Consumer Rights: 'I'm not sure I can trust the property firms who offer me a quick sale'

A householder who is struggling to sell her home should consider all her other alternatives ... and a row over an oversized sofa
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The Independent Online

Q: I've been trying to sell my house for a while and although we've had lots of viewers, no one has made an offer. I know the economy is putting people off and the market in our area is definitely flat but I'm getting worried.

I need money to help out my parents as well as my son who should be going to university in October. I will have enough equity left over to buy somewhere else so I can afford to drop the price a little. However, I've been contacted by a company offering to buy my house quickly for cash and am wondering if this is a good option or is there anything I should be wary of. Have you come across these please and if so are they reputable?

HH, Bristol

A: There has been a rise in the number of companies offering homeowners a quick sale. They spot properties that have been on the market for a while and offer their services when they think the seller will be getting desperate. The problem is that, as exposed recently in The Independent on Sunday, you are likely to get a poor valuation. They want to sell the property on for as big a profit as possible and can afford to wait for a buyer.

The National Association of Estate Agents has reported that it has seen a rise in door-to-door selling and website advertising by these companies, offering to buy houses in any condition within 24 hours. It's often people in dire financial situations who are targeted and they may be pressurised into making quick decisions. Often the legal fees are covered by the price offered which seems attractive but the speed and lack of fees is offset by the low valuation. You have had your property valued by an estate agent who is obliged to give you a reasonable market valuation so you know what you stand to lose. The choice is yours.

Have you thought about putting the property on the market with another agent or perhaps with several agents at the same time? Although you will usually have to pay a higher fee, you may get wider coverage on websites and in local agents' windows. Your current agent may simply not be reaching the right would-be buyers.

However, as several people have viewed, perhaps you are being unrealistic about the price – a relatively small reduction is often enough to get a buyer.

Other suggestions: consider putting your home up for auction; if you are over-50 you could look into an equity release scheme might give you; ask your lender about remortgaging so that your monthly payments are reduced; or make the house earn you some cash by letting out rooms.

Think about all of these options and don't be pressured into making a decision.


Q: I bought two sofas in a sale six weeks ago. They were paid for at the time and delivered this week but when the delivery people tried to get them into the house they couldn't get the bigger one through the door, so they took it back.

Now the company won't give me all of my money back. The manager says I should have measured the door before I ordered. I feel that as they are standard sizes and colours and they are making the same ones all the time they should take them back and sell them to someone else and give me the money back. Where do I stand?

NB, Northampton

A: I think you may have to negotiate on this. The shop does not have to give you a refund. There is nothing wrong with the sofas, they are what you ordered and so you really can't demand a refund.

Think carefully about what would be a satisfactory amount and put that to the firm. They will probably respond by offering a smaller amount and hopefully you can settle somewhere in the middle. You also have to write off any delivery charge you paid. Is the firm a member of a trade association which may have an arbitration service to help with the negotiations?

If you can't reach a settlement the only other option is to sell them yourself.

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