Do we have to use an estate agent?

Our property lawyer Fiona McNulty answers your questions
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Question: My mother inherited a house from her father and is now looking to sell it. She has had several expressions of interest from friends who say they would like to buy it. We are having a few free valuations conducted by a local estate agent, but is there any need to use their services further if my mother already has a list of potential buyers lined up?

Answer: Estate agents who are knowledgeable about property play an important role in the property market and the buying and selling process.

Several expressions of interest suggest the house is desirable and presumably your mother would like to get the best price. If she does not put the property on the open market, she will not know if she has achieved this.

A reputable estate agent will advise on price and will negotiate with a buyer, can organise best and final offers or sealed bids, will discuss finances with a buyer and will usually ask for written evidence to confirm a buyer does actually have the funding to proceed. An agent will often chase up slow solicitors, assist with any general inquiries a buyer may have and may be able to resolve issues by renegotiating the price or arranging fair contributions between the buyer and seller for necessary works.

As a person's house is often their biggest asset, it is difficult for them to remain objective. Dealing directly with a buyer could be a very stressful experience for your mother, especially as she could be selling to a friend, and so it would seem a sensible option for her to instruct one of the agents who has provided her with a valuation.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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