Do I need to use an agent to sell my house?

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Q. I am selling my first home, do I need to use an estate agent or can I sell the home myself?

If you wish to sell your property you can find a buyer yourself or use an estate agent. Before making a decision you should consider how much each method would cost and how much time you have available. If you use an estate agent, it will be more expensive but the estate agent will take responsibility for advertising, showing potential buyers round, and negotiating a price for the house. If you wish to find a buyer yourself, it will be cheaper but you will need the time to make all these arrangements and deal with any problems.

Finding a buyer yourself

If you wish to find a buyer yourself, you must first decide what price you want to ask for the property. Many estate agents do free valuations so it is always possible to arrange for local estate agents to provide this information. If you want a formal valuation, from an estate agent this could incur a fee. In addition, you can find out about the cost of houses locally by looking at local papers, estate agents’ windows and similar houses in the area. Before deciding on a price, you may wish to consider:- doing any repairs or decorating; arranging for a survey if you think there are any major problems that might affect the value of the house.

You should decide in advance if you are prepared to include any extras in the sale - for example, curtains and carpets. These are known as fittings. A price for these can be included in the asking price or a separate price can be asked in addition. There are some items that you must sell as part of the house unless you make it clear to the buyer that such items are not included in the sale. These are known as fixtures and include such items as fireplaces. However, in some cases it is not always clear whether something is a fixture or fitting so it would be useful for you to draw up a list of any items you intend to remove or are prepared to sell to avoid problems later.

It is normal practice for a potential buyer to offer a lower price for the house than the seller is asking. You can allow for this by setting your price a little higher than the amount you would like to get.

Advertising the house

You could advertise the house in the local papers or on the internet. It is advisable for you not to give the address but to provide a telephone number instead.

If you wish to use 
an estate agent

If you wish to use an estate agent, you should find out about local estate agents and find out the following information: what type of property the estate agent specialises in; how much the estate agent will charge; the reputation of the local estate agencies, if possible. Most estate agents calculate their fees as a percentage of the final selling price of the property. This can vary from less than 1% to 3.5%. This is known as the rate of commission.

You should check what is included in the fee or if you will have to pay any extras.

If you decide to use an estate agent, the estate agent must confirm the charges and rate of commission that will be made. The estate agent must do this when they agree to act for you.

What does the estate agent do

The estate agent first of all visits the house in order to value it and decide on an asking price with you. You may wish to ask more than one estate agent to call and value the house. It is also advisable to compare this price to similar houses in the area.

The estate agent will prepare details of the house, including the number and size of the rooms and all the fixtures and fittings which will be left in the house. The estate agent also arranges for the property to be advertised.

Whether you have arranged to sell the house yourself or you have used an estate agent, you may find that you receive more than one offer for the house. You can sell the house to whomever you want and do not have to sell to the buyer who offers the most money.

However it could be unlawful for a seller to treat people unfairly by discriminating against them. If you are using an estate agent, the agent negotiates with the potential buyer(s) about the price. The estate agent should try and obtain the best possible price for you. If you are acting alone, you must negotiate yourself. You do not have to accept the first offer put to you and should not be rushed into making a decision quickly.

Even if you have accepted an offer, there is nothing in law to prevent you from changing your mind and accepting a higher offer from someone else. You should bear in mind that when an offer is made and accepted the potential buyer can also withdraw.

When you have accepted an offer you, or the estate agent, needs to inform whoever is doing the legal work. You can do it yourself - although this can be complicated – or you could use a solicitor.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland