eSale blogNews and views on the estate agency industry

Picking An Estate Agent – Seven Questions To Ask

When it comes to picking an estate agent, research suggests we tend to be most swayed by personal recommendation. If our friends or family say they’ve had a good experience with a particular firm we’re inclined to go to them first, even without doing any particular comparisons ourselves.

As we’re currently rated No2 in the UK for customer service on independent website Trustpilot and as many of our leads do indeed come from third-party referrals, we’re actually quite happy with that.

But, just the same, if we were asked for advice on how to choose an estate agent to help sell your home, we’d actually encourage a slightly more scientific approach.

First of all, we’d suggest you pick three agents to value your home just to see if they come close to an estimated asking price which you can easily establish yourself by researching the property portals and the Land Registry’s website for homes in your area which have sold recently.

After that, we’d recommend seven additional questions:

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How long a tie in period is there?

Is your preferred agent requesting a sole source purchase agreement? If they are, it means you can’t advertise your home through any other agent so you’ll probably want to know how long they want to tie you in for. If it’s only for a few months, it’s not too bad but, if it’s for a lot longer, be cautious. It could mean you’re locked in with one agent which isn’t great news if they struggle to sell your home. You will have denied yourself access to any alternatives.

Do they charge a withdrawal fee?

Is your preferred agent suggesting a withdrawal fee if you change your mind about selling or if your circumstances change and you want to take the property off the market? If so, get a figure in writing. Not all agents will charge but, if they do, the figure can seem arbitrary if you’re not aware of it beforehand.

Are there any “optional extras”?

Are there aspects of service offered by your preferred estate agent which are “optional extras”? You may be surprised to find that some companies operate a little like a budget airline; their headline fees seem reasonable until you realise they don’t include photographs, floor plans and for sale boards. You also might like to check if the price you have been quoted includes VAT.

What do they charge for an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Did you know every home has to have an EPC by law? The thing is there’s no set fee for providing one. It could be anything from £60 to £120 so it’s best to find out in advance.

Which websites do they use to advertise your property?

Not all estate agents use all the online portals. A couple of years ago, in a bid to break the Rightmove/Zoopla duopoly, a consortium of influential high street agents launched their own portal called On The Market. Member companies were offered significant discounts on fees paid for listings but, in return, they had to drop one of the other portals. Most chose not to use Zoopla but, since 2015, On The Market has not been the success many had hope and, as a result, clients of member agents have been missing out. Is your preferred agent a member of On The Market? If so, then be aware that could mean your home will not appear on Zoopla, which is the UK’s second largest portal

Social media marketing

Does your agent use social media effectively? Some will post material to draw in customers or to attract clicks on their website but are they actually using targeted posts to sell property? Why not have a look on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. You’ll be able to make your own assessment of how effective they are – and if they’re right for you.

Do they work evenings and weekends?

It may not seem to be a deal-breaker but, if you’re working, finding an agent out of hours can be a Godsend. You may be surprised to find many don’t work after Saturday lunchtime or at all in the evenings. It’s certainly worth checking.

If the answers to the questions above are all the ones you’ve hoped for, then you’ve probably found the right agent for you. If not, it might be worth spending a little more times searching the alternatives. But, as ever, if you think we can help, feel free to drop us a line or give us a call. We’d love to help if we can.

What’s included in the sale – An eSale guide.

BEWARE THE PROPERTY EQUIVALENT OF “BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED”

The house you viewed was everything you hoped it might be; it had some lovely features and even some of the little touches you’ve secretly craved in your own home.

You were diligent about making your offer, you waited for the keys and you looked forward to savouring that sensation of walking through the door knowing you owned everything on the other side.

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But wait! Surely there’s been a mistake…this isn’t the house you fell in love with! Those chandelier-style light fittings in the living room have gone and even the rustic oak shelves which filled that recessed alcove have vanished.

There’s a space on the wall where the mirrored medicine cabinet in the bathroom once was and even the novelty cat at the end of the pull-cord light switch has been replaced with a boring, bell-shaped piece of plastic.

What happened? How could the previous owners have the bare-faced cheek to take everything you loved with them when they left…?

