HOME TRUTHS

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Agent secrets

There are five estate agents on my local high street. How many of them should I get to value my house before putting it on the market - and should I go exclusively with the agent who gives the highest valuation?

J Dawson

Leyton, London

It would probably be sensible to ask three of the estate agents to value your house before putting it on the market. It may not be the right decision to go with the one which offers the highest valuation.

Before you choose which ones to value your property, have a look in the window of their estate agency and check the type of property that they seem to focus on - some are very good at selling smaller, first time buyer- type properties, whereas others may be better able to sell large properties. Also, find out where, and how often, they advertise their properties. They may just have details in their window or alternatively, they may take a number of pages in the local weekly newspaper.

Once you have decided which ones to use, listen to what they say when they are visiting your property. Have they sold properties in your street already? Do they give you an idea of how long it is likely to take to sell? Do they sound realistic or are they just after a quick sale?

There are many factors to consider, and it is not always about who offers to sell your property for the highest amount. Ultimately it will probably depend on which estate agent you feel most comfortable and confident with when they come to view your home.

Taking an interest

Now that Gordon Brown has passed responsibility for setting interest rates to the Bank of England, what effect will this have on mortgage interest rates?

Jill Riley

Liverpool

In reality the change of responsibility should have little impact on the way that interest rates, and therefore mortgage rates, are set. What the Chancellor has done is to pass responsibility for setting interest rates to a group of specialists, while he concentrates on formatting policy for a sensible economic approach. The decision to hand over control by the Chancellor has effectively divorced the politicians from a key economic area.

The Bank of England used its earliest opportunity to increase interest rates by putting base rate up by 0.25 per cent in May. This came as little surprise, as it had been suggested before the election that interest rates needed to rise, whichever Party won. It also raised the rate in June by 0.25 per cent and a further increase has been predicted for July, possibly by as much as 0.5 per cent, in an attempt to control the economy.

We now have a system similar to that which operates in Germany and the USA. In these countries borrowers are given longer term reassurance about interest rates and, as a result, can budget with greater certainty. If the move by our Chancellor has the same effect, then this can only be good news.

Sell it yourself

I want to put my house on the market and thought that I might try to sell it without using an estate agent. Can you tell me if there is any information on how to do this, or if there are any restrictions?

K Ali

Birmingham

There is no legal obligation to use an estate agent, but if you plan to sell your house without using one, make sure that you have done all the necessary research. Most importantly there are restrictions on what you can say about the property. However it is sold, you must comply with the rules laid out in the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991. This means that your description of the property should be straightforward and factual - artistic license is no longer allowed. Your local library or major bookshop should have some books telling you what to do. In the absence of an estate agent's window, there are many ways in which you could market your property, ranging from taking out an advert in the local paper to putting a postcard on the noticeboard of your local supermarket. Don't forget to factor in advertising costs at the outset. If you want to put a "For Sale" sign outside your house, they are subject to size restrictions, so make sure you don't break the law. Finally, you should make sure that you have enough spare time to show prospective buyers around the house - early evening and weekend mornings are always popular.

George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services

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