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Selling your property the SIY way
 
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Do you really need an estate agent? In the first of a fourpart series, You & Your Money investigates the pros and cons of buying or selling your home without the middleman.


Until recently, selling privately was slow to catch on in Ireland, but more and more homeowners are going it alone as estate agent fees climb. It's not a new trend either: In America, between 20% and 30% of properties are 'For Sale by Owner', a practice also common in the UK.

Estate agents in Ireland charge an average commission of 1.5% to sell property. VAT at 23% is then added to this commission. This means that, on a house valued at s350,000, you can save over €6,000 by selling direct. For a house valued at €550,000, the saving rises to almost €10,000. In a market where prices continue to decline, many property owners are cutting out the estate agent and using this substantial saving to get a better deal for both themselves and property buyers. While there are several advantages to selling property privately, the cost savings involved, which property owners can use to offer a more attractive price to buyers while still netting more in the final deal, are huge attractions.

However, a recent survey conducted by Sellityourself.ie reveals that the main incentive for people selling direct is to gain more control over the selling process. "What we found is that many property owners are disillusioned with their estate agent and want to be more proactive in the sale of their property,” says Anne-Marie Doyle, founder of Sellityourself.ie.

 

For Ken, currently selling a property in Cork, taking over the sale from his estate agent has been the right step: “In 2007, my agent showed the property to fi ve people. Since taking control of the sale, I have showed it to nine people in the past three weeks and have received many enquiries. I see little point in involving an agent. I have bought many properties myself over the years and am yet to meet an agent who 'sold' me the property.”

"While there are several advantages to selling property privately, the cost savings involved, which property owners can use to offer a more attractive price to buyers while still netting more in the final deal, are huge attractions."

Property owners selling direct know the exact number of buyers viewing their property online. They also know the precise number of phone and email enquiries they are receiving and they can speak directly to the buyers to gauge their level of interest. If interest is low, they can take measures to increase it - whether through readjusting the price or through advertising. With an estate agent, you're relying on their feedback. In some cases, this feedback may not be entirely accurate, as the agent has their own reputation to protect. "Sale by Owner" websites such as Sellityourself.ie provide property sellers with a complete selling package - everything from the online property listing, 'For Sale' signboard, pointer board and a newspaper advertising service. What's more, the €150 fee on sellityourself.ie is a one-time fee and your property is listed on the site until it's sold. The property seller simply shows their house to potential buyers and handles the price negotiations before handing the sale over to a solicitor for closing.

"I have bought many properties myself over the years and am yet to meet an agent who 'sold' me the property "

If this is all very straightforward, why aren’t more people not selling privately? Showing potential buyers around a property puts many people off selling on their own, so they choose to use an estate agent. They may feel daunted by the process, or simply don't have the time to devote to it. In most cases, though, a property owner has an advantage when showing their house, as they have expert knowledge of the property. The owner can provide full details on every aspect of the property, the neighbourhood, and facilities in the area where an estate agent might not, and this information is extremely important to anyone buying a home.   Maria, currently selling a four bedroom property in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, is very comfortable showing people around her home. “With a young family I can schedule viewing times to suit me, and I can answer any questions potential clients ask. I just feel in control”, she says. “When I viewed houses in the past, some estate agents couldn’t even answer simple questions like why the people were selling,” she adds. From the buyers’ perspective, Ken finds that “buyers are happier to ask more questions and have not been negative in any way regarding not having an agent involved – in fact, they seem to welcome it.”

Contrary to popular belief, an estate agent isn't essential when selling a property as they don't have a part to play in the legal process. When selling privately, you can retain the services of a solicitor and pass the closing of the sale on to them once a buyer has been found.

Your Questions

Q As a buyer, should I be wary of buying a house directly from a property owner?

A Absolutely not!
When buying a home directly from the property owner, all you have to do is employ a surveyor and a solicitor, exactly as you would if you had found the property through an estate agent. Although the legal and survey fees will increase the purchase costs, these amounts are relatively small compared to the expense of trying to sort out unexpected diffi culties in the future. A qualified surveyor will survey the property and identify problems that you may have overlooked. If problems are identifi ed, you may be able you to renegotiate the price with the seller, thus preventing any costly fi nancial implications further down the line.

A solicitor is necessary to deal with the 'conveyancing' - transferring the ownership of property from one owner to another. The solicitor will ensure that all aspects of the purchase, including planning permission and other legal requirements, are satisfactory and will investigate the property as thoroughly as possible to uncover any issues. The solicitor will also liaise with your bank, building society or mortgage broker with regard to the issue of loan cheques.

Many property buyers forget that the estate agent is acting on behalf of the seller. So purchasing property directly from the owner has many advantages. You get fi rst-hand knowledge of the property and the area, a better indication of the level of interest in the property, and a good idea of how seriously the owners are taking your offer. Finally, you may be able to negotiate a better deal by taking advantage of the cost savings being made by the seller. With your solicitor and surveyor on board to protect your interests, you can be confi dent that the purchase of your property will be just as smooth without the middleman.

Q Legally, do I need an estate agent to sell my property

A There is a common misconception that estate agents are always necessary to sell a property, and that they have some legal involvement in the property sale. However this is not the case. The estate agent plays no part in the legal process of selling your property: their primary function is to advertise your property and locate a buyer. Your solicitor continues to manage all the legal aspects of the property sale.

Once you have found a buyer for your property and have agreed on a price yourself, you will instruct your solicitor to close the sale just as if an estate agent had found the buyer for you. Your solicitor will liaise directly with the buyer's solicitor to ensure a smooth property sale and transfer of title.

Sellityourself.ie offers all the services of an agent without charging commission, while the property owner deals directly with the potential buyers. These services include an online property listing, 'For Sale' board, pointer board, virtual tours, professional house photography, brochure printing and newspaper advertising. The website also provides a directory of property solicitors to make selling it yourself even easier.

Q I am already with an estate agent. Can I still sell my home privately?

A If you're selling with an estate agent, you may also sell your property yourself, as long as you have not assigned 'sole selling rights' to your agent.

Before selling on their own, many people will cancel the contract that they currently have with their agent. However, others may wish to continue with their agent while exploring the SIY (Sell It Yourself) option. If so, you need to check to see what type of agreement you have with your agent.

The most common agreement is sole agency. This means your estate agent is the only 'agent' allowed to sell your property. This contract does not prevent you from selling your property yourself through Sellityourself.ie and, if you fi nd the buyer, then you don't have to pay any commission to your estate agent.

However, if you have assigned 'sole selling rights' to your agent, then you'll be liable to pay them commission, even if you fi nd the buyer yourself. Sellityourself.ie recommends that you let your agent know if you are selling your property direct. They will let you know exactly where you stand, and you may even be surprised at how interested your estate agent suddenly becomes in your property!

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