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UK News: This agent will sell your home for FREE: Is it too good to be true?

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Homeowners in the Midlands could now sell their home without paying any estate agent fees, after one online firm announced it is expanding its 'free' estate agent service.

Strike - formerly known as Housesimple - is rolling out its 'sell for free' service across parts of the Midlands and Central England, having already done so in Yorkshire, the North West, Nottingham and the North East.

Its chief executive, Sam Mitchell, says it hopes to go nationwide 'before long'.

Sellers who use its service will get the basic support one might expect from any estate agent, including a property valuation, photos, floorplans, and advertising on Rightmove and Zoopla.

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Strike claims its free service also includes support when negotiating offers and that it will continue to help right up until the sale completes.

However, homeowners will be required to conduct viewings themselves - and they won't get professional photographs.

Strike makes its money by providing optional extras to buyers and sellers including mortgage, conveyancing and insurance advice, as well as surveying and removals services.

Homeowners can also opt to pay for optional add-ons, including paying Strike to host the viewings and for marketing boosts.

The hosted viewings package costs £699 whilst the marketing boost package, which includes professional photos, a video trailer and a premium listing on Rightmove costs £499.

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Strike claims that about 60 per cent of its customers use some of its optional extras with the remainder relying on just the free service.

How much does an estate agent cost?

High street estate agent fees vary wildly and can be anywhere between 0.5 per cent and 3 per cent of the sale price.

The average estate agent fee is 1.42 per cent of the final selling price, according to research by home selling advice firm, TheAdvisory.

Based on the average, the owner of a property selling for £250,000 could expect to pay £3,550 of that sum to their estate agent.

Strike's new locations:

Birmingham, Leicestershire, Coventry, Derby, Dudley, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Shrewsbury, Telford, Worcestershire, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Most estate agents charge a percentage fee of the final selling price, which means the seller only pays once the sale goes through.

But some online agents, such as Purplebricks and Yopa offer a fixed-fee alternative to traditional high street estate agents. Fees are often cheaper, but buyers will need to pay even if their property doesn't sell.

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Yopa offers a basic fixed fee of £999 or a premium fee of £1498. Its basic package includes a professional advert, floor plan, photo and a 'for sale' board outside the home, whilst its premium package includes supervised viewings and improved online advertising.

Purplebricks similarly charges a fixed fee of £999, rising to £1,499 for those based in and around London.

It also operates on a fixed fee model, however it has recently launched a money back guarantee if homes don't sell.

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This will apply to properties marketed at the agreed valuation, allowing customers a full refund on their full fee if they have not received a 'proceedable' offer within 10 per cent of their valuation.

Its fixed price offering includes advice from a local property expert, online advertising and professional photography and floorplans.

However, for advert upgrades and accompanied viewings, homeowners will need to pay more – its viewings service costs £399 for those in and around London or £300 for everyone else.

How to find the best agent to sell your home

Strike's free offering is certainly eye catching and for those eligible sellers who feel at ease with the prospect of conducting viewings themselves, it may seem almost too good to be true.

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But while cost will always be a major factor for homeowners, some would argue that choosing an agent should not necessarily come down to the cheapest option.

"Price is what you pay, value is what you get "
Henry Pryor, buying agent

'Price is what you pay, value is what you get,' says Henry Pryor, a professional buying agent.

'My view on this offer is that the value of the offering is probably about as much as the fee they charge!

'There is a saying about online businesses – "If it's free, then you're the commodity."'

But Strike's Mitchell says traditional agents have been leaving buyers feeling short-changed.

'Estate agency has remained largely unchanged for 200 years, with people feeling overcharged and underwhelmed,' he says.

'We've been fighting to change that since we launched our sell for free model back in June 2019.'

Whether you're going down the online or high street route, it is a good idea to speak with more than one agent and find out what they can offer you before making a decision.

Factors to take into account include first impressions, reviews and recommendations, the proximity of its office to your home, or whether it has the greatest market dominance in your area.

'Anyone thinking of selling their property needs to do their due diligence before choosing an agent, whether it's high street or online,' says David Westgate, group chief executive at Andrews Property Group.

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'It's worth meeting several agents before choosing one or more to market your home.

'Spend some time researching which agents have sold the most properties in your local area and see if they have sold properties recently on your street as they might have buyers on their books who are still looking after missing out on another similar property.

'At the end of the day, any decision should be based on a number of factors and not purely on which agent is the cheapest.

'They could be free, but if they don't find you a buyer they haven't done the job.'

There is also some scepticism about whether Strike's sell for free service will provide a sufficient level of support for sellers.

'If you choose to conduct viewings yourself then you need to be prepared to find the time to manage and host them, and buyers won't necessarily be happy to fit around your schedule.

'Viewings are a crucial part of the selling process and buyers don't want to feel like they're being rushed.

'They will also have lots of questions they want to ask and may feel uncomfortable asking the homeowner directly.'

Mitchell, however, says that Strike wouldn't be expanding if its customers weren't satisfied.

''The ability to sell a home for free, without paying any estate agency fees, was always going to be well received,' he says.

'But maintaining a quality service is what has been key to our model's success and allowed us to continue to expand.'

Ultimately, most homeowners' satisfaction with their agent will come down to how much they eventually sell their property for.

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Some will argue that not having an experienced agent to negotiate for you will mean you don't get the highest price for your home.

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Research conducted by TheAdvisory looked specifically at the different experiences between home sellers using online services compared to high street agents.

It found that those using high street agents had 48 per cent more viewings, 64 per cent more offers and a 5 per cent higher final selling price.

Although it found that online agents do sometimes secure the best offer for the seller, this only happened 27 per cent of the time.

'The days of just 'listing' a property, slapping it on Rightmove or Zoopla and waiting for the phone to ring are behind us,' said Pryor.

'You need someone who can 'sell' your property, who has access to buyers who may not be hitting the property websites five times a day.

'You need someone who understands how to negotiate rather than just providing an online form for you to fill in.

'A good agent can sell a property for 10 per cent more than you're asking whereas a sloppy agent or an algorithm can easily get you 10 per cent less.'

Whilst a good estate agent may have an impact on the final selling price of your property there is no denying that using an online agent is cheaper.

If you live in an area where properties are in demand, have confidence in your own home selling abilities and are comfortable showing buyers around your property, then using an online agent may be a good choice.

'With no premium priced, high street shop fronts, branded cars and other estate agent gimmicks, online estate agents can afford to keep overheads lower without sacrificing the quality of service,' said Mitchell.

'There is arguably more flexibility in the service of an online agent, as well as more clarity on what you will receive.

'For example, our advisers are always easy to reach on the phone or by email for any queries you may have, with much longer opening hours in comparison to high street estate agents.

'Just like high street agents, we have reputations to maintain and will work to do all we can to sell your home as quickly and at the best price possible.'

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