But the thing is, all those quirky little details you fell in love with were not what you were buying. You bought bricks, mortar and the bit of land they stand on – not a home; you might be surprised how many make the same mistake.

Rewind to the viewing and it’s at that point that potential buyers ought to be checking exactly what is included in the deal. It’s easy to make assumptions that the carpets will still be there when you move in but, believe it or not, quite a few buyers presume the curtains will be as well – and that’s by no means guaranteed.

The same applies to light fittings, curtain rails, shelving, wall-mounted storage units, appliances, alarm systems and even some furniture which may appear to be built-in.

If you’re not sure, our advice would be simply to ask – particularly if it’s a feature of which you’re particularly fond. It may well be that the seller intended to take an item with them but, if they know you’re keen on it, they may be prepared to include it in the price, particularly if their property has been on the market for some time.

As Brits, we don’t like to appear too avaricious; it may seem a little gauche to haggle over the fixtures, fittings or personal effects of a vendor.

But, to be honest, it’s better to be clear about exactly what you’re buying before making an offer – especially as you’re likely to be negotiating the largest financial transaction of your lives. Make no assumptions and you’re less likely to be disappointed when you cross the threshold of your new house for the first time.

BUDGET 2017 – A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

There was quite a bit in yesterday’s Budget which will have been broadly welcomed across the UK.

Like a slightly premature Santa Clause, the Chancellor dealt out largesse to motorists by cancelling the planned rise in fuel duty in April; he raised a glass to those looking forward to a tipple or two at Christmas by freezing duty on beers, ciders, wines and spirits; for those thinking of a trip abroad next summer, he announced there would be no extra charge for short haul air passenger duty rates and no increase on tax on long-haul economy rates either.

But, for those hoping to buy their first home, he saved the best until last. As from today, first-time buyers will not have to pay Stamp Duty on a house priced below £300,000; for those house hunting in more expensive areas such as London, the first £300k of a home worth up to £500,000 will also be exempt.

In real terms, that means in excess of 40% of properties on the market will now be free of Stamp Duty, reducing the cost of purchasing a new home for the first time by around £2,500. Great news…

However, there is a “but”.

With such a sharp rise in house prices over the last decade, the real obstacle most first-time buyers face is raising enough for a deposit. It’s not easy to find an average of £33,000 – and, although any reduction in the cost of buying a home has to be welcomed, some analysts are already asking if it’s enough.

There’s also the fact that the abolition of Stamp Duty only applies to first-time buyers so, if you’re already on the housing ladder, there’s not quite so much of an incentive to move. You can’t apply for Help To Buy either so perhaps it’s not surprising that some feel a little aggrieved that Mr Hammond’s generosity only seems to be targeted at first-time buyers. There was little or nothing for so-called second-steppers or downsizers.

But at least there were other measures too which could help ease the crisis, not least Mr Hammond’s attempt to get Britain building again. For example, for the first time, the Government seems to have realised that it needs to do more to plug the skills gap and train and recruit more brickies.

It was also encouraging to see Mr Hammond announce an investigation into why the number of approved planning applications for housing are not correlating with the number of new homes built. If developers are “land banking”, then maybe we’ll see sudden surge in construction – and, hopefully, the new properties will be the ones we need and not the three- and four-bedroom “executive” homes which make the most money.

So, if we had to summarise on yesterday’s announcements we’d probably agree it’s a step – and a significant one – in the right direction. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and it’s very unlikely Britain will be either.

Millennials, housing and the budget – our tuppence worth!

A NEW HOPE?

If you read the recent articles in the media about so-called millennials blowing their income on extravagances rather than sensibly saving for a deposit on their first home, it would have been easy to assume these were the claims of some crusty, deluded Westminster politician.

But, as we all know by now, it wasn’t; it was a well-known high street estate agent which had issued a press release which, perhaps in hindsight, was a little ill-judged.

Not only did it come across a more than a little patronising, no doubt thousands of first-time buyers struggling with rising rents or stuck at home with their parents will have felt a sense of indignation that a significant player in the world of property could be so dismissive of their plight.

But amid all the ruffled feathers, Strutt and Parker did actually have a point. Well, sort of.

