
Usually, simplicity is best. Most buyers will look at a property as a ‘blank canvas’ and think about how they can put their own stamp on it. Removing as much clutter as possible and keeping things neutral will give you the best possible chance. Remember also to clear out rooms and areas used for storage to give viewers a real sense of space.
Also, it’s often said that people make their decision about a house purchase within the first 7 seconds. Having great curb appeal is, therefore, a must.
Pre-Advertising Your Property
You’ll need to produce what the industry calls ‘marketing collateral’. You can email or WhatsApp this over to prospective buyers as well as list on the free property portals.
High-resolution photos are a must. They’re often the first thing people will check out and crucial in an age where property sales marketing has almost entirely moved online.
Although smartphones these days have amazing capabilities, bringing out the best in your property often requires someone who knows what they’re doing behind the camera.
Professional photographers will also have extra lighting tools as well as means to get the right balances of shade that will look great. They’ll usually send over several angles of each room so that you can choose which one looks best.
A set of photos would generally cost between £50 and £200 – depending on the size of your property and its location. You may be able to get a package deal with the floor plan (and the EPC).
When it comes to photos, remember not to overproduce them. You don’t want a situation where the images have been photoshopped so much that they’re not a fair reflection of reality. Doing this may leave buyers trusting you less.
Increasingly common on the portals are simple walk-throughs of the house using a SmartPhone.
As a novel alternative, whilst pricey (anything from £320 to £700), Matterport offers immersive virtual tours by creating interactive 3D models of your property (here’s an example of one we had produced for a client). You can usually find local Matterport specialists by Googling: Matterport photographers near me.
Most buyers will want to have an idea of the layout and flow of the property.
You’ll need to take the measurements yourself using a tape or something like the cheap and cheerful Atolla Measure Device from Amazon.
After this, there are free tools such as Floorplanner and Floorplan Creator (on Google Play) to create the floorplan. Or you can look for a professional designer on an outsourcing site like Upwork or PeoplePerHour.
Alternatively, Google search floor plan designers near me and some options should appear. You can expect to pay between £60 and £200 depending on where you are in the country.
If your property has got potential for planning permission, it can be worth downloading SketchUp’s free version to draft up an idea of how the extension / extra building space would look visually (from internal and external perspectives). Of course, if you already have planning permission, you can show buyers the architectural drawings,CGIs and any associated documentation.
We often write this as an illustrative walk-through of the property.
For instance, you can start in the hallway, move into the living / dining area, kitchen, the garden and/or external space. Following this, describe the bedroom accommodation, bathroom and other interesting features. Remember to highlight any planning potential or Permitted Development Rights (PDRs).
Don’t worry about going too in-depth and poetic here – most buyers simply want to know the basics.
It’s important, however, to be accurate. Misrepresentation could get you into legal trouble after the sale is completed.
It’s also worth checking which way your property faces, particularly the garden space. South-facing is the most preferred as it draws in the most amount of light. You can check this by finding the property on Google Maps and then zooming out to see the direction. Alternatively, the compass app on Apple (or Android) is useful for this purpose.
Here at Property Solvers, to complement the floor plan, we often break down the room sizes i.e. in linear metres (m) / feet (ft) + square metres (m2) / feet (ft2).
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
Under the Energy Performance of Buildings (Amendment) Regulations 2012, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) must be commissioned before marketing of a residential (or commercial) property can commence.
You can expect to pay between £50 and £150 depending on the size and location of your property. Many photographers and floorplan designers also offer this service (meaning that you can probably get a discounted rate for all three).
Note that if you have sold or rented your property in the last 10 years, there should already be one in place. Starting with tenanted properties, there are also pending minimum standards regarding energy performance.
Market Your Property for a Private Sale
Unless you’re selling to friends or family, you will need to get the right kind of exposure for your property.
House sales (and prices) are always the talk of the town and you’d be surprised at who could be interested (or know someone who is).
Indeed, most buyers are likely to be locally based. However, be wary of taking a ‘blanket’ approach and be selective about who you invite into your home.
For similar reasons, we would never suggest putting your full address on any promotional material (the street and postcode will be fine).
Also, be careful about who you pass your number to. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to deal with things via email.
