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Do I still have to pay my estate agent if I sell my home to a friend?

My house is for sale and is listed on the market with a local estate agent. 

However, a close friend is aware that the property is available and has asked to buy it. Do I still have to pay the estate agent’s commission? SS 

If you sell your property to a friend, you may still owe your estate agent commission depending on the contract signed

If you sell your property to a friend, you may still owe your estate agent commission depending on the contract signed

MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: In this situation, the contract between you and your estate agent is king. 

It highlights how important it is to read your contract thoroughly before signing up to it in the first place – something that can easily be overlook in the initial excitement of putting your home on the market.

But is worthwhile sitting down and ploughing carefully through the small print of the contract to make sure there are no unacceptable clauses. This may include a fee that is too high (it is worth calculating exactly how much this is in monetary terms rather than looking at a single-digit percentage).

If you have genuinely found a buyer not via the estate agent, it is perhaps worthwhile considering taking the property off the market and waiting until your contract runs out before you proceed. However, there is still a danger that you could be caught out by the contract wording. 

The best option is deal with these issues before they arise and make sure your contract with your agent works for you if such situations arise. 

If you’ve already signed up, then it is too late for that and you will need to have a close look.

Ultimately, it all depends on the contract, which may not protect you if you’re selling to a friend, if either the friend had already had some involvement with the agent about the property or the agent had been granted ‘sole selling rights’.

And as for the contract with your new buyer, our expert Stephen Gold suggests what you can include to ensure that there is no come back on you from your agent (scroll down for more details).

An estate agent must provide you with various written information prescribed by law that includes what they would charge and when you would become liable to pay up

An estate agent must provide you with various written information prescribed by law that includes what they would charge and when you would become liable to pay up

Stephen Gold, ex-judge and author, explains: Unless you have signed some crazy agreement with an estate agent that says they can collect 1.5 per cent of the market value of your home by sneezing at the back door, their entitlement to collect a fee from you will usually only arise in one situation. It is dependent on some link between them and your buyer.

They must have been what is known in the best judges’ dining rooms as an ‘effective cause’ of the buyer going ahead.

If they negotiated the sale, you will obviously be liable to pay them commission even though you may complain that they never answered the phone when you rang them, and they seemed more interested in getting rid of the similar property down the road that was on their books and had an extra bedroom.

But they need not have gone as far as successfully negotiating. Say they sent out marketing particulars of the property to the buyer or the buyer saw a photo of the property in the agent’s window, and it took their fancy. Or say the agent had a ‘for sale’ board erected by the front gate that the buyer saw. Any of those situations could be sufficient to justify the agent going for commission on the basis that they had been an ‘effective cause’ of the sale even if the agent had no other involvement in the transaction. 

Buyers wanting to ‘save commission’

A buyer who tells a seller that ‘I will save you commission’ can be a blessing or a curse. They will make contact, tell you they have heard from a friend of a friend that your house may be up for sale, say they are interested and have not come through an agent and urge you to deal with them because it will save you commission. In fact, they will suggest that as the saving will amount to around £5,000 you should drop the price by £3,000. That way, you both gain.

It would be nice to believe them, but you could come a cropper if you made a reduction and it later transpired that the buyer had had dealings with the agent that you had placed the property with. The agent may discover the sale had gone through and that they had missed out on the commission. The trick is to get the buyer to agree in the sale contract to something along the following lines…

What needs to be added to the contract with the buyer?

What happens if a vendor decides to sell their property to someone who says they did not find out about the property via the estate agent?

Stephen suggests that it is worth including the following in the contract: 

The buyer hereby warrants to the seller that:

(1) The buyer was not introduced to the property by X Estate Agency (‘X’) or any other estate agency.

(2) The buyer has never (a) observed any ‘For Sale’ or similar notice or sign at the property (or did not observe any ‘For Sale’ or similar notice or sign at the property prior to becoming aware that the property was available for purchase and showing an interest in it); (b) received particulars of the property from or visited any business premises of X: (c) viewed any photograph, sale particulars or any other document in relation to the property at or displayed at any business premises of X or in the windows of such premises; or (d) had any contact or communication of whatsoever nature and by whatsoever means with X or any other estate agency in connection with the property.

