DIY home sales – potential risks


#1:   Getting trapped into paying commission


Many sellers choose to have a go at selling privately at the same time as marketing their home through an estate agent. This is perfectly OK.

The Office of Fair Trading states that if you find your buyer by selling privately, you do not have to pay the agent commission – as long as you haven’t signed a ‘sole seller’ agreement. As we saw in earlier blogs, this is a very different thing from a conventional ‘sole agency’ agreement.

‘Sole seller’ contracts are the ones where even if your friend or a family member buys your house, the agent can still claim commission. Fortunately such arrangements are extremely rare, usually only occurring where customers don’t realise what they’ve signed.

Sole agency and multiple agency contracts, on the other hand, are by far the most common forms of contract, and both leave you free as the owner to sell privately.

However, there’s a potential trap here for home owners promoting their properties online on ‘private seller’ websites, because some of these are actually classed as online estate agents. If you’re already contracted on a sole agency basis to a High Street firm, then they are the only estate agent you’re allowed to use.

So there’s a potential risk of getting stung for their fees, even if you sell your house privately through an online estate agent. This is not a problem if you have a multiple agency agreement (since any number of competing agents can sell it for you), or if the website you pick isn’t classed as an online estate agent (see below).


The key terms in your sole agency contract with the agent are typically described as follows:

You will be liable to pay estate agent’s fees if the property is sold to:

1/   a purchaser introduced by us during the period of sole agency

2/   a purchaser introduced by another agent during that period

3/  a purchaser with whom we had negotiations about the property during that period.


Of these the third one is most open to manipulation by the agent.

Ideally you should cross out this vague term before signing the contract. Of course, many potential buyers register with agents over the course of a year but often don’t get as far as viewing any properties. And on rare occasions, a buyer whom you attract privately – perhaps someone who replied to your private advert – may have previously registered with your estate agent.

To defuse such potentially explosive situations, the first question you have to ask is whether your private buyer is already listed on the agent’s books. Even if they are, just being registered isn’t enough.

To earn their commission the agent normally has to prove that they introduced your buyer to the sale. In such cases the best approach is to ask your buyer to confirm in writing that the agent did not introduce them to the property and that they did not have negotiations with the agent about the property.




Our next blog – coming soon ……

Selling privately (continued)

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