The wait to sell your home can be a long one. On average, a house in the UK will take just over three months to sell, but many sellers find themselves waiting far longer than this. If the market is challenging, or you own a niche property, you may find yourself having to wait a year or more to sell.
As a seller, the more urgent you feel the need to sell, the more vulnerable you become.
Enter the scammers
Unfortunately, in life, where there is vulnerability there is a person or entity wishing to take advantage of that vulnerability. As you wait to sell your home, you become a target for a cash house buying scam. These scams seek to offer to buy your home in cash. Superficially, they sound great, but in practice, they’re a living nightmare. Here are a couple of examples of how these scams can play out:
Example 1: The Offer Drop
This scam is particularly problematic, as it may not seem like a scam to begin with. You’ll receive an offer for your house; it’s likely to be a good offer that is close enough to your asking price to be worth considering.
However, the person or agency that makes the offer doesn’t actually intend to buy your house. Instead, they are going to use your home to sell a service – a house-buying service. This scam involves a person or company offering to find discount prices for buyers; a service they will charge a substantial four-figure fee for. So far, so normal – but it’s how they achieve this valuable discount that can cost you, the seller.
Let’s say they make you an offer that you readily accept. You take your home off the market and begin to plan your move. You progress to the point of exchanging contracts, and then your ‘buyer’ will suddenly announce that the agreed price is no longer suitable for them. They want to pay less. A lot less.
What can you do in this scenario? Well, you have two options:
• You can say no to the new lower price, even though you have already planned your house move, arranged your finances, and so forth…
• … or you can agree, because you have reached a point in your planning where you can’t realistically back out of the deal.
It’s fair to say that neither option is ideal. At best, you have to start the selling process all over again. At worst, you are forced to accept a below-market sale price for your home.
Example 2: The Valuation Scam
A company offers to buy your home for cash. Then you read through the details of the offer: the company want to have the house valued prior to purchase, just to be sure the figure they have offered is suitable. “Okay…” you think, “that’s reasonable, I guess.”
The next step is likely to cause more concern: the company need you to pay for the valuation, using their chosen valuation company. This fee is high; often double what you would pay for a standard, legitimate survey. However, the company still want to buy your house, and you figure: “the valuation fee is worth it if it sells the house, right?”
Not quite. What will happen is that the “valuation” will be far, far lower than the original asking price. You’ll then be stuck in the same situation as the first scam example: you can accept the far-too-low offer or you can walk away. Again, you are forced to waste your time and make a high-pressure decision – but worse still, if you cancel the sale, you’ve lost around £500 for the “valuation” fee, too.
How to avoid these scams?
• Genuine cash buyers will be able to provide proof of the fact they have the funds available to purchase, so always ask to see this prior to agreeing a sale.
• Walk away the moment the term ‘Option Agreement’ is used.
• Research your buyer; Google their name and check out reviews, if the offer is from a company, look for their details on Companies House to see if they are legitimate.
• Ask for their solicitor details. If they won’t provide this information, this is a huge red flag; in fact, it’s reason in and of itself to walk away from a potential deal.
Having read through the above, you should be able to protect yourself against the havoc that cash house buyer scams can cause.
Are you struggling to sell your home or need a very fast sale?
If you are in need of a quick sale then one of the quickest ways of selling your property is to sell to those who can offer a cash only purchase. Contact Ask Susan created in partnership with and is operated by National Property Trade and Sell Simple Estate Agency in order to provide a fast and simple nationwide house sale solution.