Can you really sell your house online? Let’s explore the different options

Doesn’t the idea of being able to sell your house at the click of a button sound nice? We’re all busy, running around trying to juggle the different areas of our lives. Work, kids, partner, friends, exercise, hobbies – the list goes on and on!

If you’re anything like me, I love the idea of moving to a new house, but the thought of going through the process of selling my current home brings me out in cold sweats! Estate agents, endless viewings, negotiations, the unknown of whether it will all happen or not; there has to be an easier way, surely?

Online estate agents

The internet became a big deal in the property market at the turn of the millennium, with the launch of Rightmove. Prospective buyers could search for properties listed with a number of different agents on one site, and do so from anywhere in the world. Other sites like Zoopla and OnTheMarket soon followed.

Estate agents responded by improving their online presence and investing in website functionality and search capability.

Then came the dawn of online-only estate agencies.

Online estate agents entered the property market to great fanfare in the 2010s, promising to revolutionize the industry. Claiming to be able to do the job of selling houses cheaper and more quickly than their traditional counterparts, homeowners watched in anticipation to see what would happen.

Sadly, that revolution never really materialized. Whilst greater online presence and investment have benefitted potential buyers (virtual viewings became particularly popular during national Covid-19 lockdowns), online estate agents have generally received mixed feedback from both buyers and sellers.

Ultimately, few buyers would be willing to purchase a property without seeing it in person, so although it’s now possible to list your property online, and even offer online virtual tours, once potential buyers are interested in a property, the actual process of selling the property will be the same as selling via a traditional high street estate agent.

Online property auctions

Billed as a more modern way to auction your property, online property auctions are a relatively new concept. Usually run by estate agents rather than auction houses, your property will be listed online with a counter that indicates how long interested parties have left to bid.

Potential buyers will be given access to a home information pack containing paperwork such as the title plan and register, property questionnaire, fixtures and fittings list, and local authority search results. Potential buyers should have an independent survey and valuation carried out before bidding on the property, which will obviously come at a cost. Bidders will often also be required to pay a participation fee in order to be able to bid.

At the end of the bidding period, whoever has made the highest bid will win the property. The winning bidder will be required to pay a non-refundable reservation fee straight away, which will usually be at least 2.5% of the purchase price. This fee is on top of the price you have bid for your property but will be taken into consideration when calculating your stamp duty bill, so it should be factored in when considering how much you’re willing to bid for the property. After the end of the bid, the buyer and seller usually have 56 days to exchange and complete. If the seller pulls out of the sale, the buyer is likely to get the reservation fee back. If the buyer pulls out, that reservation fee will be forfeited.

Whilst online auctions offer a more transparent buying process, they are not without risk for the buyer, which could have an impact on how many potential buyers will be willing to bid on your property. Buyers are expected to pay out for an independent survey and valuation with no guarantee of their bid being successful. The non-refundable reservation fee, which is paid on top of the purchase price, goes to the estate agent. This means, in effect, the buyer is the one paying the estate agency fee, which may not sit well with some.

Most prospective buyers will want to do an in-person viewing before bidding on the property, so the process won’t be entirely online, but an online property auction does offer a quicker and potentially considerable cheaper alternative for homeowners.

 House buying companies

If you’re looking for a sale method with minimal home visits/viewings, a house buying company could offer a good alternative to the open market.

Other than a property valuation, carried out by two independent estate agents, and an RICS property survey, the whole sale process can take place online and on the telephone.

If you’re looking for a quicker house sale, a genuine cash home buying company should be able to purchase your property on a date of your choice, often in as little as a week if required.

Selling your property to a home buying company is guaranteed, so there’s none of the uncertainty that you might experience when selling with an online estate agent or via an online property portal, but they will pay less for your property than you would achieve by selling on the open market.

So, can you really sell your house online? Although there have been lots of developments in how properties are bought and sold, it’s not easy to sell your house completely online. It doesn’t matter how good virtual viewings are, few buyers will be willing to purchase a property without seeing it in person.

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