Some other practical steps you can take could include:
- Put up a visible sign outside your property (although be aware that you may get people knocking at inconvenient times or other invasions of your / your family’s privacy). Our own boards are 65cm (width) by just over 81cm (high). You can also get bespoke ones from eBay or Amazon;
- You can buy a pack of postcards which you can leave on your door with a waterproof pen. Then you can leave a sign with something like: Interested in This Property? Please leave your name, phone number and/or email below and we’ll be in touch. Perhaps you could also politely ask people not to ring your doorbell;
- Place an advert in your local newspaper (and/or website), where possible in a prominent position on the property pages;
- Look out for local business magazines, websites, forums, Facebook groups where you can place your ad (for free or a nominal cost);
- Spread the word to people you know (and trust) locally;
- Produce a simple flyer with a photo of the front of your property to hand out;
- Put a card up on supermarket / local community notice boards;
- Put an advert in charity shop windows for a small donation;
- Add a picture and some info. on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social media profiles you may have;
- Inform local WhatsApp groups you may be part of;
- Let people at your local pubs, coffee shops, schools, churches, communities centres etc. know;
- With the group manager’s permission, add the details on your neighbourhood Facebook page (if one exists).
Note that there are companies out there that can help with advertising your property. Kremer Signs (for board printing) and Agency Express (for distribution) are a couple of examples. However, you will have to set up an account and they’re often not the most suitable for a one-off (private) sale.
Listing Privately on the Property Portals
You’ll probably be aware that the two leading portals for property advertising in the UK are Rightmove and Zoopla. However, you will need to have official estate agency status to list on them.
There are, however, a number of very basic services where you can list your property on Rightmove and Zoopla for a monthly / one-off fee. Be sure to check the terms and conditions to make sure there are no hidden fees, limitation periods or other catches.
There are also a number of independent sites where you can list for FREE as a private house seller. These include:
- Gumtree’s property pages
- eBay’s property pages
- Mumsnet’s Local Pages
- The House Shop
- Residential People
- Net House Prices
- Property Heads
- Property Mutual
- House Ladder
- Homes 24 (regional property pages)
- Property Pidgeon
- Renovate Me
- Property Renovate (London Only)
- Trovit Renovations
- Wreck of the Week
Note that on some of these sites you can pay a fee for a premium service (which usually means more prominence across the portal).
Property Viewings (When Selling Privately)
Showing a property to random strangers may seem a little daunting, especially if you’re generally quite introverted.
In our experience, however, most people will be friendly and nice – after all, they want to buy your house!
You may wish to have a separate number or answering service where you can leave an email address for people to contact. Other private sellers use a temporary answering service. Use Google Calendar to set up the dates.
Ask who will be coming to the viewing. If you’re a female (with children or not) please be extra cautious.
Having certain slots of the week for viewings can be a good idea. This should hopefully not disrupt your life too much. Evenings and Saturdays can often work well as a lot of buyers are off work.
It’s sometimes also worth scheduling ‘open mornings / afternoons’ or, at least, having buyers visit one after the other. This shows that there’s genuine interest and creates an unspoken ‘fear of missing out’ feeling amongst potential buyers.
Remember, particularly with private sales, you will get time-wasters and so-called ‘active house buyers’ who are simply being nosey. Where possible, try and filter them out by asking specific financial questions or digging a little deeper to understand their level of seriousness.
If you’re looking to sell quickly, you ideally want buyers who are ready to move or in a no onward chain position. First-time buyers who are currently renting can also move faster than those relying on their own house sale to proceed.
Remember also that if someone says they are a cash buyer, there may be some hidden truths in the background that they are not telling you. For example, a lot of people have money locked into property or other assets. Extracting the cash from one house sale to use for another (especially ones that appear to be far from exchange of contracts) is not easy.
On the day(s) of the private house sale viewings…
To be on the safe side, remember to jot down the car registration number. It’s also worth inviting a friend, family member or trusted neighbour to be at the property during the viewing.
You do not need to be in ‘salesman/woman’ mode. Be yourself and helpful as possible. Indeed, you’ll arguably know more about the property and local area more than anyone else!
The house should be clean and tidy. You can offer snacks and a drink as a nice touch.
As you walk around the house, be sure to go into how you’ve enjoyed the home, work you have done over the years and anything else that would be of interest.
You may want to highlight the costs of any refurbishment work you’ve done as the owner, but probably best not to overdo this part. It will often be fairly obvious.