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There are affordable homes out there…

An interpretation of their argument could be that there are still properties within the means of those prepared to make a few sacrifices or consider a new start in a different (cheaper) region of the UK – and, in all fairness, it’s true.

We’re by no means the largest of estate agents but, if you take a little time to scroll through the properties page on our website, you’ll see that we have sold quite a few homes for under £100k and even have one or two available right now.

Admittedly, they won’t be south of Watford; they might not have a designer kitchen, an expansive garden or a smart en suite in the master bedroom. But the thing is every one of them represents a start; and, once you have a foot on the property ladder – as long as there are no dramatic changes in the economy and interest rates remain reasonably constant – it becomes a little easier to find the next rung .. and the next … and the next.

It’s true that few these days can afford a smart, executive three-bedroom home with a garage and gardens as their first purchase. In the south-east, even a two-bedroom terrace is probably out of reach of many aged below the age of 35.

But it’s wrong to generalise, be London-centric or to quash the hopes and dreams of a generation by telling them repeatedly via the mass media and the property press that home-ownership is simply beyond their grasp. It isn’t; not entirely – at least not yet.

 

Waiting for Wednesday

And that’s why Wednesday’s Budget could be crucial. The Government is making the right noises; Mr Hammond has even let it be known he wants to see 300,000 new properties built every year to tackle a crisis of the lack of supply.

But, if that’s to happen, then controls will need to be in place to make sure developers build the right kind of home. After all, 300,000 more four and five-bedroom executive properties are not what we need and Mr Hammond and his Westminster cronies need to do all in their power to ensure that’s not what we get.

How to value your house.

WHAT SHOULD YOU BE ASKING?

One of the toughest bits to get right when you’re selling property – and therefore one of the best reasons for instructing an estate agent – is gauging the asking price.

There are tools on the portals you can use these days to establish what similar homes in your area have sold for. If you have an address to check against, selling prices are also available from the Land Registry.

However, a good estate agent should also have a finger in the wind and be able to tell you if the current trend has been upwards or downwards and base a sensible figure on the features your home has to offer.

Get it right and you could be on your way to a new home pretty quickly; get it wrong, and your property could be sitting on the market for ages. A small reduction could be all it needs but, if you have to make several downward adjustments, buyers watching may suspect there’s something wrong and then it becomes even harder to get a move on.

So, in the current climate – with the ramifications of Brexit playing on the nerves, rising interest rates and the reservoir of affordable stock dwindling as some potential movers opt to stay put for now – how about a bit of advice?

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First, don’t pitch too high…

It’s not uncommon for some estate agents to persuade you to stick and extra £20k on top of the price you would expect simply because they want your business. Of course we want the most we can get for our home, particularly if we’re on a tight budget, but if your gut feeling is that the figure you’ve been quoted seems over-ambitious, listen to it.

At least check it out, perhaps by asking for additional valuations from other estate agents or against Land Registry information on any similar homes which have sold near you.

Don’t pitch too low…

Once we decide we’re moving, it’s natural to want to get on with it as soon as possible and a competitive price can be key when it comes to a quick sale. However, if you go too low, you may find potential buyers are suspicious and, even if they can’t pinpoint any issues at a viewing, their own gut feeling may be to steer clear.

Keep it real, ask for what your home is worth on the current market and …

Be patient.

If you’ve seen a “sold” board go up outside a nearby property when yours has been on the market longer, it’s natural to feel disappointed. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean your home is going to be forever left on the shelf.

You don’t know the reasons why the buyer chose that home over yours but they are likely to be many and varied. Size, décor, or interior features you’re not aware of could be just some of them.

Okay, if you’ve had no viewings and your house was first advertised six months ago, then fair enough; you probably need to ask your estate agent some searching questions.

However, it’s only been a few weeks there’s every chance your buyer is still out there. Give it time; but, in the meantime, why not get Tweeting or post on Facebook? Anything you can do to add to your audience isn’t a bad thing.

We’ve attached a recent article on statistics released this month by Rightmove as guidance but, should you need any further advice, feel free to drop us a line or give us a call.

