What are the pitfalls of selling a property without using an estate agent?

My mother-in-law has just died and we are waiting for probate. My wife and I are thinking of selling her cottage without using an agent. What would be the pitfalls of selling it ourselves?

Question: There was something on television recently about not using an estate agent to sell your property in order to save the commission. My mother-in-law has just died and we are waiting for probate. My wife and I are thinking of selling her cottage without using an agent. It is a very pretty, Grade II-listed building and we think there will be a lot of interest in it, so it should sell easily. What would be the pitfalls of selling it ourselves? 

Answer: You might find it is not as easy as you think. Consider the location of the cottage — do you live nearby? You will have to show prospective buyers around, and you will need to advertise the cottage, though of course you could just put a "For Sale" board outside and hope for passing trade. You are waiting for the grant of probate to be issued and would have had a valuation for that, but without an estate agent's advice, are you sure you will market it at the correct price? Most house hunters look online and without an agent you will not have access to all the well-known websites. You say there will be a lot of interest, and a good agent would perhaps manage the marketing with a couple of open days rather than lots of individual viewings. They might suggest sealed bids and get prospective buyers to place best and final offers by a certain date.

They could deal with questions about the cottage and suggest ways of dealing with any work it might need, for example, sharing the cost between buyer and seller. They could negotiate a price for fittings and contents, or deal with the issue of any that are included in the price. If there is a chain, they could talk to other buyers or agents involved to progress the sale, assist with agreeing completion dates, or find out if mortgage offers have been issued. Many people don't realise the hard work that a good, reputable agent will put in behind the scenes. But if you feel competent to deal with such issues, by all means save the commission and sell privately — there is nothing to stop you.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. 

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (www.withyking.co.uk).

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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