The Private Sale Conundrum

“Brilliant! Someone’s contacted me directly and made a decent offer for my house!”
If this ever happens it’s certainly gratifying.  Without making any effort your property has attracted buyer.
If you happen to be looking to move it’s even more appealing.  All of a sudden, without lifting a finger or incurring Agents costs, you’ve become a buyer with a chain in place.  All the better for securing your next purchase.
There’s just one problem:  How do you know this is a good offer when you’ve not even tested the open market?
If this question occurs to you when the house of your dreams suddenly becomes available the pressure builds.  Do you risk losing it to secure a higher sale price for your own place (less agent’s fees and VAT) or convince yourself you’ve got a good deal? 
Questions like this can drive you nuts.  Trying to do something about it can also result in your private buyer questioning your integrity (“you said we had a deal!”) and the seller of the home you want viewing you as unreliable (“have you got a buyer or not?”).
What you really need is a way for the open market to know about you in the first place.  Somewhere that,  if you’re only thinking about selling and long before you appoint an agent, you can test the market. 
This is part of the philosophy behind moovrmatch.co.uk. A place where, regardless of how committed they are to moving, people can publicise what they have to sell and what they wish to buy.
With moovrmatch, should you receive a private offer out of the blue, you could place your own, free, advert to sell and see what sort of response you receive.  You may be pleasantly surprised and if not at least you’ll know your private buyer has made a decent offer.
Of course you could then choose to proceed without an agent but, as I’ve written about in my previous post, Estate Agents, have their uses.

Pricing

Overpriced properties that don’t sell.  I’m sure estate agents have a word for them and they are a problem.
If we all just want to get on with our lives, then having a property unsold for months holds back it’s seller and all of the potential buyers who are out there but unwilling to pay the over-inflated price.
The expectations of buyers need to be more widely known and not just delivered as the opinion of estate agents.  After all, agents, quite reasonably enough, present their market opinion through the prism of a profit making enterprise.  Ask a buyer directly what they’d expect and be prepared to pay for your property and they’ll give it to you straight.  Their assessment will be based on what it’s worth to them.  Ask an agent and they’ll factor in that they want to sell your home and want to attract your business.  
Traditional bricks-and-mortar agents only really have two levers here although they’ll all tell you how significantly their level of service differs from the competition.  These are:

  • Their percentage fee they’ll charge* 
  • Their valuation of your home

*(I’d be fascinated to hear how fixed price, on-line agents valuations vary from traditional agents)

Unfortunately, as sellers, we’re often dazzled by high valuations.  They may be completely unrealistic and lead to our homes being on the market for months but they succeed in getting us to sign up with the agent.
This is where I think the property market can learn from eBay.
If buyers were able to advertise themselves and their expectations as easily as sellers can advertise properties then sellers would be able to pitch their asking prices more realistically.  
Additionally, if sellers knew what prospective market browsers thought of their advertised property, similar to eBay ‘watchers’ or even Facebook ‘Likes’, they’d get valuable feedback on how their advert was being received.

My belief is that better informed buyers and sellers would lead to a market that operates more efficiently and allows people to move home more rapidly.