(https://www.propertywire.com/news/uk/asking-prices-fall-existing-sellers-drop-prices-latest-uk-index-shows/)

Alternatively, why not browse our blog for earlier articles on buying and selling your home. Just click on the links for more details.

Is it the time of year to sell your house? – An eSale blog

WINTER IS COMING …

The clocks have just gone back so it’s the time of year we usually hear sage advice on how it’s not the right time to sell your home.

Folk will tell you, once the night’s draw in, it’s hard to view a property after 4pm and everyone’s thinking about Christmas anyway so it’s pointless getting your property listed.

One upon a time, that might have been true; there’s also no denying there is an annual surge of new homes going on the market in spring and in sales in September and October as buyers want to see themselves safely ensconced in their new home before Strictly has finished on the telly.

But, as we’ve said many times – and probably will again – the best time to sell your home is when someone wants to buy it and there’s every chance they’re out there waiting in November or January as at any other time of year.

“Only in an idyllic world would everyone move house just when it suited them”

Admittedly, the thought of leaving a warm home to view properties is less appealing in the winter but then people have all sorts of reasons for looking. Only in an idyllic world would everyone move house just when it suited them.

Not only that but modern technology has made it easier to research property in advance from the comfort of your own armchair. A savvy buyer will already know quite a bit about your home before they ring your doorbell; they will have been able to see images on the portals, research the street on Google and even have used the Land Registry website to see what homes are selling for in your area.

 

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The Christmas Spirit

The viewing is still important of course; nothing beats actually walking round a property to get a feel for the place and for the location – but it’s a tad naïve to suggest that, once we say goodbye to British Summer Time, all buyers go into hibernation.

We’ve sold homes on Christmas Eve and between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day before. Indeed, the festive season even added to the sellers’ excitement as it’s a great time of year to discover that your plans for the following one have just taken a huge leap forward.

So, if you are thinking of selling and you hear any more armchair experts tutting and suggesting you wait for the spring, you might want to suggest they introduce themselves to the 21st century. The property market has moved on and, with more new technology in the pipeline, will probably continue to do so.

 

Our advice when finding your new home…view, view then view again. eSale

WHEN DREAM HOMES BECOME NIGHTMARES…

One of the less stressful aspects of moving house is often the fact that, as well as leaving one place behind, you’re likely to be arriving in another.

Choosing your new home can actually be exciting and, although we’ll make wish lists and promise ourselves we’ll only seriously consider somewhere which ticks all the boxes, the place we actually end up buying is often the one we simply fell in love with almost as soon as we walked through the door.

We’ll forgive it a few foibles; we’ll vow to complete the refurbishments or DIY jobs needed to bring it up to scratch as soon as we’ve moved in.

But some new research done by interior designers Hillarys suggests that, while we may fall in love with property in a matter of minutes, we can fall out of it almost as quickly as well. Indeed, of those who have bought homes over the last two years, it seems as many as a third have later regretted their choice. (https://www.propertywire.com/news/uk/third-uk-buyers-realise-not-dream-home-within-months-moving/)

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If you read the research, it’s often the “unseen” which leads to disappointment. Noisy neighbours or relentless traffic are not always going to be immediately evident or something a seller is going to own up to during a viewing.

Nevertheless, the research underlines the importance of trying to keep our emotions in check when we’re on the cusp of making one of life’s most significant transactions. Of course, it’s important that we love our new home – but not to the extent that we end up hanging a millstone around our own neck.

If we have any advice to offer it would simply be to make sure you do all your homework (if you’ll pardon the pun). Do some research on the property portals first to find out what homes have been selling for in the same area and use the street and the district as a search term on Google to see what comes up. Entering the street name as a search term on the local newspaper’s website may also throw up local issues if there are any.

If there are jobs that need doing, ask the seller if they would be able to get a quote and then knock the amount off the asking price or even complete the job themselves before they leave. As long as it’s not simply cosmetic, most sellers will be happy to oblige, especially if it means they can put their Sold board up outside.

Don’t be shy about asking for a second viewing. If your first visit was after working hours, see if you can come back during the day to see if there are any marked differences in activity around the house. Why not ask a friend or a family member to come with you too? They may see things you hadn’t noticed and a second opinion could be useful.

