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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 April 2007, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Will private property sales take off?
By Bob Howard
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Websites that offer to help you save thousands of pounds in commission by selling your home without the help of an estate agent are hoping their time has come.

mousesale.co.uk - screengrab of website
mousesale.co.uk is one of dozens of private sale websites

It is thought around nine out of every 10 homes are still sold through estate agents.

But private property sales websites believe the growth in house prices and the greater availability of broadband will lure more sellers to them.

Pauline Morrow is selling her four bedroom house in Ipswich.

Whenever she has moved before, Pauline has used an estate agent, but this time she decided to do it herself.

She has paid around 100 to advertise her property on mousesale.co.uk - one of dozens of private sale websites which have sprung up in recent years.

As well as having photos and house details, the website has provided a "for sale" sign - instead of estate agent's details, it has Pauline's personal mobile number on it.

Since August, she has shown around about 20 potential buyers and had the house under offer.

The 100 she has paid is not refundable but she can keep her advertisement on the site as long as she likes.

"I know exactly what I've got in my house, I've been here for 30 years. I feel I can give a better selling of it than probably an estate agent," she told BBC Radio 4's Money Box.

Pauline still has to have a solicitor to handle the legal side so she is not being left to do everything on her own.

Online revolution

Richard Garland, Mousesale
Mr Garland is optimistic about the future of private online sales

Richard Garland set up mousesale.co.uk last year. He has sold around 150 properties so far.

"This is the future," he said. "The internet has revolutionized the way we do all sorts of things."

Mr Garland's site lists 350 properties for the whole of the UK, so he is not in the league of websites like findaproperty.com or rightmove.co.uk with boasts of more than half a million.

But his site is linked to much bigger portals like fish4homes.co.uk and hotproperty.co.uk.

Together, they have hundreds of thousands of properties, some being sold privately and others being marketed by estate agents.

This sort of exposure makes Richard highly optimistic about the future, but others are more cautious.

Public awareness

Martin Charlick set up thelittlehousecompany.co.uk seven years ago.

Martin Charlick, Little House Company
We are missing a large slice of the public that are completely unaware they have a choice
Martin Charlick, thelittlehousecompany.co.uk

He has around 1,200 homes on offer at the moment and charges up to 135.

Like mousesale.co.uk, he estimates he sells half of his properties.

He believes private sales sites are not yet seriously challenging estate agents because many sellers still have not heard about them, and if they have, are worried about selling their home without professional help.

"We are missing a very large slice of the public that are completely unaware that they have a choice other than using an estate agent."

Martin's site may not have a big promotions budget, but already people who have sold successfully with him are returning to sell again.

Sue Allen from Yeovil has listed her current home five years after selling her last property through the site.

She said she has saved thousands of pounds because she got more than the estate agents had valued it at and she did not have to pay them a penny in commission.

"The estate agents valued it between 475,000 and 485,000. We eventually sold it for 540,000," she told the programme.

Estate agents do not appear to feel under threat at the moment.

Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the National Association Estate Agents, concedes it is possible to save on commissions by selling this way but he believes his members offer a service it is hard for private sellers to match.

"The good agent will be able to proactively push things forward for you," he said.

"Private individuals have not got the knowledge and contacts to be able to do that."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 21 April 2007 at 1204 BST.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 2102 BST.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The BBC's Bob Howard on selling privately online



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