What is a private house sale?
A private house sale is one where you sell directly to the buyer, without using an estate agent. This can save you thousands of pounds in estate agent fees, but it's not always easy.
Selling your house privately can be a good idea if it's a buoyant market, with an abundance of potential bidders and speedy house sales, or if you already know someone who wants to buy your home.
A private house sale will involve a lot more effort, though, as you'll have no agent to advertise your property, conduct viewings or help progress the transaction once a sale has been agreed.
Below, we tell you everything you need to know in order to sell your house privately, including some of the best places to advertise your property, how to conduct a viewing, and the documents you'll need to provide to a potential buyer.
How to advertise a property for sale
The vast majority of prospective homebuyers start their search on Rightmove or Zoopla - but you won't be able to advertise on either of these sites if you're selling privately, as they only accept listings from estate agents.
Here are some alternatives you could consider:
Advertise your property locally
- Place ads in local newspapers: these often have extensive property sections and will reach a broad local audience.
- Advertise in small local newsletters or publications: these will reach a smaller audience of dedicated readers.
- Put up a 'For Sale' sign: include a phone number and make sure the sign complies with legal requirements regarding its size (no larger than 0.5m2, or 0.6m2 if using two signs joined together). The board must have a different advertisement on each side.
Advertise your property online
- Post on local forums: many towns and cities have Facebook pages or other forum-style websites. Include as much information as possible - good-quality photographs are a must.
- Use online property sales sites: websites like The House Shop let you advertise and sell your property online for free.
- Consider eBay or Gumtree: both allow property listings, although it would be fairly unusual for buyers to be searching these websites for potential new homes.
If you think getting your home listed on major portals like Rightmove is a must but want to keep your selling costs down, you could consider using an online estate agent.
Preparing documents for a private house sale
Even if you choose to cut out the estate agent, you should still use a conveyancer or solicitor to do the legal work. Attempting this yourself is just not worth the risk.
You'll need to provide several documents to whoever buys your home, including:
- Energy performance certificate (EPC): this is a document outlining the energy-efficiency of the property.
- Freehold or leasehold documents: you will need to transfer these documents to the new owners.
- Property title deeds: your solicitor will need to see these, and again, the new owner will take these over.
- TA6 property information form: this will include an extensive breakdown of everything about the property, including boundaries, building work, parking and maintenance fees.
- TA10 fittings and contents form: this will outline the specifics of what is included in your house sale, from garden sheds to appliances.
- Proof of identity to show your solicitor. A utility bill or bank statement along with photo ID will be required.
As well as the legal documents, it's worth preparing the following:
- Floor plan: this can be a major selling tool, showing potential buyers the current layout and also giving them an idea of the potential for renovation or reconfiguration. You can make one yourself with a floor plan creator app or you can hire a floor plan designer, which will cost you anything from £6 to £60 an hour on freelancing websites like PeoplePerHour and Upwork.
- Room-by-room guide: this can bring your floor plan to life, and add more detail including dimensions and points of interest in each room. Since you know your own home better than anyone it's best to write this yourself, though you could consider hiring a proofreader to make sure it's perfect.
- Interior and exterior photographs: if you have a keen eye for photography and a high-quality camera, this is something you can have a go at yourself. Otherwise, hiring a professional property photographer from a freelancing website starts at around £20 an hour.
How to conduct a house viewing
It might look easy but there's a real art to showing a home to its best advantage.
Prepare your home
It goes without saying that your house has to be tidy, but it's just as important to turn it into a place that viewers can imagine living in.
You don't need to go completely generic, but removing any super quirky features and sentimental items can help potential buyers picture what they would do with the place themselves.
You should also try and showcase every room to its full potential - for example, if the box room you currently store your spare clothes in could technically fit a bed, put one in there to demonstrate that it's actually an extra bedroom.
Plan a route
You know which parts of your house are most impressive. Take viewers on a journey that holds their interest at every turn, and save a big showstopper for the finale.
You might want to start in the living room and end with your vast garden, or get your tiny garden out of the way and finish with the pristine new kitchen. Just don't plan a route that peaks too early and goes downhill towards the end.
Practise with a friend
Taking people on a tour of your home sounds simple, but you have to be prepared to talk about each room without getting flustered, and to answer any tough questions viewers might ask without taking offence or lying.
Inviting a friend on a viewing 'dress rehearsal' will help get you ready for this. Ask them to be as blunt as possible, as they might spot flaws that you've become blind to over the years. You can use their feedback to fix things and prepare answers for tricky questions.
If viewers think you're trying too hard, they might suspect that you're hiding something about your home.
While the odd vase of flowers and a pot of fresh coffee can help give a good impression, don't go overboard on the house-viewing clichés or people may suspect you're trying to hide something.
During the viewing, it's important to give buyers plenty of time to look around each room, no matter how unnatural it feels. You could consider waiting in the hall if you think they'd like a bit of space or you can't cope with awkward silence - just make sure you're on hand to answer any questions they have.
Make time for questions
At the end of each tour, give viewers a chance to ask about anything that could be putting them off the property, and do your best to reassure them about any worries.
- Find out more: viewing a property - our buyer's guide to property viewings will help you understand the types of things a buyer might be checking for.
When should you use an estate agent?
Selling a house privately isn't for everyone. Unless you're approached by a buyer in the first place, it will take hard work, time and effort.
Because of this, there are a few circumstances in which it's wiser to use an estate agent rather than go it alone.
If you attempt to sell privately but don't receive any offers within the first couple of months, it might be worth taking the property off the market for a while and then putting it back up for sale with an estate agent.
Leaving a gap can be helpful because when a property has been on the market for a couple of months, buyers are less likely to match the asking price as they'll know there's less competition from other buyers.
Then there's the matter of time constraints. Arranging photography, creating advertisements, keeping your home spotless and conducting viewings will all be very time-intensive.
And that's before you've even found a buyer - much of an estate agent's job is to help progress the sale once an offer's been accepted, coordinating with other members of the chain, solicitors and so on.
If you don't have the time to do all of this yourself, an estate agent could help shoulder the burden.
Estate agents and private buyers
If you know of someone who might be interested in buying your property but you want to put it on the market with an agency too, tell your agent in writing that you may have a private buyer before you sign the contract.
That way, if the private buyer dealing directly with you subsequently purchases your property, you shouldn't have to pay the estate agent's fee.
- Find out more: how to choose an estate agent
Video case study: buying a house privately
Private house sales aren't always instigated by the seller. As you'll see in the case study video below, sometimes buyers take the lead by approaching potential vendors themselves:
As you can see, Amy and James took an unorthodox approach to finding their dream home. Their search involved dropping leaflets through doors on two streets that they liked, hoping that one of the homeowners would consider selling.
This is a very savvy thing to do if you know exactly where you want to live - but if you find a house in this way, the seller may not be hugely motivated to sell (otherwise they would have put their house on the market already).
This could make it more likely that they accept an offer and then change their mind about selling, or take a long time to find a place that they want to buy.
That isn't to say you shouldn't buy privately, but it's worth bearing in mind so you can manage your expectations.
- Find out more: how to buy a house