(3) The sole origin of the buyer’s knowledge that the property was available for purchase was [insert details].

(4) X was not directly or indirectly the effective or any cause of the buyer becoming interested in the possible purchase of the property, entering into negotiations with the seller for the purchase of the property or entering into this contract.

(5) The buyer hereby agrees to indemnify the seller against all claims demands actions or other proceedings by X for commission, disbursements or other costs in relation to the sale of the property to the buyer.

(6) This condition shall not merge with the transfer of the property to the buyer.

How much and when?

If you go to an estate agent with a view to using them to market, they must provide you with various written information prescribed by law that includes what they would charge and when you would become liable to pay up.

An estate agent must provide you with various written information prescribed by law that includes what they would charge and when you would become liable to pay up

This has to be done at the time communication is commenced or as reasonably practicable afterwards. If the agent fails to do this or does it late, they cannot recover one penny from you without the court’s permission.

This may be refused or the agent’s bill reduced. It is crucial to check whether you could be made to shell out commission even though a sale does not proceed.

For example, avoid a commitment to pay if the buyer is ‘ready, willing and able’ to proceed. You might have changed your mind. Never grant an agent ‘sole selling rights’ or you could end up having to pay them commission on a sale to your mother-in-law that you negotiated yourself (when you were both speaking).

Also, never put yourself at risk of having to pay commission to two agents (or more) for the same sale. If you chose to move agents and the ultimate buyer had had dealings with them both, you could be in trouble. Also, you might be liable for double commission if the first agent’s conditions said that you would have to pay them for a deal negotiated by another agent after their instructions ceased but on with which they had had no input. 

It follows that the reader in this case could be sunk in selling to a friend if either, say, the friend had already had some involvement with the agent over the property or the agent had been granted ‘sole selling rights’.

Court or redress scheme?

Estate agents now have to be members of an approved redress scheme. The main scheme is run by the Property Ombudsman to whom you can complain about a member agent.

The Ombudsman will decide a complaint on the basis of what is fair and reasonable and taking into account the law and the scheme’s code of practice. This allows scope for more flexibility than available to a court of law, with the result that you could succeed with the Ombudsman though you would have lost in court.

Stephen Gold is an ex-judge and author of ‘The Return of Breaking Law’ published by Bath Publishing. For more on this topic, see the book and breakinglaw.co.uk

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Is DIY on your list this Bank Holiday weekend? Big Brother winner Craig Phillips gives his five tips for getting the job done

Here, Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend…

1. Garden furniture

This time of the year when the weather is starting to change, a lot of people are looking to see what they can revamp in their gardens to bring them back to life.

Throughout the winter the garden furniture has been exposed to all sorts, but it’s easy enough to give them a little makeover with some paint.

Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend

Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend

If anyone has metal or wooden garden furniture, it might have got a bit rusty or flaky, but you can remove this by jet washing it down and then bringing it indoors to let it dry out.

After it’s completely dry, think about adding any wood treatment on the bare wood to make things last that little bit longer.

Then I would consider using a natural mineral paint, that’s good for the environment and quite inexpensive. They have some great colours.

I really like a daffodil yellow to brighten up the garden. If you have metal furniture, it’s pretty much the same process, but you don’t need to add the wood treatment.

2. Loft space 

Converting your loft space doesn’t always have to be to gain an additional habitat room in your house, you may just need that vital extra storage space.

We find that most of us tend to hold on to too much stuff that we don’t often use or may never really use again.

My wife Laura is still holding onto her wedding dress seven years later which takes up so much space when hanging in our cupboards, she’s probably never going to wear it again however she’s got no plans to get rid of it.

Then you’ve got things like the Christmas tree and decorations, holiday suitcases, old family photo albums that you certainly don’t want to part with that need to be stored somewhere safe and dry – and the loft is the perfect place.

Installing raised loft boards means that you can upgrade the insulation in your loft

Installing raised loft boards means that you can upgrade the insulation in your loft

3. Energy improvements

Additional benefits of installing raised loft boards goes beyond just storage space, it allows you to upgrade your loft insulation to the correct regulations which is going to save on your energy consumption, which is better for the environment as well as savings on your utility bills, a win/win situation for us all.

It can also help when selling your home as an EPC certificate will be required, and having the correct level of loft insulation installed improves your EPC rating.

