Anyone can be an estate agent, and now everyone is

The risks and rewards of property self-sale

The risks and rewards of property self-sale
Most of us have tried a bit of ‘do it yourself’ around the house, but how about ‘sell it yourself’? The whole house, that is. 

Over the past couple of years, a number of websites have become popular among people who want to bypass estate agents and sell their home themselves.

One such site, Boliga Selvsalg, claims to have a 5 percent market share of all real estate listings made public in Denmark in 2014. 

Self-sellers can save a lot of money and take control of the process, but dabbling with sales deeds is not without risk.

A new phenomenon?
Troels Theill Eriksen, the chief economist at Dansk Ejendomsmæglerforening, the Danish association of chartered estate agents, questions both the extent of self-sales and the innovation of it.

“There are no exact statistics for how many self-sales take place,” he said. 

“However, there are statistics for how many owner-occupied flats and one-family houses are sold without the combination of using an estate agent and advertising online. This number has actually been falling over the period between 2004 and 2013.”

The changes experienced in the housing co-operative market could be to blame.

“I believe sales of flats in housing co-operatives make up a very large proportion of properties sold as self-sales,” he said – an assertion that would appear to be confirmed by a recent survey carried out by Boliga (see fact file).

“There is a long tradition for self-sale in the sale of co-operatives. Before the use of websites, many co-operative flats were sold through waiting lists or by ads put up on notice boards.”

Widespread and growing
But according to Ricco Zuschlag, the head of Boliga Selvsalg, the trend of selling without an estate agent is both widespread and growing. 

“We have had over 4,000 new listings and we have registered about 1,100 completed sales,” he said.

“But the number of sales is based on voluntary replies from our sellers, and we therefore assume a much higher amount of confirmed sales. The reason for this is that is has become increasingly easier to check prices online: both actual sales prices and the initial offering prices. The price of using an estate agent is also one of the reasons we hear.”

Why sell yourself?
The main motivation for many self-sellers is obvious. “It varies, but sellers can save between 50,000-100,000 kroner on the realtor’s fee on apartments. Villas could be much higher,” according to Zuschlag.

"You also control the entire process. From the words in your ad, to the headline and to when you choose to show your house. You can answer your phone and reply to emails day and night. You can share your ad on all social networks and be sure that it’s your own property that gets the attention. You decide everything.”

Law not for amateurs
But although technology is making it easier to find and interact with potential buyers, self-sellers can run into problems if they try to turn their hand to the legal aspects of the sale.

Carsten Munk-Hansen, an associate professor of conveyancing at Aalborg University, emphasises that self-sale carries considerable risk.

“There can always be problems with a sale. The thing is that it’s difficult to foresee what possible problems will arise,” he said.

“Experts have the advantage of having an overview of the area, but also of being insured in cases where they are found to have made a mistake. I know of a case where things went seriously wrong: the self-seller was found liable for reparations and lost everything he had.”

Zuschlag agrees that some things are best left to the professionals. 

“You should always contact a real estate lawyer when selling your own property,” he said.

“We always advise our customers to seek legal advice to make sure that everything is done in accordance with Danish law and standards.”