THE TEMPTATION to sell your house without an agent is compelling, especially when everyone says how lovely it is and how easy it would be to find a buyer.

Janice Plummer certainly thought so, until she found herself the victim of bogus buyers. She had read articles about time-wasters but always thought they must be easy to spot.

She advertised her Wiltshire home and sifted through the dozen or so enquiries. One of the couples who came to see it loved it immediately and said they would buy it for the full asking price.

It all seemed too easy. They came back to measure up for curtains; they sent a surveyor round and talked enthusiastically about living there. Alice even postponed a week's holiday to hurry things along. And then silence.

She rang, she wrote, but no reply. It turned out their address was false and she guesses probably their names. Even agents can be caught out by the most plausible, and everyone is left wondering why anyone should waste their time.

At the top of the market many agents require references before showing properties, but that should not be necessary for a three-bedroom converted stable.

THE LATEST note of warning about the housing market has come from Black Horse Agencies. Their report this week on new homes finds that buyers' confidence has been affected by uncertainty on interest rates. In Scotland, builders are choosing to take less profit in order to remain competitive.

Fewer people, it seems, are now buying off-plan, often choosing to see the show home first. They are also hunting down deposit-paid schemes, part-exchange and often expect some white goods and soft furnishings within the price.

Among those features people most want to see in a new house are higher ceilings, larger showers and a study or playroom.

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