When you’re faced with the prospect of selling your London home, it can seem like it comes with such an array of associated tasks, it’s hard to think straight. While surely all of us are now tired of the cliché about the process being up there with divorce and bereavement, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. And perhaps the first thing we need to consider is this: of all the available ways of selling up, which one should we go for?
Assuming you’ve laid the groundwork – your finances are in place, you’ve worked out whether the length of your lease is going to be problematic (unless you’re a freeholder), you’ve had valuations conducted, organised an energy performance certificate, made your home viewings-ready, and you know what your asking price is going to be – then the time is right to decide how exactly you’re going to sell.
London High-street Estate Agents
It’s not easy choosing the right estate agency for a quick house-sale at a good price. And it’s worth always bearing in mind that things that seem too good to be true all too frequently are. So if there are staggeringly low fees or you get a valuation that wildly exceeds both your expectations and the other valuations you’ve had, tread cautiously. You could be dealing with a company that promises the earth without any hope of actually delivering it. Research possible agencies by asking friends/family for recommendations and carefully checking reviews sites like TrustPilot, keeping an eye out for reviews that don’t have the ring of truth about them. Ideally, you’ll find an agency that has experience with properties similar to yours and plenty of interested buyers. Some people take their research a step further by visiting estate agents and posing as potential buyers, to get an idea of how hard the agents are prepared to work a property. Once you’re in the right hands, the time-honoured, high-street estate agent method of selling can be remarkably effective and straightforward.
Good for: people who don’t want to take on too much of the work
Off-market selling has become more and more popular in the capital. Between January and May 2022, 23 per cent of homes sold in London were not openly (or at least widely) marketed, whereas in 2021 it was 21 per cent. Secret selling used to be the almost-exclusive domain of ultra-prime property but that’s changing. More and more buyers are willing to pay more to snag a property before it reaches the market and there are now off-market portals that make it easier for both buyers and sellers. In 2022 so far, off-market homes have sold for an average of 99 per cent of their asking prices.
Good for: people with prime central London properties
Selling your London home privately is, as you might expect, when you organise a sale direct with the buyer, with no intervening agency whatsoever. You stand to make a saving by not paying any middlemen, but it does mean you have to take on certain tasks alone. It can work extremely well when the market is booming, especially if you happen to know someone who wants a property just like yours. But you have to be your own agent, placing ads in the local press, online forums etc and erecting a ‘for sale’ sign. You can’t avail yourself of platforms like Zoopla or Rightmove because they only accept listings from agents. You can, however, advertise on various property sales sites as well as Gumtree and eBay.
Good for: people in a buoyant market who are prepared to do all the work
When your London home is listed in an auction-house catalogue, it’ll appear with both a guide price and a reserve price (the latter being the lowest price the seller is prepared to accept). To get started, you’ll need to find the right auctioneer (there are both local and national options). Whatever you choose, you’ll be charged a fee by the auction house and it could be anything from several hundred pounds to several thousand pounds. You also stand to pay a commission to the auction house upon a sale (in the realm of 2.5 per cent plus VAT but it could be more). You’ll be given a chance to go through the listing before it’s published to make sure everything is correct. It’ll also fall to you to organise a solicitor/conveyancer to look after the legal side and draw up contracts. You can attend the auction in person but if you don’t, they’ll usually telephone you to tell you how it went and whether you’ve got a sale.
Good for: people who want to get paid quickly, people whose properties need considerable renovation, people who’ve struggled to sell through other methods
Online Estate Agents
Online estate agents, which operate via websites and call centres, give you a more slimline service than you’d get with a bricks-and-mortar agent, but this does also mean their fees are lower. There’s more than one type of online estate agent: first, online-only – here you’ll be doing a lot of the prep, from photographing your property through to drawing up an advert, receiving buyer enquiries, taking charge of viewings and negotiating offers. Second, hybrid agencies – a bit more work will be taken off your hands with these agencies because they enlist local property specialists who handle enquiries, attend viewings and negotiate offers.
Most online agents, especially hybrids, can give you the option of providing valuations. They can also potentially market your property and look after viewings. Some will be able to work with your conveyancer and accept or decline offers on your behalf. And where physical estate agents on the high street will generally charge you with a percentage of the selling price, online agents charge fixed rates. You should end up paying much less if you go this route. Unfortunately, you may well have to pay the fee upfront and lose that money even if the agency doesn’t sell your property. There’s also the unavoidable fact that an agency that doesn’t stand to make much money from the sale may also not have any pressing inclination to try to sell your home for the highest possible price. Instead, you have to be the cheerleader for your property.
Good for: people prepared to do more work in exchange for lower fees