Net gains

1st February 2008 at 00:00
Shun traditional estate agents and opt for DIY selling if you want to avoid big bills, says Alison Brace.

The housing market may have bottomed out, but spring remains the key season for selling property. Before you stride into a local estate agents, however, why not stop and consider some DIY selling options? With just a little more work on your part, you could save thousands of pounds.

Using an online estate agent, for instance, can cost as little as pound;500, compared with several thousand if you go through high street agents, who charge on average 1.5 per cent commission on the value of your house.

Online estate agents such as Hatched, Halfapercent and HouseNetwork (see box, left) provide the same service as high street agents - the only difference is that you, the vendor, show viewers around.

Hatched, for instance, has five staff based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, but they travel all over the UK to offer the full estate agent's service.

Fees range from a no-sale no-fee option, where 0.5 per cent of the property's value is paid on completion, to pound;99 up front and 0.25 per cent commission on completion, or pound;199 up front and the same amount when the house sale goes through.

Hatched's properties appear on Rightmove, a nationwide property website with 29 million visitors per month. And a property is sold after an average of seven viewings compared with 14 on the high street, according to the company.

Alternatively, you could opt for a private property sales website such as HouseWeb or PropertyBroker.

"Our service is the same as putting a card in a shop window," says Ariane Decloux of HouseWeb. "We don't get involved in the pricing of the property or how the vendor is presenting it."

The way you market your property is crucial, says Ariane. "People asking the right price and presenting the property well succeed in selling their property privately."

A flat fee of pound;47 will buy you a basic advert with a photo on HouseWeb's website until it is sold.

However, a higher fee of pound;129 or pound;199 will buy you more photo space, more exposure on property websites - and a for sale board.

PropertyBroker charges a single fee of pound;137, while Houseladder charges from pound;119.99 up to pound;149.99 for a similar service.

Maybe you want to move, but cannot be hassled with the whole money thing. How about swapping? On anything from studios and flats to six-bedroomed houses are up for grabs.

And then there's putting you home up as a raffle prize.

The idea is popular in the United States, but has never quite worked here, as vendors struggle to sell enough raffle tickets to match the value of their house.

But it's always something to suggest to the PTA for this summer's school fair.

Tips for alternative selling

- If you are selling privately, make sure your descriptions are accurate. Incorrect statements could leave you open to being sued for misrepresentation.

- Avoid lengthy tie-in periods - aim for 10 weeks so you can switch agents.

- Opt for an estate agent that belongs to the Ombudsman for Estate Agents. It can investigate complaints against its members and award compensation.

Source: Which?

Ombudsman for Estate Agents, call 01722 333306.

Wealthy teacher competition winner

Congratulations to Jennifer Mace of Etchingham in East Sussex, who has won pound;250 in a Teachers Building Society easy access Call Save account.

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