But, perhaps most importantly, don’t make an offer on a home which is going to leave you on a financial knife-edge. It can be tempting to stretch your budget to secure a dream property but it could turn into a nightmare if a hike in interest rates means you have no cash for life’s little luxuries – or not even enough just to make ends meet.

If you’d like more advice on buying or selling property, why not browse earlier posts on our blog? However, we’re here if you need us so feel free to give us a call or drop us a line and we’ll do our best to help if we can.

Online vs traditional estate agents what the mirror thinks – and what we think.

A LOOK IN THE MIRROR

As an estate agent, naturally we read the property press and, to be honest, quite a lot of the time, it’s not a pleasurable experience.

It’s a fact of life that the industry’s media is dominated by The Establishment – almost all of them High Street Henrys who have been around for donkey’s years and feel very much threatened by the newer online business model.

Barely a day goes by without online estate agents coming under fire – so it’s refreshing to come across something which seems to make a genuine fist of telling things as they are without favouring one side or the other.

Over the weekend, the Mirror’s Money Section had a stab at a direct comparison between the high street agents and their online equivalents and, to be fair, it was pretty balanced. However, there is a BUT – and it’s the fact the author never really dug deep enough into the online offer.

With a small fortune spent of TV advertising and marketing, it’s hardly surprising folk are mesmerised by Purple Bricks. But, on the other hand, it’s actually misleading to suggest that all online agents slavishly follow their lead.

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Examples?

1/ Well the article claimed, if they opt to use on online agent, vendors have to pay a non-refundable fee up front. Wrong.

Instruct eSale and, yes, you have an up-front package as an option. However, if you’re not happy and you tell us within 30 days, that fee is returned.

2/ The article also claimed “on completion” deals offered by online agents are non-negotiable and non-refundable. Wrong again.

Opt for ours, and you pay us nothing unless we sell your home. It really is that simple. There are no hidden credit agreements or deferred payments.

3/ The article suggested vendors who call with inquiries will find themselves speaking to a call centre. Er… Wrong.

At eSale, customer service is our byword and you are assigned to a member of our sales team who will help you every step of the way. If you call and they are not in for any reason, your message will be relayed to them as soon as possible.

4/ The article suggested that online agents offer a package which seems competitive but doesn’t include extras such as a floor plan, photographs. Wrong.

We offer two simple packages which not only include floor plans and photographs but VAT as well. The price you see is the price you pay.

5/ The article claimed vendors who opt to use an online estate agent will usually find themselves conducting viewings themselves. Wrong.

If you prefer, eSale will send someone to assist with the viewing. They will be fully briefed on your property and will report back to us immediately with any feedback from a potential buyer. We will then report to you. We are by no means alone either; many other online estate agents offer a similar service too.

6/ The article suggests online estate agents cannot chase up solicitors which can slow down progress on your sale. Wrong.

At eSale, we speak to lawyers on a regular basis – whether it’s the vendor’s or the buyer’s. We’re actually pretty adept at banging heads together if required and have done so on a number of occasions.

So, as you can see, we’re no Purple Bricks. They may be bigger but that doesn’t mean they’re the only players in the game or that everyone else has to do as they do.

When a reviewer only has limited time and space to make comparisons, it’s easy to focus on the giants. But, just as Coca-Cola might be the behemoth of the soft drinks industry, it doesn’t follow all soft drinks taste the same…

Is it a good time to buy or sell? An eSale blog

BUYING OR SELLING PROPERTY? SOME GOOD NEWS – AND SOME BAD NEWS …

There’s been a bit of good news for the property market of late.

It’s no secret that there’s already been significant pressure on the Government to consider a change to legislation on Stamp Duty. Many feel first-time buyers – already struggling with spiralling prices – simply can’t afford to shell out even more to cover tax due on house purchases over £125,000.

Some want to see the threshold raised to better reflect the average asking price of a house in 2017 while others have suggested it ought to be the seller not the buyer who pays. Both could lift the burden a little and even help rejuvenate a flagging market.