Be prepared for questions such as council tax costs, fixtures + fittings you’ll include with the sale and your own selling timeframes.
Many often want a second (and possibly a third) viewing which you should be amenable to.
Some other pointers worth taking on board include:
- Be careful about handing out your number to total strangers. Try and keep communication to 1 or 2 people;
- Do not respond to questions about security codes, where keys are kept or other private (and irrelevant) details;
- Never let the private buyer out of your sight;
- Hide any valuables;
- Speak to your local neighbourhood watch if you’re concerned about potential security issues;
- You may want to have a phone number of someone you know to call;
- Don’t be afraid to cut the viewing short if things are going badly. Simple excuses like you have to go out or have another viewer usually suffice;
- After the viewing, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, you may want to report things to the non-emergency police number (101). However, be careful not to make unfair accusations.
Questions to Ask Prospective (Interested) Private Home Buyers:
- What’s the offer they will make for your property? We would suggest asking this first so you can filter out and shortlist those with the most promise;
- How quickly are they looking to buy? Here you can often gauge whether they are simply ‘tyre kickers’;
- Are they a cash buyer? If yes, can they show proof of funds?
- If no to the above, do they have proof of mortgage funds (typically in the form of a Decision in Principle)?
- Which mortgage company will be financing the property (usually better to go with a mainstream lender such as Halifax, Lloyds, Santander, Barclays, Natwest, HSBC etc.). If the lender is small, you may want to dig deeper;
- What kind of deposit will they be putting down on the property (the higher the better);
- Will they have the extra buying costs – such as stamp duty (SDLT) – readily available?
- Do they have a conveyancing solicitor? If so, take a note so that you can check their credentials;
- What are their plans for the property (is it a family home, to rent etc.)?
- When are they looking to move? Make sure these dates with your own objectives.
Remember to be confident and firm about what you want for your property and your ultimate goals.
Some prospective buyers may see it as weak that you’re selling privately (and falsely think that there’s something amiss because there’s no estate agent involved). Others may try and pull the wool over your eyes.
At the same time, respond to as many questions as they want to ask – even if they seem excessive or unnecessary. Buying a house is often the biggest expense most people make in their lifetimes and its reasonable for people to have concerns.
Negotiation (Private House Sale)
This is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of selling a house privately as a range of factors – particularly psychology – come into play.
Remember, however, that you are the one in control as the seller. Based on your own research and the overall market sentiment, you should have an idea of what you’re willing to accept. Remember, that if you’re selling a rental or second property, you’ll need to calculate your capital gains tax liability.
You should never divulge this figure, but it’s a good idea to have a firm idea of the lowest price you would be willing to accept.
It’s natural for buyers to go in with a lower offer but don’t be afraid to stand firm. As long as you understand the true market value, other (better) buyers will come.
Buyers will also point out specific defects within your property. Much, here, would depend on the level of the problem and whether it could potentially mean the property could be deemed unmortgageable. If the job is reasonably simple, then there’s no need to worry.
Here you could either:
- Offer to sort the issue out as a condition of sale;
- Turn the negative into a positive. For example – if the kitchen is not to their taste – suggest they can change the doors relatively easily. Choosing neutral colours and having a house that’s clean and presentable, as suggested above, enables you to overcome these potential issues arising.
Don’t be afraid to politely reject any offer you’re not happy with. They may come back with a counteroffer that you can work with.
Proceeding with an Offer for a Private House Sale
It remains a fact that 1 in 3 house sales fall through. An offer is meaningless if not accompanied by a concerted effort (by both parties) to move towards exchange and completion of the sale.
Once you have agreed on a price, request that the buyer send a confirmation email or text message. You may want to call / email to test that it’s legitimate – a few exchanges should suffice. We would generally avoid doing this verbally to avoid anything getting lost in translation.
You will need to undertake the checks that an estate agent would normally do. Being prepared to vet buyers with a fine-tooth comb could potentially save a lot of hassles down the line.
The buyer should send a copy of the mortgage offer and proof of deposit (usually a screenshot of a recent bank statement) via his/her solicitor to yours.
However, it’s understandable that they may not want to send this information to you directly due to privacy reasons. You can ask your solicitor to undertake some basic identification checks. They can also check for Anti-Money Laundering. Veriphy, Credas and Smart Search are often used for these purposes.