Having your loft space well insulated will benefit the bedrooms below from unwanted draughts and sound coming from the loft area.

We often have water tanks up there that can be noisy, or sounds coming in from outside.

People don’t often know that many loud sounds from outside can work their way into your home from the loft space. Often our house walls are two courses of brick or blocks thick and will stop air bound noise travelling through.

However, our roof structure may only be felt, batten and have tiles on the surface and have a single layer of plaster boards between the loft and the bedrooms.

This is where the additional loft insulation and raised floor boards will help to absorb and dampen sound traveling though into the bedrooms and hallways.

4. Draught proofing

Adding additional draught proofing around doors and windows frames also make your home more energy efficient and comfortable to be in.

These DIY tasks are very quick and easy to complete yourself and don’t cost much money.

The draught excluders can be fitted with minimal tools and are achieved in just hours.  

I always ask people to go home and place their hands around the inside of your door and window frames, letter boxes, cat or dog flaps to see if they can feel any cold draft entering into their house.

If you can feel the cold air coming in, then you’re also allowing hot air that’s generated from your heating system to escape.

Again, this is costly to both your bank balance and the environment.

5. Energy savings

Bleeding your radiators, changing, and upgrading the thermostat on each radiator and applying an insulated reflective foil to the rear of your radiators can all make great savings to your energy consumption.

Again, these kind of DIY tasks are achievable on a budget and can be done by with little experience.

If you’re attempting to change your own radiator thermostats yourself, it’s certainly worth watching online video demonstrations to follow the step-by-step stages to ensure you are doing correctly and safely.

With the ongoing energy crisis and cost of living increase in the UK, now more than ever, people are looking to save energy in every way possible.

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We need to replace our uPVC double-glazing – should we opt for grey?

Our double-glazing needs replacing in our three-bedroom semi-detached home due to its age. 

We’ve had two quotes for uPVC windows, and have been offered the option of grey anthracite.

On both quotes, grey comes out at around 15 per cent more expensive.

However, I’ve noticed in our local area that many people seem to have gone grey in recent years, rather than the typical white.

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows 

I do wonder if there is any benefit to going grey, other than them not showing up dirt as much?

Would it add extra value to our home when we come to sell? Or is it simply just an aesthetic choice? 

Jane Denton replies: The ‘greyification’ of home interiors, cars and now windows has been hard to miss in the last few years. 

New-build homes with grey windows can be found springing up all over Britain. 

Plus, buyers purchasing homes which need a fair amount of work doing to them are, in ever growing numbers, opting for grey windows. Some people view grey as chic and contemporary. 

Send us your property question 

We’d love to hear from you if you have a property question and want to find out what the experts have to say on the matter. 

Whether you have neighbour woes, are looking to update or move home, or perhaps you can’t decide how to sort out an extension or make a room look bigger, we want to hear from you.

If you are a prospective first-time buyer or already on the housing ladder and have a property quandary, get in touch.

Email editor@thisismoney.co.uk

Please put PROPERTY in the subject line. 

As you suggest, your decision will boil down to personal choice and key factors like price, durability and aesthetics. 

While grey can hide dirt better than white, grey can sometimes look somewhat dull. 

Perhaps it’s also worth considering is grey is just a passing fad and will look dated in a decade or so – though that won’t bother you if you have moved house by that point.

Grey windows still aren’t the norm, meaning they are generally more expensive than white ones. 

The same goes, for example, for black or sage green windows. 

The exact costs involved will vary depending on the supplier used, the material you go for, the size of window required and whether the windows are double or triple glazed. 

Depending what you plump for, you could expect to pay around 10 to 20 per cent more for grey windows than conventional white uPVC ones. 

Timber and aluminum options can be pricier. 

In most circumstances, you wouldn’t need planning permission to change the windows in the manner you suggest. 

Permitted development rights are likely to apply. However, for a listed building, planning permission would be required.

In terms of what it means for property price and whether they are worth the investment in general, I turned to a property expert.  

Alex Harvey, managing director of Alex Harvey Estate Agents, said: I have seen various trends in windows come and go, however the ones that have always stood out from the crowd are the coloured and textured varieties. 