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The Good News …

At last, its seems the lobby has made some in-roads with back-benchers in Parliament who are now reported to be applying pressure on Chancellor Philip Hammond to include some form of concession in his November Budget.

It’s by no means cut-and-dried of course. There will probably have to be quite a bit more to-ing and fro-ing in the corridors of Westminster before anything is confirmed – but at least it’s a step forward because, earlier this year, the Treasury seemed more or less determined to ignore all calls for change.

But, then …

The Bad News …

After a long period of stability – which has helped keep the UK’s property market ticking over despite global turmoil – the Bank of England has hinted that it may be forced to consider a rise in interest rates.

If it goes ahead, it’s an obvious blow for those who have a mortgage already as lenders are likely to follow suit – but it could also signal an end to some of the deals being offered to help first-time buyers get a foot on the property ladder.

A rise wouldn’t necessarily have an immediate or a telling impact but it could be enough to stymie movement in the property market for a while. Sellers may opt to stay put rather than stretch their finances, possibly reducing the amount of new stock available.

Combine that with the clocks going back – a time of year when folk often manage to convince themselves (incorrectly) that homes don’t sell – and we could be looking at some of the positives inspired by changes to Stamp Duty being negated.

Our advice? Well, as ever, if you’re selling, now is as good a time as any – particularly if you want to avoid the risk that you might have to pay the Stamp Duty on your property yourself.

And if you’re buying? There could be some better deals out there in the short-term if enough sellers want to move swiftly but, after that, it’s hard to tell at this stage if you’ll be better or worse off. If the Stamp Duty burden is transferred to sellers, a first-time buyer could be looking at lower costs – but, that pesky interest rate rise could peg them back a little too.

But, as ever, if you’d like more advice on moving home, feel free to browse our earlier blog posts or please do drop us a line or give us a call. We’re happy to help if we can.

How to update before selling your home – some eSale tips

WHAT BUYERS MAY LOOK FOR IN A “MODERN” HOME

If you’re getting a property ready for market, it can be tempting to go to town on refurbishments. It seems to make sense that, if you spend some cash on a little rejuvenation, you’ll get it back in spades on the asking price of your property.

The thing is, in reality, it’s a risk. There are no recommended retail prices when it comes to property and your house is worth no more than someone is willing to pay – and that might not be as high as the figure you have in your head. Spend a fortune on an extension or a conservatory and you may not recoup the cost.

In our experience, the best policy is to have a look at the property portals to see what similar homes are selling for in your area and then get a valuation from a couple of estate agents which should give a ball park figure for what your home is worth.

However, if you still think a few improvements could help bring your home up to date, we’d suggest they’re modest – and here are a few ideas:

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Connectivity

We’re all far more reliant on the internet these days so why not look at having a few more ethernet connections installed around the house. If kids’ bedrooms can have a cable connection to the internet for all their gadgetry, it could help sell your home.

TV points

Back in the 1970s and ‘80s we all probably used to have a single aerial socket for the one television we owned but TVs are everywhere these days. Again a few more places to put them could help. Have you thought of wall mountings for flat-screen TVs? It could be worth looking into…

Socket To Them

There are more electrical house appliances around the average homes than there used to be even a decade ago. A kitchen with an abundance of wall sockets is a boon and a few extra dotted around the house won’t go amiss.

Paperless Homes

The trend these days tends to be towards “mood walls”. Wallpaper hasn’t disappeared completely but it’s not as popular as it used to be. If it’s beginning to peel, our advice would be to strip it and get the paint tin out rather than replace it.

These are just a few ideas but a little research of some of the interior design pages could help too. If you’d like any more advice on moving home, please do feel free to browse earlier blog posts or give us a call. We’d be delighted to assist if we can.

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About esale

eSale  Estate Agents, founded in 2012, bringing a fresh, clear and easy approach to online estate agency in England and Wales. We are a group of professionals with years of experience in helping people sell and buy property.

We have the skills to ensure the correct price is set for your property and we can negotiate the right sale price between buyer and seller.

Additionally, we can arrange accompanied viewings and also see the sale through to completion.

Your property will feature on Rightmove , Zoopla  and Primelocation esale have a wide advertising network, come and join our approach to selling a property, no matter what your property value is.