Remember, at this juncture, actions speak louder than words. If you’re noticing that the buyer is delaying things, don’t hesitate in speaking with other interested parties.
You are not committed to the sale and it’s really down to the buyer to prove commitment.
Holding Deposit (Escrow Payment)
Whilst fairly unorthodox (even amongst estate agents), some private sellers request a holding deposit from the buyer. This will be offset against the final purchase price.
How much is paid is open to discussion. However, we would suggest a payment that’s not insignificant and will show that the buyer genuinely wishes to move forward.
A good solicitor would be able to draft the terms and conditions. These should protect the buyer’s funds should any unexpected scenarios arise – such as survey issues, down valuations or legal issues that emerge during the conveyancing process. In such circumstances, the solicitor would transfer the funds back to the buyer.
Survey (for a Private Property Sale)
Even for a private house sale, most buyers will want to organise a professional survey.
These range from the comparatively simple ‘Homebuyers’ survey (which normally takes no longer than an hour) to a full structural survey (which can take up to half a day).
Remember, you’re not tied into the sale in any way at this stage (nor will have to pay anything). If you find the buyer nitpicking or using the survey report as a means to negotiate too hard, you can simply walk away.
Indeed, the good thing with a private sale is that other prospective buyers often do not know that the property is sold subject to contract or under offer (as it’s not listed on the main portals).
Conveyancing (Private House Sale)
Working with a good solicitor can often make or break a successful sale.
In a similar vein to selling privately, you may be brave enough to undertake conveyancing yourself. However, we would not recommend proceeding with a buyer who is thinking about this course of action.
Average conveyancing fee disparities are often wider relative to estate agency fees. You can, however, expect to pay more the further south of the country you look. The disbursements you pay are always likely to be fairly similar.
It’s also well worth checking out the conveyancer’s current caseload and make sure they can work to your specific deadline.
Note that the conveyancer may wish to charge additional fees due to the checks required in a private sale. These would normally be undertaken by an estate agent. However, this shouldn’t be too much more.
Communication is Key with Private Home Sales
As a private sale, whilst the conveyancers should be progressing things in the correct manner, there’s nothing stopping you and the buyer from communicating to deal with any issues that arise.
However, you may prefer to keep things at a distance (unless urgent). Your conveyancing solicitor can also act as the ‘go-between’.
Either way, serious buyers will be keen for the house sale to proceed as quickly as possible.
Selling a House to a Family Member or Friend
In our opinion, this is the best and safest way to sell a house privately.
Not only do you bypass many of the stresses and hassles involved with selling your house privately, but you get to save thousands in estate agency fees.
With most friends and family, it’s relatively easy to have an open and frank discussion about finances and other practicalities involved in selling.
At the same time, things could potentially get awkward – particularly as money is involved. The last thing you want to happen is for unnecessary tensions to appear.
For example, you may disagree about the market value of the property or what repairs need to be done. These issues could last well into the future which could leave a sour taste.
We would suggest trying, as best you can, to separate your personal relationship and looking at this as a business transaction (which it is).
Issues are likely to appear during the process – but, as long as you’re honest with each other, they’re surmountable. Transparency is key.
It may feel strange approaching them simply because of your relationship with each other. This is where the conveyancers – who are legally obliged to take impartial positions – can address the problems at arm’s length.
Can You Use an Estate Agent to Manage a House Sale to a Friend or Family?
You may wish to use an estate agent to help with processing the sale, especially if you’re time-poor.
This may be entirely possible, however, most estate agents would want to charge their full fees to do this.
Private House Sale Companies
Private house sale companies – also known as sell house fast and we buy any home firms (amongst other labels) – have been a growing presence in the UK property sales industry over the last couple of decades.
Most, including ourselves, have been formed in response to the frustration of having estate agents involved in the process. As a seller, you’ll benefit from effectively cutting out the middleman from the transaction.
What makes firms like ours different from normal private house sales is that there are no estate agency or legal costs. We will also buy the properties that often struggle to sell on the open market. For example, Property Solvers buy properties with structural issues, Japanese Knotweed and a range of legal problems.
Another way to get a more secure sale is to use our property auction service (or even through our modern method approach). There is a fee, but we’ll only charge once the property is successfully sold.