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Private listings, never again!

Would I buy a home from a private listing again?

Sadly the answer is NEVER.

The benefits of a private listing are all geared to the seller. There is no advantage in buying this way.
Sellers have to spend a bit more time and effort but make a considerable saving listing themselves, on a $490,000 sale they save around $16,000 in agent’s fees.

As a buyer there is no advantage. Personally meeting and knowing the former owners of your house can be a little confronting. Viewing a house with an occupier present is always awkward, when it is just the owner showing you around it is hard to be critical of things that might otherwise catch your attention. With an agent you feel freer to ask questions, query items that bother you, knowing that they will approach the owner at a safe personal distance from yourself to obtain answers.

When making an offer, it is easier to deal with a 3rd party rather than direct with the owners. An agent may think you are being cheeky but he won’t take a low offer as a personal insult. Negotiating through a mediator such as an agent, someone with no real vested interest (aside from his commission) is much more comfortable.

You don’t want to annoy the people who are selling your house to you, it’s like irritating the guy who is preparing your food, your burger may look good but it might just end up with an ‘extra’ ingredient, if you get my drift. You start to realise that you are walking on eggshells and can’t stand up for your own rights or be as aggressive as you might need to be to get what is best for you.

If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a sale with a high strung, martyr type personality, things can go very wrong very quickly. From personal experience I can tell you that if you get a feeling that your seller is one of these, go choose a new house!

After being given 4 days’ notice of a delay of 5 days with my settlement (this was a settlement date that was agreed on 6 months beforehand) and rearranging everything for the 2nd time, I sent an email to my seller (remember, this is my only contact for the sale, there is no agent to call) requesting a meeting so that we could make arrangements for an early settlement time on the allotted day. Later that day I was rung by my settlement agent to be told that my seller no longer wanted to be in direct contact with me, we were to participate in a ‘go between’ with me and my settlement agent on one side and them and their settlement agent on the other side. Apparently the idea of a direct confrontation of any kind sent them over the edge and they went all ‘restraining order’ on me. I was informed that my seller had done ‘everything’ they could do to help me and just wanted me to back off. ‘Everything’ by the way was to agree to vacate the house by settlement (a legal obligation)and cut short the cleaning efforts if necessary to do this, a real inconvenience for them I am sure.

So the last few days until my settlement were spent engaging in Chinese whispers where I had to communicate my ideas with my settlement agent, who passed it on to their settlement agent, who then talked to the seller, who would provide their settlement agent with a response which was then passed onto my settlement agent who would then ring me. A very inefficient and time consuming way to do business indeed. But who am I to argue? They could very well decide to leave seafood in the air conditioning unit or hand a spare key out to local thugs to be used after ‘such and such a date’. Really the possibilities are endless.

When taking on the responsibility of selling a house yourself it is important to remember that you are saving yourself some cash by not engaging an agent but it means that the responsibility that the agent gets paid for then falls to you. You have to communicate directly with your buyer and be willing to negotiate with them. If things get tough, then too bad, you took on the responsibility; you have to deal with it.

All in all my experience with the ‘private seller’ market was unsatisfactory and uncomfortable. I felt bullied and inconvenienced the whole way through. In the end my living, working and moving arrangements had to be adjusted and readjusted several times and I was left in the difficult position of having nowhere to go if settlement was delayed even one more day. I felt that my seller was preoccupied with their own issues and there was no incentive for them to consider mine, after all, in the end they would still get their money, even if I had to lay out thousands extra in storage and hotel costs just to work around their time frames.

Maybe you will be lucky and find an open, genuine, concerned citizen to purchase a property from privately. If you are going to try, take my advice:

If you settlement falls near a weekend, give yourself at least 10 days wriggle room. I gave myself 6 and it wasn’t nearly enough. After a legal delay of 3 working days (5 days in total with a weekend) I was left moving in the afternoon of one day, with a cleaner and a carpet cleaner waiting to get in to house and having to hand back the keys to my rental the very next day.

It was exhausting, emotionally fraught and not at all what I was hoping for. I had put a lot of effort into my moving plan so that the transition would be as smooth as possible but that was taken away from me with barely any notice and I was left in a total shambles.

I might try to sell a house privately one day, but if you all take my advice then there will be no-one around silly enough to try to buy it!