In the wake of the Government’s decision to amend the Estate Agents Act, a trade body for private sale by owner websites has been formed – the National Private House Sales Association.
Complete with a code of practice, it currently has some ten members and is actively recruiting, while seeking to be the representative voice of an industry which, by its own admission, is still very small.
Meanwhile, one of its members instrumental in launching the new trade body, is predicting that more people will cut out estate agents as they try to buy or sell directly next year.
Nick Marr, of The Little House Company, told EAT that he believes agents will lose market share in 2013 as a result of changes to the Estate Agents Act, plus austerity measures increasingly hitting people in the pocket.
Marr said that currently only about 2% of vendors go down the private sales route. He is predicting that this proportion will grow to 8% next year.
Marr said: “Relaxation of estate agent legislation, the need by home owners to save money, and advances in online services are all reasons why vendors and buyers will miss out the agent.”
Marr, whose own site lists between 600 and 700 properties, said that private for sale sites had faced an uphill battle.
He said: “Our success has been affected by the big portals all clubbing together, it seems, and refusing our listings. They are all anti private sales. Yet in the US, the multi-listing system works in conjunction with for sale by owner listings.
“It isn’t even just portals that ban us in the UK: it is people like sign suppliers, software and web specialists: as soon as they find out what we do, they won’t do business. In my view, that is restrictive practice and I have a stack of emails to prove it.”
This year, Marr said his company had “made a significant contribution to a government consultation process led by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills”.
The consultation on amending the Estate Agents Act – to allow new models, such as private for sale websites, to operate outside the legislation – by Vince Cable’s department was so poorly publicised that almost no traditional agents even knew it was taking place.
Hardly any were on the list for consultation, although the likes of Sarah Beeny’s private sales site Tepilo and Tesco were.
Marr said: “We called for a relaxation of the laws which were designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous estate agents. We evidenced restrictive practices by many UK property portals, citing the Property Misdescriptions Act as the main reason why they would not allow private seller advertising.”
He said: “With the average UK estate agent’s commission set at around 1.75% of the property value, consumers stand to save money by using private house sale services.
“It is important to note that The Little House Company is not an anti-estate agent website but one that believes in consumer choice.
“The Little House Company provides photographers, floor plan experts, property description writing and even negotiating services, all available at low fixed costs, and home owners decide how much help they need.”
Sarah Beeny’s site was asked by us for a comment. Nothing on its website makes any forecasts for next year and it is understood that Tepilo has yet to join the new trade association, although Marr – whose wife Jane launched it – says it has expressed its interest.
Zoopla has said that it will not accept private sale by owner website listings; Rightmove has yet to confirm its stance, after saying it is studying the impact of the change.
Property expert Henry Pryor said he agreed that more people will try to sell their homes privately, mainly because they will be driven by a need to save money.
He said: “Seventy per cent of the coalition’s cuts have yet to be implemented, so money will be tight.”
The trade body website is here: