The short answer is “you don’t need to”. An increasing number of people sell their homes privately, either by advertising on websites or putting adverts into the local paper. However, the majority of people in the UK still sell their property by using an estate agent.

While both methods of selling privately can save costs (by not incurring estate agent’s fees) they can have a disadvantage.

Perhaps the most common disadvantage is that you are dealing directly with the potential purchaser. When people contact you directly by phone to book an appointment you have no idea whether they are serious purchasers or even if they can afford the property. It is not unknown for people to book a viewing out of curiosity with no intention of buying the house.

A good estate agent should vet any potential visitors and, once an offer is made should confirm that they are serious in the offer.

Another benefit of using an estate agent is that normally they will have a list of people looking for property in the area. They will then send your details to the people on the list that are looking for your type of home. Usually estate agents will also advertise your home in the property section of the local newspaper – and sometimes even in national papers (depending on the type of property) – and many agents have their own websites or sections in national sites.

One factor to be considered when appointing an agent is the fees that they will charge. Some estate agencies will charge a commission based on a percentage of the sale price while others will charge a flat fee.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate the fee, at the moment properties for sale are fairly scarce and many agents may be willing to negotiate so that they get your agreement to act for you.

When choosing an agent, fees are not the only thing to be considered. Talk to three agencies and ask them for a guide price for the property. Despite the temptation, do not just accept the agency that gives you the highest value (you may not get this price) but ask the agency to justify the price – for example :-

  • Is there a similar property nearby that has sold recently?
  • What did it sell for?
  • What makes your property more valuable?
  • When was the last time that the agency sold a property like yours?

Of course you can always check sale prices using a house price website like RightMove or Zoopla.

To sum up. Using an estate agency may cost more but you need to consider the benefits such as the advertising, vetting of prospective purchasers and advice given to you during the selling process.

Please note that the above relates to the UK, other countries may insist that you use an agent when selling your house.