They seem to add an additional dimension to the look and feel of a property. uPVC windows of any colour can be a good low-maintenance choice. 

Grey windows can also be very practical. They do not show the dirt as much and make more of a statement than conventional white windows. 

It is not just the windows themselves you need to consider. 

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

It’s essential to have the right furniture and handles on them to compliment the age and style of the property. 

An example of this is where people have chosen black wrought iron monkey tail handles, in place of the usual chrome or even white plastic in an older style property.

In newer style homes, anthracite works really well to frame the windows and tie them into the structure of the home, while using chrome handles to help the rest of the framing stand out.

Windows are not just a way to bring natural light into a home these days, they are an opportunity to frame the view from inside the property by having a textured and coloured surround. 

However, there are mistakes that can occur, the main one can being that there can be too much beading in the window itself, which can take away from the view.

We tell clients considering coming to market about the importance of having their windows free of blown panes or any broken elements. 

Buyers notice these things when looking out of windows to understand the views and the surroundings of the property. 

In terms of whether grey windows add value to a property, it all depends on the quality of the windows and doors and the warranty that’s offered. 

We have had clients who have invested more for windows and doors that have had longer warranties for both their peace of mind and as a selling feature for future owners. 

Without doubt, newly installed windows and doors will improve an Energy Performance Certificate rating and will therefore appeal to a wider range of buyers.

It is not easy to assign an uplift value, over what the windows would cost to install. 

However, I can certainly say that for properties that urgently require new windows and doors to be replaced, buyers often have an understanding of the investment required and can be put off from buying a property that requires this level of improvement.

My gut feel would be a circa 10 per cent uplift if the windows and doors have a good balance of the above, based on the initial investment of the installation.

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Five climb the property ladder! Famous Five-style 17th century manor house with secret room, spyhole and fascinating history goes up for sale for £3.2m

A Famous Five-style manor house with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and tiny spy-hole built into the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million.

The historic seven-bedroom house started life as a coaching inn just after the English Civil War, but has also been visited by royalty and appeared in a children’s novel.

Among its quirkier features is a secret hiding space dating from more than 300 years ago, which can be accessed via a hidden panel under the stairs, leading to a tiny room beneath. 

Owners could monitor who came to their front door through a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase.

The property at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century 'panic room' and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

During the early 1900s it was visited by the future King Edward VII with his wife, Queen Alexandra, when they were the Prince and Princess of Wales

The then owner was a lady-in-waiting to the royal family.

It also featured in The White Witch, a 1958 novel by acclaimed children’s writer Elizabeth Goudge. 

In it she describes her character looking out of the house’s south and east windows saying ‘she could see far over the fields to the sunrise’.

The new owners will still have stunning views, which take in local countryside, as well as the village cricket pitch.

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows.

The property has an entrance hall, kitchen, two dining rooms, family room, lounge, utility and laundry room and boot room on the ground floor with a cellar below.

Upstairs is an open-plan study area, seven bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Outside, the property has around 3.2 acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and a triple garage with courtyard parking area and a gravel drive.

The owner said: ‘The house itself is steeped in history as it originally dates back to 1688, just a few decades after the Civil War, and interestingly it has a 17th century panic room hidden behind a section of the original wood panelling.

‘There are stories of visits from royalty – it was owned by a lady-in-waiting in the early years of the 20th century – and it featured heavily in a historical novel called The White Witch, written by Elizabeth Goudge who, many years ago, lived on the other side of the common.

A secret 'panic' room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

A secret ‘panic’ room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

‘However, for us it was simply a lovely family home, very spacious and bright, and hugely characterful. 

‘My parents made a number of improvements to it over the years, but there’s definitely lots of scope for the new owners to come in and put their own stamp on it.’

Robert Cable, from Fine & Country, who is handling the sale, said the property belonged to a family of five who had bought it 50 years ago.

He said: ‘They have loved living here and raising their family in this house, it is filled with happy memories, but it’s time for them to move on and pass it to new custodians who will appreciate it as much as they have.

‘It would be perfect for a family that wanted their children to grow up in idyllic rural surroundings.

‘Outside there is so much beautiful space to enjoy, or even keep a pony; inside there is so much space and so many nooks and crannies for children to hide, along with the secret room – it’s like something from the Famous Five novels.’

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

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