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OFT Investigate “Quick House Sale” Firms

OFT Investigate “Quick House Sale” Firms

So you’ve brought your own home and everything is wonderful,  but then you are offered a new job and have to relocate. You need to sell your house, and fast, so you decide to use a quick house sale firm because, after all, some companies have told you it could take as little as a week – all you have to do is knock a little off your asking price.

It sounds like an amazing plan, but you haven’t been told the whole truth. It’s more likely to take three to four weeks, and you could lose up to 50 per cent of what your home is worth.

But don’t worry, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is on the case. OFT is a government department that ensures businesses follow trading standards. In April, OFT started investigating “quick house sale” firms because it was worried that people were being pressed to sell their homes at too low a price.

Three quick sale firms are now being scrutinised by OFT in formal investigations, and about 120 other companies have received letters recommending that they check to make sure they are following procedure.

The OFT suggests that some companies may have been targeting a particular type of customer, 70 per cent of complaints made to them about quick sale firms were from “vulnerable homeowners”: people who need to sell their home quickly to escape debt, or older people who want to sell so they can move into a care home. But these aren’t the only types of people to be interested in a “quick and hassle-free sale”, only to have been taken advantage of – customers who need to move house at short notice for work, for example.

“Rogue operators must be tackled so that people can be confident they are dealing with a trustworthy, responsible company”, says Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

According to OFT, some of the firms may have used clients’ desperate situations to ensure they would want as quick a sale as possible – some of those affected lost out on money when their provider lowered the selling price at the last minute, or lied about the value of the property to them. Some firms allegedly told their customers that they could sell faster than is possible on the open market.

The names of the companies being investigated aren’t yet known because OFT won’t know if any laws have actually been broken until it has finished investigating. OFT has, however, published some helpful tips for anyone who is thinking about using quick house sale firms.

They suggest:

  • Asking about any fees and costs, both if the sale is completed and if it isn’t.

  • Carefully going over any agreement that you are asked to sign, making sure that you understand it – don’t sign it if you don’t understand it.

  • Never be shy about negotiating on price.

  • Watch out for long tie-ins (it is a quick sale afterall).

  • Make comparisons with other providers.

  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into making any decision you’re not happy with.

(Source: OFT Quick House Sales Market Study)

Most customers use quick house sale firms with no problems whatsoever, so as long as you do your research and follow the OFT’s advice your move will go quickly and smoothly.

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